The move continues unabated. We are marginal enough as a family that big changes often take place using shopping bags and throwing junk in the back of our cars. We have also rented UHaul trucks, but never big enough to do the entire thing in one fell swoop. That’s just not our style. Decisions are made swiftly, but moving house drags on and on. Thank God, the end of the month is here, and finally, finally, FINALLY, all that’s left to be done is to wipe the dickens down at the old place. So, what does one do after a five year absence when returning home? Begin big projects and adopt puppies of course.
There is an antiques store on 70th or 71st street on Lexington Avenue, on the west side of the street. Its walls are painted the most extraordinary color of sunshine. Looking in, one is drawn to stay and rest forever surrounded by the what is really, nothing more than a sensational paint job. But you know, that beautiful color just makes a person feel good.
White is nice. Bright is nicer. Hence after much consideration, and not a few samples, I took the plunge.
Back in the day, early 2005, in fact, my mother was washing a pair of socks in the sink of her bathroom. I had found a gorgeous Russian woman to be her companion, as her health necessitated she have assistance keeping it together. At the same time as my mother washed her socks, she had the television on in her sitting room and I believe, she told me later, the phone rang. The gorgeous Russian was downstairs preparing lunch for them both.
It had been a hard day. The spouse and I were working together, and may have driven home together as well. Walking into the living room, the space seemed somehow different. I looked up and noticed the ceiling had lines running through it like a county map. I looked down and the old oriental rug’s colors seemed darker, more vibrant. I knelt down and the rug was soaked. They had obviously worked hard to clean up the plaster that fell as the water flowed from the ceiling.
We had been in the house about four months, and these were the rumblings of storm clouds in the distance.
The spouse called Kevin and Ralph. They came by, and the ceiling was removed and replaced. Its contents- the room is 12 x 25 feet- were placed in the dining room. The opening was taped off and the contractors were present for a few days. Once Kevin came in and looked around the kitchen. What’s going on here? he asked. Did you have a party?
Well no, it’s just my usual clutter and mayhem. Moving gives you that. It gives you a profound abundance of clutter and mayhem.
many, many little steps backwards. Our water challenge continues unabated. And unpacking. And all of one’s challenges with short comings organizational and domestic rise up to remind one how very modest is the skill set for the above. The folks in the picture below have their organizational selves very, very much together. My heavens. Talk about your black and white story.
The detail on the stairs and door will have to wait for another burst of time and energy. As we count down to the final push, the plumbing’s complexity has necessitated NEW EVERYTHING unlike we had hoped behind the walls, under the floor, above the ceilings. A mighty, mighty shout out to M.Poz Plumbing and Electrical- they have been so kind and responsive. At first the plumbing seemed like a straight forward re-connect. Instead it morphed into a triage scrambling of exploratory surgery- and these guys just kept moving, getting it done and humoring my marginal approach with improvising and re-purposing all the components and bits required to make the house habitable. So! Without further ado, may I present some Renovation Porn? The following photos have not been enhanced or photoshopped in anyway… this is what happened to my house THIS LAST WEEK.
The spouse has been emphatic- No camping and no sharing bathrooms (when one has 4 toilets in a residence, that doesn’t seem an unreasonable request)…. As I fretted over the pink bath, the holes in the walls and ceiling facilitated an unequivocal updating, mitigating the feminine wallpaper quicker than one might say, ‘I declare!’
Not only are the above pics hot Renovation Porn, they also make for good Blog Fodder (that’s a Harry Potter/Black Adder mashup… Oh yes, and then were the power tools and delivery guys who hauled up a mighty heavy, heavy armoire thing I got at the second hand furniture store- It was so compelling, I didn’t pick up my phone to take a picture… Just stood back and admired the magnitude. Stairs up, roaring and up again. Two guys- very much over forty years of age… Closer to sixty, really. Incredible.
Feelings of neediness and inadequacy lurk in the corners as the countdown to Moving Day looms in the distance. When one is headstrong, one marches, shoulders flung back or hunched forward, depending on mood, oblivious to the often valid reasons as to why one should not pursue one’s heart’s desire. A word one rarely hears in every day NJ chatter. Hubris. Alas, I have it in spades sometimes. Biblically speaking, it’s the Pride sin. What I’ve so often overlooked is that like the bricks which hold up the grey goddess, my foundation could stand some re-pointing.
We failed at this venture the last time. Some of it, although not all, had to do with our own hubris. Then there were our wretched bookkeeping ways, and add to that the maelstrom of the US Economy 2008. Why should we get to go back? We lost this house and proved to ourselves as well as to the bank, we couldn’t keep it together.
That thing about seeing our parents’ qualities in our partners… My husband has the same business acumen that my father did. Which is to say, he does not. Have any. And it’s nice to love a person despite the absence of common fiscal sense. The challenge is, I don’t have much either.
But, gentle reader, remember- your blogger is nothing if not headstrong. The Move, Part One took place this morning, beginning at 10 and ended by 4.30. Enough strapping lad talent had been secured that they fearlessly loaded the correct size of UHaul truck, brought the junk (which most of it is, really) to the house, rinsed and then repeated. The Move, Part Two takes place this time next week. My spouse does indeed feel some misgivings, but for the Pollyanna that lives in at least this cynical old
gal, I love, love, love it.
