2012 was the year I renovated my house.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I had not planned to do it.
It all started with what I supposed would be a small job of fixing a spot on the ceiling of one of the bedrooms. It ended with the total gutting of the house.
It was a massive undertaking and one that just kept growing and growing. All my earthly goods were moved to the garage. The inside of my house was systematically destroyed. I stayed at the house as long as I could, sleeping on an old twin mattress in a small back room. Men arrived to carry out sinks, bathtubs and toilets. During the asbestos removal, I had to move the cats and Evan into a hotel for two nights.
Later, I had to move out completely, moving my beloved cats to the garage and leaving my door unlocked for the parade of workmen. Every day I came to the house, crawled over the piles of things in the garage, found the small working refrigerator, made myself a sandwich and sat there, listening to the sounds of machines in the house, smelling the paint, soothing the freaked-out cats, praying that I was not making any major mistakes.
It was crazy I suppose to do all of this right after my divorce. My world was still upside down. My life was chaotic and now I was adding this stressful process to the mix? Really? There were many times when I broke down completely. I was not used to making decisions on my own. I doubted myself. I kept signing scary-looking contracts with large numbers on the bottom lines. I was scared I was making all the wrong moves, that I was getting taken advantage of. What was I doing anyway?
Several times, I just sank down there in the dark garage, between two dressers and under a mattress piled atop them and cried.
Every time I thought things were hopeless though, some light shone through.
Through all the dust and violence of the demotion I would see a glimmer of what my house would be some day. My ceiling was swept free of the asbestos and soon a smooth surface appeared. Before I had no ceiling lights and then one day I had them. I remember the first time I flipped on the switch and the room was flooded with light. New interior doors appeared, new windows, new plantation shutters. New smooth floors were installed. New bathtubs and new showers were installed. It happened so slowly, but it DID happen.
When at last the furniture was moved in and the last workman left, I did a little jig and looked around at MY house. Yahoo!
It WAS crazy to do it when I did it, but maybe crazy was just what I needed at that time. Maybe I needed the symbolism of the renovation more than I actually needed the renovation. In the cleaning out of my house, I found I had to sort through endless material items that represented our marriage. I had to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. There was no shoving things back in a closet to sort though another day. It was time to make decisions, time to get rid of things. I had no room for things that didn’t work in my life anymore.
Destruction, despair, rebuilding, catching glimpses of what life would eventually be like. The parallels to the renovation and the process of healing from divorce are obvious and wonderful.
During the divorce, I thought about selling this house. Many people said I should. It would be a new start, a chance to begin again without the memories associated. The house is too big, I would be living alone in it, and the yard would take work.
There were lots of sound reasons to move, to leave, cut my losses and let someone else deal with all the work that needed to be done. However, there was something inside me that just needed to keep the house. Even though both of my wonderful sons gave me full permission to sell the house, I knew I didn’t want to.
You see, to me, this house is more than just real estate. It is my home and my children’s home.
This Christmas when they came back from their colleges, when their friends from high school dropped by, when we sat on the front porch, when we had the Christmas tree in the same place we always did, I knew I had made the right decision.
They were not coming to Mom’s house. They were coming home.
The outside looked just the same. The layout of the inside was the same dependable floor plan, but there were improvements, some predictable and some surprising throughout.
Maybe, just maybe, they found the same was true of good ol' Mom too.