She Says: Torture Smorture … It’s Fun!
For some reason, I have the issue of inflicting distress on myself. And liking it. Sick? Perhaps but when you consider the prime way of inflicting this distress includes living in old homes, it doesn’t seem all that bad.
I am house crazed (read obsessed with being in, looking at, and tinkering with old homes). There has been many a weekend where I insist on driving around neighborhood after neighborhood looking at other people’s homes. I am a realtor’s worst nightmare – the person wandering through an open house with no intention to buy, only the intention to snoop. So it only makes sense that with this affinity for homes, I would buy an old one to inhabit as well.
And so here we are, living in an 1892 Dutch Colonial that was actually once a barn. Of course, the hay and animals have been removed and walls for the necessary rooms were constructed back in the 1930’s. But that’s about where it ends …
When we first moved in, the house had been well lived in. In fact, the woman who resided here before us even had mice for roommates. In addition, the lath and plaster walls were pretty badly damaged by years of neglect or cheap wallpaper and texture cover ups. And this doesn’t include the pet stained carpets and never cleaned bathrooms. Somewhere in the house hunt process, though, we saw potential in this beauty and bought her after several annoying encounters with the seller.
Thankfully for me, during the first weekend in the house the husband was out of town and I began the self-torture. Step one: ripping out all the upstairs carpets. And no, said husband did not know I was planning on doing this.
Figuring there was hardwood under the pet stained mess, I was lucky with bedroom one. A nice, original, fir floor that just needed a quick sand and some new stain that would do the trick. However, the remaining rooms did not leave me so lucky. Apart from the bugs and dust mites, I shook my head over and over as I went from one area to the next, revealing painted boards, linoleum, glued down outdoor carpet, and thousands–I kid you not–of staples, nails, and sections of tacking strip. And yes, I was thrilled. Why? I have no idea.
The mere thought of sitting for even ten minutes yanking nails and staples out of a floor would make any other person cry. Me? I ran at lightening speed for a pair of needle nosed pliers and went at it. For four days.
What was even more exciting is that we would still need to actually scrape, sand and refinish the floors after this little task was done. Then would come painting and decorating, room by room, month by month, followed by landscaping and yard work upkeep. And while the light at the end of the tunnel is no where in sight, knowing that there are plenty more days ahead to put myself through the most ridiculously difficult tasks for the self satisfaction of knowing we’re making this place into what it is supposed to be (no, not a barn … but a comfortable home) is enough excuse to keep up the torture.
My wife and I moved to Salt Lake City about a year and a half ago. We went house hunting shortly after arriving and quickly fell in love with an old 1892 Dutch Colonial in Sugarhouse. My wife fell in love with the home itself. She loves the character of the old house first and foremost. Me? I fell in love with the investment. I mean, we got the place 25% off. (I’m only partially joking).
Don’t get me wrong. I love the house too. However, my wife has heard me mutter under my breath on more then one occasion, “I hate this damn house.” I don’t really hate the house, though. I don’t. It’s the house that hates me. I’ve tried everything to become friends. Really, I have. I gave her a new sewer system. Replaced the mainline and all. We removed all her stinky, urine-stained carpet and restored the beautiful wood floors for her. I tore out misplaced closets, patched up broken walls and added new paint throughout the upstairs. My wife has made the outside look like a photo opp from Better Homes and Gardens. I have even promised her an updated kitchen, new bathrooms and a refinished deck when the time is right. (I don’t want to spoil her). But she still seems to hate me. You know those house noises that old houses make? Mine just does it when I get home from work. She’s groaning because she’s unhappy to see me. I don’t know what I ever did to her. At least I didn’t. Until a few weeks ago…
When my wife and I bought our first home, she had a tendency to look to the next project before the current project was finished. (I know there are plenty of men that can commiserate). For example, I’ve finished patching up walls and painting a bedroom. The place looks great and we’re both pleased. We take a deep breath and admire the transformation. It is right at this moment that my wonderful wife would bring up the next project. It’s not malicious in any way, I know that. It’s more like an innate ability to make the work stressful. “Boy honey, this upstairs will look amazing once the last bedroom is finished.” Or “It sure will be great when all the trees in the yard are trimmed up!” Uggggghhh. This room isn’t even done. There’s still trim to do, touch up, and clean up. There’s at least three more evenings of work left, but here we are, already onto the next project.
Well, after this happened a few times, we sat down and talked about how this made working on the house very stressful. I couldn’t even enjoy the work I was about to finish because I was already thinking about the next project. My wife, to her credit, was very understanding and supportive of this. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “I get it, baby. That makes sense. I’m sorry.” Really? Phew! That is a Re-Lief! I’m so glad we had this talk. That is a weight off my shoulders. Those comments stopped too. My lovely partner always waited until a project was completely finished AND I had a few days to relax before we talked about the next project. She was wonderful.
Or so I thought. It was all too good to be true. But I’m the fool. I should have known something was up.
A number of months ago my wife decided to become an independent communications consultant. George Banks’ opinion aside, she has done well for herself and I am very proud. The thing is, she now has a home office. Every day, all day, she works from home. My wife and the beautiful 1892 Dutch Colonial spend every waking (and resting) moment together. I finally realized this a few weeks ago and then it dawned on me. It is not my house that hates me. Not at all. It is my wife that hates me. My house is just easily pressured into going along with the my wife’s scheme. Can you blame the house? She just wants to be liked. And my wife, the very strong-willed and persuasive Italian woman, takes advantage of it. How can I expect my house to resist that constant pressure from my wife 24 hours a day? Of course she is going to turn against me.
You see, while my wife was being so understanding of my request to focus on one project at a time, I failed to notice that the workload didn’t slow down at all. In fact, it seemed to increase. And that’s when I realized it. My wife has convinced our wonderful innocent house to do all the…ummmm… persuading. In those countless hours they spend together, my wife has won our house over. They plot and scheme together. I have to admit, it’s a pretty clever conspiracy they have going too. It’s kind of hard to focus on the bedroom I’m painting when there’s water flooding out of a broken pipe. It’s tough to put off trimming the trees until the next project when the tree decides to shed the branches on its own. Right onto our Jeep! I can’t ignore fixing the front door when the front door is no longer on the hinges.
You two think you’re so clever. I’m on to you. I see through your shenanigans.