Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Off with the old, on with the new roof!
More to the point, a half dozen shirtless men are crawling all over my house as I type this, banging and pounding and generally making a hellish racket as they remove three layers of shingles from the roof, the bottom one dating back to the 1930s. Outside is a hideous, chaotic mess: two entrances are impassable due to tarps, ladders, and piles of ancient asphalt, and the yard is a disaster area. Inside, it's really noisy, and our animal friends are more than a little freaked out; thus far, we've been keeping them sequestered with us in one of the quieter rooms, which seems to help a bit.
These are the times that try the humble homeowner's soul, and make one question (not for the first time) the quixotic myopia that led them to purchase a circa 1895 timber frame house boasting no insulation, 60 amp fuse service, a kitchen in need of a total overhaul, and a roof that was already peeling the day we laid eyes on it. From the initial home inspection - two months before the birth of my youngest son - it was a given that this job would have to be done (someday), but there were always other things to do first and/or instead. In the event, we managed to delay the inevitable much longer than expected, and only the merest trickle of water during a torrential downpour eventually forced the issue.
But the fact remains that this sort of project is absolutely no fun. For one thing, it's ruinously expensive. For another, on a house like this it's basically an archaeological dig in the sky: on Day Two, we've already learned of rotten wood that needs to be replaced, jacking up the price still further. For yet another, it's loud, messy, and inconvenient. Okay, that's three "others," but you take my point. Yes, it's necessary, and in the end we'll have a nice new roof, which will be a vast improvement on a state of aesthetic affairs that suggests Boo Radley might be taking his ease on our porch. BUT. Aside from keeping the rain and snow off us and placating the neighbors so they don't show up some dark midnight brandishing pitchforks, torches, and shingles, there's not much to recommend the experience.
The truth of the matter is it's stressful to have people literally taking the roof from over your head and wantonly tossing sections of your home onto the ground below. Maybe it has something to do with another summer ending and another school year beginning, maybe it's that my mother has been ill (a guaranteed threat to one's sense of security), or maybe it's just my hormones, but for some reason this particular bout of domestic disruption has me feeling emotional.
This has been my home for longer than anywhere except the house where I grew up: it's been the scene of so many significant episodes, occasions, and changes for my family, good, bad, and ugly alike. I've raised three children (well, I'm still at it), decorated fourteen Christmas trees (so far), and hosted innumerable holidays, parties, and events joyful and somber. Sure, I shake my fist and curse it for being a drafty old barn - as George Bailey so eloquently put it in It's A Wonderful Life, "It's a wonder we don't all have pneumonia!" - but it's my drafty old barn, and I love it. It's hard to conjure an image of any other house that could mean "home" in quite the same way.
So. Despite our occasional disagreements and misunderstandings (what is up with that draft under the front door?), I hope the old pile will forgive the indignities it's currently suffering, and realize how very much it is loved and cared for, once this latest installment of its ongoing makeover is complete. 'Be it ever so humble," etc.
(Please note that the illustration above is from Old Black Witch, one of my favorite books as a child. It concerns a single mother and her small son, who buy a ramshackle old New England house - sound familiar? - intending to turn it into a tearoom. Unfortunately, the resident witch of the title isn't on board with the proposed renovations: again, not unlike my own feelings and those of my animal familiars this week. Suffice to say it all works out in the end, and there's even a recipe for Bewitching Blueberry Pancakes that I used to make with my own children, complete with batter-stirring spell : "Gobbledy gook with a wooden spoon; the laugh of a toad at the height of the moon." I include this particular picture because our house actually resembles the one in the book, with its lattice windows, multiple gables, and tall chimneys. I've never yet taken my broomstick and flown out the attic window, but I might have a go once the roofers are finished and the coast is clear!)