Home is Where the Heart is

My family has lived in the same house for 35 years. It is our second house, one which we though might be a stepping stone to our forever home, but instead it has become our forever home. And just like a person, our home has gone through many changes over this time. It has developed it’s character, it’s purpose, and of course it’s heart. These traits did not just happen, they evolved with each major event we encoutered and believe me we encountered our share and more of events through the years!

First, I will start with the initial looks of the house and how we have changed with the times. When we were looking at houses we had found 2 contenders. One about 50 minutes away from our family and one about 5 minutes away. House number 1 was a split level, that was 50 minutes away. It was beautifully decorated, in a safe location, and reasonably priced. The second one was an older walkout rambler, 35 years old. It had huge pineapple wallpaper in the entryway and hallway, green shag carpet in the family room, dark panelling and dark coppertone appliances. They had advertised that the basement was finished off. Whoo Doggy! it was finished, and it also was off, very off! The bedroom had a lifesize picture of a deer wallpapered in it. It also had a wanescoat wall on three sides with the top made of crumbling cork-yes like you’d find in a wine bottle! The flooring was peel and stick outdoor carpeting in an orange and black checkerboard pattern. My kids played life-size checkers on this floor with the neighborhood kids. The yard wasn’t a whole lot better. It had the most awful wood fence that was a hodgepodge of wood slapped up. The patio had cracked cement painted green. The yard was small and full of trees. Evidently, the owners had a cabin up north and would bring back saplings to plant in the back. The front had a blacktop driveway that was so deteriorated it was in a million pieces. My husband should have won an Oscar for his performance in trying to persuade me to buy this house, because he somehow managed to convince me it was the better deal in the long run.

Checkerboard carpet and fake wood paneling walls

Oh how I had longed for the other home, but my husband said this was the one. We made many cosmetic changes through the years, but the first and most immediate one was to take the horrible giant pineapple wallpaper down. Next was to remove the awful fence in the backyard. Many of our neighbors stopped by to thank us for taking it down.

Being an older house we found some gems along the way too. When we had just had enough of the green carpeting, we decided to pull it up one weekend. Much to our delight there was untouched oak hardwood floors under the carpeting! We were thrilled and have had hardwood floors since we discovered them.

Almost every house has gone through some trauma at some point in it’s life, and our’s is no exception. It started with a smell in our bedroom downstairs. It smelled like a dirty diaper had been sitting there for a week or more. I searched high and low but could not find a diaper or the smell. This went on for another week or so but with an addition to the smell, we began noticing little flies all around the basement especially in the bathroom and bedroom. We were so perplexed by these flies that we had our neighbor who worked at the University of Minnesota in the insect department figure out what kind of fly it was. He came back with an identification that shocked and scared me-they were ‘coffin’ flies. Coffin flies’ food source is decaying garbage, hence their nickname, shit flies. I was so freaked out by this news, that I slept with kleenex in my nose and tried to keep myself moving incase these flying death lovers thought I was a corpse. In the meantime, we cleaned out our drains and bleached them. Unfortunately, this did not work and the population was growing. I don’t remember how it dawned on my husband, but he thought the plumbing pipes were made cast iron and perhaps a pipe broke and leaked some garbage. The only way to determine if this was the case was to break up the cement floor. So he and one of his brothers proceeded to do just that. Sure enough the pipe had split wide open and garbage had leaked out and was seeping out all over. We had to put about 1000 pounds or more of sand to soak it up and remove the food source for the flies. We also put fans on it running 24/7. Even with all this we still had the smell, the flies, and now an open floor. Our next step was to move out of the bedroom. to open up the entire length of the floor to see where the pipe was broken and to repair where necessary. It’s took a few months of having our bed in the middle of the living room (with big windows facing the neighborhood park!) but we finally got the new pipes in and flies eliminated. Just to give you an idea of how bad it was our homeowners’ claims processor couldn’t stand the smell for more than 5 minutes before approving the claim (and then promptly dropping us as customers 😡)

