Saturday, December 01, 2012

Do you live in an old house?


My house, cozy and snug in a 2011 snowstorm
The decorative dentil molding over the porch gave way to age several years ago
My house was built in 1922. It wears its age proudly and well. Over its ninety years, it has softened and gentled until it wraps itself around me in a way new houses never do. More than a house, it's home and has been for twenty years. The floors are scuffed and scraped—you can see where my Aussie slept every warm night, preferring the wood floor to his bed. I guess the oil from his coat gradually wore away the finish. Same thing in the spot in the office, where he always slept at my feet. And under my rolling chair—and I do roll from desk to credenza to get this, that or the other—the floor is similarly scraped. Some previous owners weren’t smart about water damage from plants, and there are some huge circular stains in the dining room. Even the new floor that was put in the add-on family room ten years ago shows stress and strain by the back door to the yard—too many muddy dogs and children have gone in and out.  When one of my daughters suggested I have the floors redone, my answer was ready: too difficult to live through, too expensive, and shiny would floors would make this grand old lady (the house, not me) uncomfortable. The next occupant will have to redo the floors—but I hope that’s a long way down the road.

When something breaks in an old house, it really breaks. It seems like I have a water leak somewhere all the time which means high water bills and even higher plumbing bills. Commodes are big offenders—they leak, they run, they periodically re-flush themselves even if you’re not in the room. The plumber explained that one to me and it sort of made sense. Most recently the commode in the guest apartment sprang a leak—and warped the wood floor so that several boards had to be placed. I could not live in my old house without Bundock Construction—brothers Lewis and Jim. They did some major remodeling in 2000, taking out a partial wall and putting in French doors, redirecting duct work, giving me a new attic staircase because they said the old one would kill me, and finishing with a much needed paint job. When they finished, they said “Call us. You’re one of ours now.” I’m sure they’ve lived to regret those words, because I call almost every week, for everything from a light bulb high above the kitchen soffet to a broken bird feeder.

I’m convinced old houses get dirty faster than new ones—they have cracks and crevices through which dirt sifts, windows don’t fit tightly (vines have been known to grow in those little windows over the bookcases that flank my Art Deco fireplace). There’s a crack between tile floor (those old tiny octagonal tiles) and baseboard behind the bathroom sink, and most mornings a gecko comes through to visit with me. I wait for him and welcome him. Thanks to Socorro Escobar who keeps my house clean. Love old houses, hate to clean them.

At night I lie in bed and look at a ceiling with so many cracks that it looks like a road map. I listen to my house creak and groan and it settles a tiny bit. Occasionally there’s a loud, unidentified noise, but I figure if the dog isn’t alarmed, I won’t be either. I’m home, safe, and comfortable.

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