We’re taking down our Christmas decorations today. It’s especially bittersweet this year. McIrish and I are renovating our house this spring.
When we built our house 23 years ago, we living in a 600 square foot apartment with a baby and a cat. We slept on a futon couch with the Princess in a crib four feet away in a little alcove. Our table sat two; three with the high chair pulled up. A laundry basket held the Princess’s toys. There was one tiny closet. We didn’t mind.
We had very little money, so McIrish acted as the general contractor on the new house and did much of the work himself. My dream had always been to live in a house with a front porch—my childhood home had a deck, but not a porch one could sit on. I wanted us to err on the side of too small, rather than too big. Three bedrooms, the master downstairs so we could grow old there and not have to worry about stairs. Two big bedrooms upstairs for the four children we hoped to have.
Everything was done as inexpensively as possible. McIrish and his brother put in the tin ceiling and hardwood floors. We sunk footers for a deck we never built. Our 700-foot driveway was gravel and dirt (my first book advance paid for its paving…so glamorous!). We ran out of money before finishing the second bedroom upstairs; the floor was plywood covered by paper, and it would remain that way for six more years. The kids loved drawing on that paper while I sewed a lot of little dresses, vests and pajamas up there. Wrote my first book on an old Mac there, too.
When we moved in, the house, all of its 1800 square feet, seemed cavernous. We had closets! Lots of them! A pantry! A mudroom! A washer in that mudroom (the dryer would have to wait till we could afford it, so I mastered the art of hanging clothes out to dry, a chore I still love).
Fast forward twenty-plus years, and the house is cheerfully worn. The wood floors are scraped from kitchen chairs, and the walls still look a little dull from being scrubbed (sticky hands were the bane of my maternal existence). The cellar door never got around to being stained. The black-and-white tile floor in the kitchen and bathrooms is veined with cracks from when the house settled.
So…a renovation. McIrish deserves a nice kitchen. We love having people over, so a bit more room will be lovely. I’ll have a tiny study with lots of windows…a psychic once told me my father wanted me in a room full of windows. The house will be mostly the same, but shinier, you know? Much needed new paint and trim. Better windows, screens that aren’t punctuated by cat claws. A two-car garage so McIrish won’t have to scrape his truck every time it snows. All good.
And yet, this Christmas, our little house glowed with candles and colored lights. The little village over the cupboards looks so cozy. If it was crowded, well, no one ever complained. It was, and has always been, and will always be, a house full of love.