We have 6 kids and our house had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms when we moved in. Although this has changed with some remodeling to 5 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, at the time we moved in we felt like we had bought a mansion. Our previous house had 800 some feet and this one had 1300 some feet. Even with this added space, we still had some doubling up with bedrooms. My younger son was not always a fan of this and wanted a room of his own instead of sharing with his older brother. He came up with a solution to his plight. He decided to move into our upstairs bathroom. He made up the tub as his bed and brought some of his favorite items to keep him occupied. He even decorated his new room with some baseball players pictures. Realizing the importance of this move, we decided to let him keep it for a while in hopes that he would tire of it and we could go back to normal. Now having to go down to one bathroom was a challenge, and we encountered lots of urgent pleas to “Hurry up!” or “Don’t use up all the hot water!” We were all glad when after 1 week my son decided living in the bathroom was not what he really wanted. I think his siblings pressured him into moving out of the bathroom.

Bathroom or bedroom?!

Now I have to admit that while we have done many repairs and remodels to our house, the one thing we have not really touched is the kitchen. Yes, we have our original cabinets, sink, and countertops. Now while this does not sound like a horrible situation, you have to envision how it looks. The cabinets are dark oak, the sink is orange porcelain, and the countertops are a golden yellow. It is colorful for sure and it certainly makes for a good topic of conversation. We even entered a contest for ugliest kitchen thinking we were a shoe-in, but I guess there was a worse kitchen out there, which I have to say, that is hard to believe. For a long time we even had the original flooring , but after it disintegrated, we finally got new flooring.

Even with all these problems, we have had some memorable moments with our house. One was when we came home one day to find our kitchen table and chairs sitting on top of our roof! My husband’s younger brother, who was a well-known prankster, thought it would be funny for us to come home to this. And while we did get a laugh when we saw it, the problem came when we had to remove it from the roof. It took us a lot of time to get it down. It was the talk of the neighborhood for the rest of that summer.

Another memorable moment involved loosing our front yard tree. That tree had been with us through thick and thin. One day when my kids were pretty little, one of them through a barbie sized Ariel doll up in the air and it got stuck in the tree for 10 years or more. Her hair had tightly wrapped around a high branch and come thunderstorm, blowing winds, or blizzards she wasn’t coming down. Ariel became a calling card to our house. We could say, “Come to the house with the naked Ariel Barbie doll in the tree.” One particularly gusty day the branch that she was stuck in, broke and came tumbling down. Ariel was free at last. When the city deemed that it had to come down, we were heartbroken. Our entire neighborhood lost all the ash trees due to an Emerald Ash beetle infestation. To help with our heartbreak, we decided to give our tree a fun send off. We all took turns hugging the tree and then circled the tree in one big hug as a group. My daughter took a video and added music to the process of cutting it down. We brought our lawn chairs out and set up a viewing gallery to watch the event. I briefly flirted with the idea of chaining myself to the tree as the tree cutting machinery rolled in. I knew it would not work, but I couldn’t help but want to stop the process. The city did plant another tree in its place, but it is small and I have yet to form an attachment to it.

Farewell tree!

When you look at our house you could never imagine all the memorable times it holds. I wish I could boast about all the fancy things the house has, but that would not be what my house is about. It’s a good study house that has kept us safe, warm, dry and most of all happy for the 35 years we have lived in it. For many of those years I felt it was still the previous owners house and we, along with the neighbors, would refer to our house by the previous owners name. “oh you live in the Smith’s house” was what we heardIn the last years though, I find myself thinking and feeling and calling this abode ‘my house’. This house is my friend and I am so happy we are lucky enough to live here.

Published by Shelly

I worked as a special education teacher for over 40 years, raised six children who now raise families of their own. Married for over 40 years to the man who is both the cause of and solution to much of my craziness...

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