The handsome fellow above is arriving from Texas- Meet Toby (he’s a rescue from death row)
COMMENTS ARE HERE!
Alone, gentle reader, all alone, your devoted blogger managed to put the comments section ON THE SCREEN….
I think. Please, feel free to sign in- still unsure if that’s necessary- and let moi know you’ve stopped by.
Back to painting. Cover it up, cover it up- wipe it away. There’s almost nothing a new coat of paint can’t fix. But the thing is, like the language of flowers, there’s so much to be INFERRED by color…
an entire paint deck of inference…. the mind reels.
And I do, gentle reader, I do love white. But in it’s remoteness and billowy stark-ness it screams the very austerity the Greeks have been trying to avoid, I think. So much to ponder. So am marching f orward with bits of blue and taupe.
Yesterday spent ENTIRE afternoon cleaning and taping in preparation for Riccardo to come through and transform gun metal grey former teenager’s room into whispering toque white and light, light grey floors… am still on fence with floor and am tempted to leave as is- slap down some shag and see what happens- but a clean grey floor is SO much better- No?
The other space is a deep blue with white floor, I refer to the blue as the color of sleep, yet may be just too sleepy for others;
wtf, if they don’t get it then it’s not for them. These are the spaces which will be put to work chez moi. They are on the third floor and have their own bath, a sitting room and simply lend themselves to a multitude of uses- hence one strives to appeal to the widest demographic. But the preparation seems to be endless. It’s one long struggle with the rag, blue tape and shop vac. Ah yes. the shop vac.
Am now deeply smitten by shop vac. My first ever. Brand spanking new and just sucks up that nasty debris without a so much as by your leave. Really great, really powerful, really new. And yet, and yet.
Being middle aged myself, there are those pesky limitations that hinder one’s zeal. Ye old fibromyalgia and the ensuing tennis elbows of a non tennis player.
But that’s the beauty of paint. Once its on, all those things are covered away. That is of course, one prefers the Betsy Johnson-Ralph Lauren mashup I’ve been dabbling with in master bath (door knobs now in the mail).
Have been driving around with yet another toilet in the back seat. Commandeered a hapless roofer (who came to give me an estimate for the roof) to take it out of the car. Yikes. It was really heavy and I did pull the back a little bit, am in fear of stern disapproval from spouse. “Hayes, you shouldn’t be doing that stuff.” Hence, have begun calling movers to get proper quotes….. My goodness. And we’re off!
Other hot topics of this week’s discovery- how to really manage the blogging endeavor- having turned off ‘comments’ am unable to log in really to anything at all. I cower at the magnitude of mediabistro wordpress class offerings, marvel at the Paris Review’s zombie house blog posting. Oh my, theirs is http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/03/19/unhousing/ – that alone just seems so well- it’s easy to be 51 and intimidated. Heck.
The spouse glanced at progress today- was stern re: quality of work- bubbles under spackle on sheetrock, and tonight over cocktails, lamented the state of the house’s foundation.
THE HOUSE’S FREAKING FOUNDATION….http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20810744,00.html is how to repoint a brick foundation… I have my doubts… You know?
Facebook chums will know I’ve been experimenting with Bonnard inspired bathroom pics – and the good news is, HALLELUJAH ! the master bath is up and running. Yesterday took first bath at home since (well, since our departure, natch). It was lovely. There’s nothing like the depth and pitch of a clawfoot tub. Heaven.
One of the delicious, over the top, affluent joys of having a big-ass house is one must ask oneself, “How shall I do the hall bath? How shall I do the third floor bath? My heavens, how shall I do the master bath?” So wonderful, so silly and so ultimately unimportant. I love it very much.
This Tuesday, I arrived full of purpose and full of bladder, left keys, phone and other paraphernalia on kitchen table, raced up stairs to brand new loo, grabbed the hook on the back of the bathroom door and pulled it shut, because all of the door knobs were stolen. Because, as the door clicked shut, I remembered there is no door knob, they were all stolen.
Correction: There are no door knobs to open any of the interior doors.
I had an appointment at the Urban League (who’ve been amazing and with whom I credit my return to the grey goddess) within the next hour. The cell phone was on the kitchen table, the nearest neighbor at whom I might yell out the bathroom window for help is the hostile neighbor -she’ll get her own post, but not for some time. Below are two views from said bathroom window. View one is circa 2010, the second whilst locked in the bathroom.
Needless to say. I was in a palaver. Or as my dad would say, it was a conundrum. As my husband would say, it was a quandary. But-
HALLELUJAH! Monday I removed an offending brass toilet paper holder which I find no longer pleasing. I’m a messy chick, and Praise the Lord, I left the screwdriver in the bathroom. I had seen my plumber and a contractor open one of the doors which had been inadvertently shut (did I say I HAVE NO DOOR KNOBS?) with a screwdriver, so I knew it was possible to do this.
