Unlike the California house, where I knocked down pretty much every non load-bearing interior wall, my Bride and I agreed up front that I'd limit my urges towards home improvement to manageable, non-structural changes for the new house. So this week, after hauling 34 boxes of books up the stairs to the room over the garage, I brought in a carpenter to see about some built-in shelf units. Hopefully in time for the additional boxes on their way from England.
Joel's a good old fashioned, New Yankee type carpenter, complete with belly-expanding tool belt, and tolerant of my urge to bond over power tools. While exchanging masculine grunts and liberally exchanging dialogue including words like "kerf" and "dado", we started talking about this house, and what I would and wouldn't do myself.
For example, I shared with him the plans for me to frame in part of the old attic to create a playroom space for the kids.
Pseudo-Norm: Neat space, isn't it?
Me: Yep. It's got great potential. The floor boards are amazing.
Him: Did you notice where the past residents had carved stuff into the rafters and stuff?
Me: Eh? No, I hadn't noticed. .
Him: Yeah. There's that one spot where someone carved something like "Mother died here" and a date.
Me: ... um... really?
Him: All the contractors thought that was kind of weird.
Me: ... um...
Him: Isn't it a neat space?
Me: ... um...
Really, all I could think was "OK: how do I tell my Bride that our house is one projectile vomit away from Amytiville?" And then I went and quietly curled into a fetal position with my crucifix.
When the sun came up the next morning in a coinicidental rediscovery of my non-superstitious masculinity, I was able to creep upstairs without visions of the Omen dancing in my head. On the door to the attic, I found a series of simple, home-spun graffiti on the inside of the door, which looks like a fifth grader was practicing his cursive, and a simple, sweet rememberance of a mother's passing date scribbled in about the same way I used to secretly scribble up my textbooks. Rather than sending shivers crawling down my spine in a way that M. Knight Shyamalamadingdong can only dream of, it made me feel more connected to the families that have lived in this house in the past. In a home that is literally older than the country I hail from, we're merely the latest in a series. We're caretakers, rather than simply occupants. And rather than banishing the memories of those that came before us, we will weave our own story into the history of our home as a family. Which is an amazing kind of connection to our home that I certainly never felt in our 1950's tract-built home in California or even the several hundred year old converted potato barn we lived in during our stay in the UK.
In a week and a half, I've found a deeper connection to our new home than I felt in six years in California.
And if maybe there's some extra holy water, a visit from our neighborhood catholic priest, and a liberal sprinkling of garlic in our own little bit of weaving here, that's just coincidence.
Happy, non-spooky coincidence. :)