Mel and I went for a ride today in the country. It was so beautiful with all the freshly fallen snow. The sun was glistening so brilliantly. It looked like someone had spread diamond dust on all the streets while we were sleeping!
Mel and I love to go driving around looking at the big, gorgeous houses. We sometimes wonder what the families that live in them are like. The funny thing is we live in a huge 11-room colonial. No it's not a mansion. It's just an old 102-year old house build at the turn of the century.
It still had most of the original woodwork on the inside and you could see the splendor this house might have known at one time. When my husband bought it, it was still in decent shape. Unfortunately because he and his first wife were not on the same page they really didn't invest much time or effort into improving it or maintaining it.
After my husband's divorce, he moved out and left the house to his ex-wife. Four years later my husband and I were going to get married and we started to look for a house to buy.
We saw the most beautiful house in a nice quiet neighborhood! It had a long driveway that looked like a side street! When we went to look at it, I was hooked! It had 6 bedrooms, a finished basement and 3 bathrooms! With all our kids we knew it would be perfect! Plus the owners were in such a hurry to sell due to her husband being transferred to another state that it included a pool, ride-on lawn mower and the price was drastically reduced!
My husband and I thought this would be a wonderful place for us to start our new life together. All we had to do was move in. It was in mint condition. I kept thinking it was a dream. I had lived my whole childhood in run-down, roach infested tenement buildings. You couldn't sneeze without your next-door neighbor yelling, "God bless you!" or "Shut up!" through the walls. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming about the wonderful new life I was about to embark on. Well, I guess I pinched myself once too many times, because I woke up!
Mel's ex-wife decided she no longer wanted the old house. She told him she wanted to start over in another town away from where they had lived together. So now my hubby was stuck with the house and since it was still in his name he had no choice but to take it back.
At this time the housing market had dropped drastically and he would have lost almost 40 grand had he tried to sell it. So me, trying to be the good understanding wife, agreed to move in to his old house. Yeah I know it was a dumb idea from the jump! Having to live in the same house where he lived with his first wife was bad enough but actually that wasn't the worse of it!
The kicker was she wound up buying a house less than a 1/2 a mile away from us! So much for starting over somewhere else!
I wanted a nice quiet neighborhood. White pickets fences, nice neighbors, tree-lined sidewalks, but no, it didn't happen quite that way. Instead, I got a drug-dealing, prostitute-infested neighborhood.
Our welcome wagon when we moved in? Someone called the cops to complain about us because we were making too much noise lugging all our furniture into the house!
Welcome to the neighborhood! Wait it got better, uh, I mean worse! I thought my hubby was going to pull his hair out when he saw the condition of the house! To say it had been somewhat neglected is a slight understatement. Okay, it's a huge understatement, but you get the drift!
So in a matter of a week, I went from planning a church wedding, buying a new house and going on a two week honeymoon, to total chaos!
I cancelled the church wedding. We eloped to New Hampshire with nine kids and a nephew in tow for a civil ceremony!
I had to forget about my dream house in the quiet neighborhood. We spent our honeymoon removing a ton (This is not a misprint, we had a truck with a scale to verify this!) of junk from my hubby's old house. We also had to repaint and re-wallpaper every single room in the house!
Way to start a new life, Huh? To say I woke up was again a major understatement! As a result I still dreamt of my new house in the Currier and Ives postcard.
When my husband and I go on our drives the thing that hits me is that every time my Mel or one of our kids points out a house and says how nice it is, I always have to say,
"Yeah but ours is nicer!" My kids usually laughed at me and my hubby just nods his head.
On this particular trip we went through the same scenario. Right on cue as my hubby pointed out a house I said my line. He looked at me kind of funny and asked me why I always said that.
I thought about it for a moment and then I told him that I guess I had grown attached to our house.
Don't get me wrong. Many a day I had wished that a freak tornado would strike our town and destroy nothing but our house! (Obviously when we aren't home and Sadie is with us!) I went through a lot of self-doubt and anger at having to live in a house that was bought for another woman. You know what I mean? Feeling like I was competing with the memories that were created there before I arrived. It would have been nicer for me to buy a new house we could just have moved into without having to rebuild, I mean repair!
Now I guess after putting so much time and effort into the house, it kind of became a part of me.
No! Not like a fungus, more like a mother giving birth. As I explained this to my husband he grew quiet for a bit.
I asked him why he really didn't like to do anything to keep the house up or improve it. He looked at me quietly. He finally told me that he had put so much love and hard work into buying the house in his first marriage just to see it all come to an end. His first wife really wasn't interested in making the house better. He also told me that after all the stuff we had gone through because of the house he had grown to hate it! I was shock!
"How can you hate the house?" I asked him, "It had nothing to do with what went wrong in your marriage!"
"I know that now!" he says" But it's only because you put so much of yourself into it. You kind of turned it from just an old house into a nice home. I guess that's why you love it so much. It's your labor of love!"
As we continued on our drive I thought about the value lessons I had just learned. For one thing I had reconfirmed the fact that one person's trash is truly another person's treasure.
Another thing I learned was that we really do appreciate the things we work for a lot more, than things that are just handed to us.
Even though I wasn't there when my husband bought his house to help him out, I was there to help him rebuild. In turn I was able to heal myself from the trauma and negative effects of my own divorce.
I helped him to rebuild not only the house but his life with his children and his family, along with my new life with my children.
In a way my working on the house turned it into a new home. Notice the difference. A house is just a cold structure. A home is a place to feel loved and secure. It was funny, because as I was thinking this my hubby said "You know that house has your personality now. If you left tomorrow, I would be reminded of you constantly even if I didn't want to!" I found this strange. In my previous life if you walked into my old house you wouldn't really see much to indicate that I lived there. I mean I kept it clean and organized but there was very little personalization involved.
It's ironic, because I worked hard to buy that house. Even when my ex-husband really wasn't interested in buying it, I still did all I could until I found a bank willing to finance us. But it never ever had my personality. It was just a house, nothing more. It was aesthetic and impersonal in appearance.
Now I wondered if those people in the big fancy houses really understood how lucky they were. Do they see them as homes or just a place to "lay-over" in between flights? I guess the reason I really loved the house was because of all the love that was there. The love I felt from all our kids. It's was overwhelming at times, the crazy, good times we had there as well. They were priceless!
Yeah, I know I fought hard for it. There were times when I really felt like throwing in the towel, back in the beginning of our marriage. But for some weird reason, mainly the love I felt from my hubby and kids, I never did.
I hung in there. No matter how much we fell behind financially. No matter how many times things that were promises never happened, trips were postponed or getaways cancelled, I hung in there. No matter how many people kept trying to sabotage our life together or destroy what we were building, I hung in there.
I still don't fully understand why except for the fact that, the house, like my marriage and bringing my new family together, was truly my labor of love.
It was my on-going work of "art". But most of all it was a work in progress. I was never one to walk away from an unfinished project. The fact that I got divorce from my first husband killed me because I really thought that I could make it work. Fifteen years later I realized that I couldn't make something work unless both parties wanted it to work and I had to walk away. I promised myself that if I ever got married again I would never walk away again.
I never break my promises and I wasn't about to start now!
My house was still in need of some repairs. My neighborhood was still not the best. I still didn't live in the country. But at least I had kids that loved me, and a place I could finally call "home". "Home" that word sounded so awesome!
I won't pinch myself this time, because if it is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up!