Important to be calm. Did I say it was hot Tuesday morning? One thought occurred to moi- failing all else, I could always take another bath, and use the loo, over and over again. After ten minutes, watching the square mechanism only move a millimeter or so, it opened.
THANK YOU JESUS! HALLELUJAH! Always an adventure. It’s just like MacGyver…. Only better.
My neighbor with the gorgeous garden next door gently asked, “So what’s up? Is your house a zombie?”
I had not heard that term before. After looking into what zombie houses actually are, the answer is yes, friends. My house was a zombie. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/zombie-foreclosures.html
We couldn’t keep up and we couldn’t get a modification. We were served the foreclosure notice in June, 2008. The stock market crashed in September. By 2009, I was already on my fourth unsuccessful attempt at a modification.
In March 2010, Saxon informed us, the game was up. Our only alternative to foreclosure was to do a short sale. The house was on the market for maybe two or three days. We accepted the offer and went immediately into contract. The youngest member of the house hold was starting high school, I was commuting to the big city, and there wasn’t time to screw around. We moved.
Then the deal didn’t close. And then the kitchen ceiling fell in.
We put the house back on the market.
Concurrently, with the downward eddy of our resources, we rolled around in the ups and downs of the mosh pit called Parenthood. Like love, everyone’s an expert and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, it always seems somebody else is doing it better. We’d both been previously married, we only added Lucca, our beloved dog, to the equation.
Marriage wasn’t a detail that inspired us. However, when the opportunity to get some health insurance courtesy of my employer came up, my spouse and I hightailed it to the altar, officially declaring ourselves to the bureaucrats and lawyers alike.
Holy Moly! Stop the presses.
BlogHer 2015 is taking place this weekend…. Must take note and glean insights from afar. Not knowing what the hell I’m doing (it goes hand in hand with biting off more than I can chew- a thing of the past, I swear) I just checked out Goop http://goop.com/. It’s so elegant and interesting! Also Over50feeling40 http://www.over50feeling40.com/…. Nice. An entire universe waiting to be discovered…. So exciting.
It’s almost as exciting as my now functioning, albeit un-glamorous, masterbath. Photos to follow. In the meantime, something lovely. The window to the left above the one with the arch, is the bathroom in question.
In the dining room during major plumbing surgery
“You can outdistance that which is running after you but not what is running inside you.” This is a Rwandan proverb. Its veracity, alas, reaffirms itself every morning I open my eyes. But it’s okay, too. At 51, I’ve come to terms with it, and like the face that looks back in the mirror, diminished collagen replaced by an abundance of lines, shadows and a weird sort of puffiness in its place, one can only say, “Good morning. Again.”
The thing about history repeating itself, yeah- well. When my parents were about 40 years old, they moved into an enormous West Side apartment. My earliest memories are of being small in a super big place. And frankly, I thought it felt good. I don’t know if my instantaneous reaction to The Big House was a replay of those earlier memories, or if it was something else. I fell, and I fell hard.
My parents (RIP) had a great deal of style. They could not have been more different from one another, but they did respect each other’s aesthetic impulses, and my mother particularly, ranks among the great uneducated Nancy Lancasters of her time.
The above photo is circa 1975.
We were at the big apartment about six years until things went south. Life afterward took us in many different directions all over the world. Although they had been long divorced, my father died in the same town that my mother had been born.
In some strange way, that makes it a small world, I think.
Pictures, being worth many thousands of words, will fill in the rest of today’s backstory. Here are several about the plumbing in the master bath. Note relocation of throne to basement, gaping, but necessary, cavity in middle of living room wall and original stack now in back yard. Yes, indeed. It’s a process, folks.
My daughter lent me a book called Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum, which ironically, was published as I was moving out of mine. The graceful grey edifice that was home, we referred to as The Big House, A Wreck, The Worst Mistake We Ever Made and a couple of others which I’ve since forgotten.
We are a blended family. He came with three kids and an elegant Cavalier King Charles spaniel. I came with a college aged daughter, a ginger cat and an aging mother. In a burst of tenderness we adopted a dog, Lucca, who was the baby of the family. The grey house while not being in the lush suburb from which he hailed, nor close enough to the train or bus to give my mother the sense of independence that she craved, was otherwise perfect. For us. And for all and sundry who came with us. It was clear from the moment I saw it.
We made the offer (full asking price) before the open house even took place. This was 2004. I had just turned forty. My spouse and I worked together and we worked hard, sometimes generating real money. There wasn’t any reason we wouldn’t be successful. He walked through the rooms, and sighed, “Ah Hayes, this house is going to need some serious work.” He knew. He’s an architect. And I had become a designer, but more than that, I am a romantic and a die hard optimist. It can be a recipe for disaster.
And the sunlight streamed in through the simple leaded window over the window seat at the top of the stairs opposite the front door, which was glass, giving the sense, by and large, of four exposures. Airy, simple, but a Victorian! How crazy is that? I mean, this house was beautiful. Our first evening, we sat in the back yard as the the stars came out, and watched our family turning on the lights, moving through the spaces of their new home.