Pardon me while I get a little maudlin. I can blame it on the new year and all that, right?
This house has been an all-consuming project since last summer when we pulled up the first piece of carpet. Six months later not an inch of carpet remains. (Almost) every last carpet nail and staple is gone. Nearly every millimeter of surface area has been cleaned, painted, sanded, or otherwise refurbished. Untold hours of work have gone into the house, with the requisite blood, sweat and tears (more than I’d like of the latter). We have become accidental landlords, renting out the first floor, and are nearly ready to rent the third floor. The second floor is two refinished floors, a reconstructed bathroom, and a few pieces of furniture from being airbnb ready. There’s still some systems work to be done; for reasons passing understanding the electrician installed panels that don’t provide enough electric for a three household structure, for one. But we can actually see a finish line in the distance.
The ongoing problem with the contractor we bought the house from lurks constantly, killing joy that comes with finishing tasks like gutting the bathroom and getting the third coat of very red paint on in the kitchen. Worries over the situation squash the happy moments, plague my sleep, and torment my waking hours. In the new year, I’ve realized, I need to focus on the good. A Detroit friend reminded me last week that we’ll never get these moments back. Good, bad, crazy, whatever, they are all part of this once in a lifetime experience. And I want them to count.
The piece of all this that overwhelms and humbles me is the incredible support family and friends have showered on us. This is our house, our folly if that’s what it is, our problem, our investment, and it’s natural that we sport the bruises and aches and pains and weariness that come with renovating three homes in one hundred-year-old package. But our family and our Kentucky and Detroit friends have pitched in with work, moral support, gifts, tool loans, knowledge, shoulders to cry on and their very presence with such generosity beyond what we could possibly deserve that I can never begin to adequately thank them. I’d like to tell you about just a sampling.
How many people do you think would take off work for a week to go do physical labor on someone else’s house four hours away just because they want to help? Meet Holly, who did that not once, but twice. This girl can do anything, and inspired me to get my own nail gun and stop assuming that I should leave the hand tools to my husband (I know but I’ve never thought I was handy or skilled at things like that). She also sings while she works, makes me laugh when I want to cry, and can unearth treasures at thrift stores like no other. The icing on the cake? Her truck, which we’ve used to haul everything from a $25 armchair scored at the Salvation Army to a dining room table and chairs to all the things at Home Depot.
I never had a sister, but my Michigan sister-in-law makes up in spades for what I imagine I missed growing up the only daughter. Angela and her friend Amy are strong, smart, crazy creative, love bourbon as much as I do, and have worked their arses off on this house. From fixing the #@$%ing deadbolt that was giving me fits to ripping out the bathroom walls, to painting ceilings and pulling carpet, they have poured energy and love into this house. They were with us from the very beginning, the day we sat at Slow’s Barbecue and said “we should buy a house in Detroit” and have been there by phone, text and in person for every defeat and victory along the way. (And I’ll always owe Amy for convincing me to not give up on getting the built-in kitchen cabinets back to their bare wood — not to mention the hours she’s put into stripping them.)
Our nephews have lent their strong backs and can-do attitudes, our parents have gifted us with goodies like hand tools and a shop vac, and Louisville friends cleaning house think of us when they have an awesome light fixture or a microwave to give away. Then there’s our fellow rehabbers down the street in Detroit who share their wisdom and workers, and have been there for us countless times in a pinch, whether it’s carrying something heavy up the stairs or whipping up a restorative cocktail on a day when it just all seemed too much. Also, it’s just fitting that after giving up on a dream of moving to Paris for a year to buy this house, we have Sophie for a friend … Sophie from Paris who comes bearing foie gras and wine when they come over.
So when I look around and see SO much work still to be done, and the wind is whipping and it’s dark and cold out and I wonder again what we’ve gotten ourselves into, I will think of all these people and more who have given so much along the way and count my blessings. And then I’ll get back to work.