Reflecting on a Dumpy House, and A Wonderful Home

our old house

Our house was a total crap-shack when we bought it. (Speaking of which, this photo shows part of a new septic installation.)

 I play a goofy game with my kids when we’re out. If we pass a mirror, I’ll pause and say, “Hey, check out those good lookin’ kids!” The kids turn, look, and see that the “good lookin’ kids” I’m referring to are them.

I’ve played this game with my kids for years, since they were infants, really. It used to illicit smiles and laughs, but now it usually only gets me an eye-roll and/or an exasperated sigh. Sometimes my kids ignore me completely. It might be time to retire the “good lookin’ kid” game.

But my daughter recently flipped the script on me.

house refurb

Our house finally got a much needed facelift in 2010, thanks to my son (allegedly) eating lead paint chips in the old porch … but that’s another story.

My kids splashed around in the kiddie pool. I kept one eye on them, and looked over our property with the other. Our lawn was a mix of brown patches (courtesy of our dogs) and crabgrass. The flowerbeds needed weeding, Preening, and mulching.

The inside of the house wasn’t much better — baseboards missing from renovations begun a decade ago, hardwood floors gouged and pitted (again, courtesy of our dogs). Every room needed a fresh coat of paint. The basement needed waterproofing, and a sump pump.

Homeownership is an ongoing battle, one I often feel I’m losing. When do you find the time and energy to keep up with all the work that needs to be done? How do you afford to improve, or even maintain, your home when it’s a struggle to keep up with the monthly bills? And what am I trying to pay off? A dumpy yellow shack that’s small and cramped.

Sometimes I look at our place, and I don’t see a house. I see an albatross around my neck, a lightening rod strapped to my back, a stone tied to my ankle as I try to keep afloat in deep water.

“Hey, Dad!” my daughter yelled. “I see a beautiful yellow house over there!”

“Where?” I tried to see where she was looking. Was there new construction in our neighborhood?

“There!” She pointed to our neighbor’s windows.

New front steps

Homegrown pumpkins line our new front steps, fall of 2012.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“It’s our house, Dad!” she said. “In the glass. See it? It’s our beautiful yellow house!”

I saw it then, a wavy reflection in the neighbor’s glass windows.

Our house.

Perspective is everything. If you don’t like the way something looks, walk around and look at it from a different angle. Viewed through my daughter’s eyes, our house never looked better, not a shabby shack at all, but a love shack.

“I see it now,” I told her. “And it’s the most beautiful house in town.”

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, June 2010.

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