Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A little stretch, and joy

Let's talk about contentment.
For years and years I fantasized about taking a tiny house and creating something all mine. I dreamed of a Snow White-esque woodland setting, a babbling brook, an attic full of built-in beds and a cozy kitchen-living-library room with wainscot and a crackling fire. You know, like a Rosamunde Pilcher novel. We'd have geraniums at the scrubbed tabletop all summer and friends popping corn around the woodstove on winter evenings.

And over the past 20 years, through house after beautiful house, my husband and I tackled small remodeling projects. So of course I continued to romanticize The Big Renovation To Come. I pored over blogs and magazine articles and I justified the expense of satellite television so I could memorize the HGTV lineup.
We painted and roofed a 1920s craftsman bungalow in the big city. We gutted a ranch house kitchen and made it something like midcentury classic on a budget. We put in flooring and re-plastered and added a bath to a 1910 Dutch Colonial in a small town. We moved into an 1898 country church and every stone was lovingly replaced in the foundation, every shiplap board caulked and painted to rustic perfection up to the soaring ceilings.

We didn't do much of the work in any of those examples.

My brother. Assorted contractors. People with Knowledge of Power Tools. Those folks created our improved living situations and added to our equity and in general it was something like watching HGTV, only with dust.
So of course we were prepared for this, the Big Renovation That Is: a couple of mill cottages of indeterminate age, cobbled together with Yankee pluck in the midst of the Great Depression, set against the backdrop of a gorgeous year-round creek and a big century barn. Of course we could tackle this. Without help, because the economy it is quite different than it was for the first 15 years of our marriage and adventures in homeownership.
We are up for this challenge. Our children are too, vote or no vote.
The thing I might be learning this past eight months is that the state of the flooring, or indeed of insulation and plumbing, is not related remotely to happiness. Joy is not dependent on finish work nor even on the availability of hot water. (It has been like that.) When every room has three-quarter-finished projects and every child has an activity that takes us away from home (ballet, jazz, flute, community theater, chess club, you get it) AND every available moment of my dear husband's time feels stolen from his engineering and survey business -- at these times, whether the carpet is ripped out or not is just not an issue.
Did we stretch a little to move to this bigger property, smaller house? Yes. Are we learning things along the way? Definitely. We are learning how to tape and mud drywall, please don't misunderstand. We have learned how to diagnose water pressure issues, to be sure. There are geraniums on my windowsill.

But ultimately this past eight months at the farmhouse looks like an exercise in joy amidst the dust, contentment despite the carpet.

It might take us a long time to create the storybook cottage of my dreams but we can have the life of our dreams without waiting, without contractor help and certainly without spending a dime.

I think that's called contentment and joy. So glad I found it here in a ramshackle house.


BLD in MT said...

It sounds like you're in just exactly the right place. May the joy continue to reign no matter the conditions. Have a great day and good luck on all the renovations!

Miri said...

I love that, for today at least, I turned my back on the paint and the projects and we went to the river. I am in the right place. Thanks for the encouragement.