“I just wanted to make some forward progress,” S. said, turning off the car and leaning back somewhat desolately in his seat. “I just wanted to move forward a bit.”
“I know,” I said, remaining in my seat as well despite the frigid temperature. “But I guess today is not the day for it.”
Saturday, we were supposed to price out various tile prices for the pantry floor. Actually, Wednesday we were supposed to to price out various tile prices for the pantry but both Michigan State and Duke had basketball games that day and if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know how we prioritize our winter.
We’d set ourselves up to accomplish a lot on Saturday – pay the bills, grocery shop, pick up the dry cleaning, and hit Home Depot and Construnction Junction. Sure, we were perhaps running a bit behind schedule but it was, after all, a Saturday and we had nothing to do besides make sure to be home for, yes, college basketball at five. Around twelve-thirty or so, my arms full of dry cleaning, the grocery bill clutched between my teeth, I went outside to join S., who had spent the last half hour unearthing our car from a pile of snow, to find him speaking with our neighbor and looking with some concern at second floor roof – the same roof we had an ice dam-related leak last spring and had fixed once already.
Now, I could spend some time here explaining how we thought, according to the information the previous owners provided, that the roof on the house was new, and leaks weren’t something we were supposed to deal with, but I think an individual post on the nature of our neighborhood and previous neighbors’ approach to home repair is warranted – I will write it this month sometime. So trust me when I say yes, our roof is new, but only in the most do-it-yourself-with-some-of-your-buddies sense of the word.
“What’s up?” I asked S., shoving the dry-cleaning into the back seat of the car. Skylar was running circles around the back yard, stopping periodically to flip snow with his nose.
S. and our neighbor, F., pointed to a long stream of water running down the side of our house.
“We’ve got an ice dam in the same spot we had the roof fixed last year,” S. said.
“How serious is that?” I asked. I will admit, sometimes I just want to ignore problems such as these. I mean, the day was meant for tile shopping! I had geared myself up for tile – my head was not in a “roof problem” place.
“Hard to tell,” F. said. “But you need to make sure the leak isn’t permeating your house. I hear water running down my house, too – I’m going to investigate.”
“I’ve got to get the snow off the roof to see what’s going on. Can you check the second floor living room for leaks?” S. asked.
For the next who-knows-how-long, S. shoveled loads of heavy snow off both of our roofs while I alternately inspected for leaks ( a small leak coming through a window, but not through the roof, was discovered) and tried to keep Skylar from jumping through the open second floor window to investigate what his master was doing. At the end of all the shoveling and inspecting we placed a call to our home warranty people – and people, if you ever buy a century old home, I can not emphasize enough how much you should extend your home warranty – and headed to the grocery store.
What we’ve learned in a year, is this: this old house is not going to cave in on us. It’s a big, solid, weathered home that has withstood more kinds of weather than S. and I are likely to see in our lifetime. Unlike this time last year, neither one of us lost our cool or our tempers or our enjoyment of one another – simply, we were supposed to go shopping for tile for renovating the pantry, and we ended up searching for roof leaks. These are, after all, the days of our lives.
But when we returned home in the late afternoon, what light was left in the day disappearing behind the house, with not as much accomplished as we’d hoped, there was a moment of despair.
“Just one step forward,” S. repeated, before stepping out of the car and grabbing a few bags of groceries. “That’s all I wanted.”
Well, as any person rehabilitating a home will assuredly tell you, when hopelessness begins to wash over you, it’s time to grab your power tools, which is exactly what S. did yesterday in attempt to reestablish his alpha status with the house. We have been informed by neighbors and friends familiar with renovating old homes that we had secret entrances and pocket doors on the first floor, all of which had been plastered and dry-walled over the course of the last century, changing with the fashion and trends of the time. The ultimate goal, if you own one of these houses, is to strip down all the ugly and reveal the home’s original architecture. We had been hesitant, up to this point, to drill into the baseboards and walls to find out if our sources were correct but yesterday S. came to conclusion that we really couldn’t make the house much worse in terms of appearance and broke out a couple different drills and saws. He methodically moved around the first floor, removing baseboards, drilling holes, cutting out pieces of wall, revealing an actual entrance way into our dining room, a place for pocket doors in the living room, a wider entrance way in the hallway. Over the course of a careful day, he managed to find a whole bunch of secret, beautiful opportunities on the first floor, more than enough to finally focus our attention on this house and decide, for the moment, anyway, to concentrate our rehabilitation efforts on the first floor. Next weekend, once breathing masks, tarp and goggles have been purchased, we will be tearing down some walls.
This house keeps throwing us curve balls, and we keep bunting them. It’s time to knock one of these suckers out of the park.