Sunday, August 19, 2007

Falling In Love

I miss my little house. I want to fix her (my house is a “her”).

Because my daughter’s daycare is closed for vacation this week and next, I haven’t been able to work on the house much. I wouldn’t use the word “sad” to describe the way that I felt, but I definitely yearned to be there. I organized some friends to come over and help me with the mudding yesterday (this will be discussed later). I’m pretty sure my heart sang. I think this is how people who really love their jobs must feel. To my memory (albeit dull and often unreliable), I’ve NEVER felt this way about anything that wasn’t a personal relationship.

I’ve never felt this way… (play sappy love song here) It’s like a cute little love story, actually… except instead of a person, it’s an inanimate building. Is that so wrong? Our relationship was strictly business when I began working in March. My goal was simple – to make the house live-able so that I could rent it out (or possibly live there). I was just going to replace what was missing and leave it at that. I wanted to do my part to revitalize the neighborhood. Plus, this experience was going to be a springboard to shoot me in the next life-direction. But the more time I spent with her, the more I grew attached… the more I started to care. I mean, I’ve seen her naked! I know all the intimate details of her frame – I know where her missing boards are, I know what color the old wallpaper was, I know which rooms held the most moisture. I KNOW this house. I know her beauty.

Beyond that, others have joined me in rebuilding. They have supported this relationship. I look at rooms and I see the stories all over again. I remember when Jaye and I crawled under the kitchen cabinets to unfasten the sink; when Peris ripped out the kitchen ceiling. I look at the windows and see my mom diligently repairing the sash mechanism. I laugh about the time and care we took in removing the drywall four feet from the floor… the precise measurements, use of the chalk line, the delicate removal of the wallpaper (cuz I wanted to save it… still do). Paulette helped with that. And then a few weeks later, I discovered that it all needed to come out and volunteers from the St. Bernard Project came over and gutted the house in a day. I wonder what happened to the little puppy who came to visit us that day. Or that touched man who called himself “The Preacher.” I look into the backyard and see Maida, Anietra’s tiny cousin, busting up that concrete like a professional. In the shed, Ann is shoveling debris into the wheelbarrow. There is HISTORY there; I have bonded with this house.

These emotional memories intermingle with thoughts of my life goals. As I dream and brainstorm about the way I want to live, somehow this house shows up as the backdrop before which my life plays out. I’ve already decided that the bedroom should be a pale olive green; my daughter and I will share it, in line with my ideas about attachment parenting. The office will be tangerine orange. I see my daughter’s half of it decked out with all her educational supplies (I’d like to homeschool her). I fantasize that I will buy the lot next door and create a garden for the homeschool group (there will be a group in my fantasy) . Or, even grander, STARTING an alternative school… to be housed in one of the properties on my block. The parents could pool their resources to buy the building right across the street and renovate it! Maybe. But I definitely WILL install a tankless water heater to save water (and money). I see myself locking up the earth-friendliest means of transportation besides walking, my bike ( a new one… an invincible one), in the back shed. And I’ll fix the attic fan and take advantage of the shotgun design to allow air to be drawn through the house; no air-conditioning (we’ll see how long that lasts). I will reduce my carbon footprint just by living simply… in this house. I’ve been thinking about fancy tile patterns for the kitchen and bathroom floors, though reality – lack of money and skill – often suppresses these plans. I’m gonna strip that paint off the front room window (I’m told it’s “Edwardian”) panes and the transoms above my doors. And frame the tongue-and-groove wood ceilings with crown molding. And install concrete countertops in the kitchen; they are durable, can be poured into any shape you want and they’re less expensive than stone.

I’ve crossed the line. I love this house. I want to live in it. More than that, I have been entertaining ideas of one-woman neighborhood revitalization… wondering if I could buy a piece of land and convert it into a community garden; or buy another house, fix it up and resell it at an affordable cost to an owner-occupant. These are likely pipe dreams, as I have no source of income right now. But tis good to dream… at least it keeps me aware of what I want out of life. I daydream of how wonderful this neighborhood could be and my fabulous plans for making that happen. I’ve already got my eyes on the empty lot at the corner for the garden. Lots are way cheaper than houses. We’ll see what happens… I’ll keep y’all posted.


As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I DID get a chance to steal away and work on my beloved house. Four wonderful people came through to help with mudding yesterday. My good ole uncle Eli, family friend Kwame aka K. Gates, and newly acquired friends Rhonda and Adia, her young daughter. We accomplished SO MUCH. I’ll share that with you via these lovely pics.

Good ole Uncle Eli! When you need him, he's there.

Kwame getting his shiny blue shoes dirty.

Adia, Rhonda's daughter, covering the drywall screws. Super Girl!

And here is what we accomplished:

The front room of the house.

What will be the bedroom. Nice job!


paulette said...

Wow...that's ALOT of progress!!!I'm definitely learning that asking for help is very important no matter how small the problem. Knowing you has made me a stronger person have a drive and passion that is unstoppable. I want to be just like you when I grow up!!!

Mtume said...

Great post, Jenga. Probably the best one of all of them so far. Not because it was sarcastic and funny like some of the other ones I've liked (e.g., "Hello, gross bathtub. Why are you pink?"), but because your spirit and optimism and positivity really came through.

I think it'd be fantastic if you and Azana lived there yourselves. You and your friends and family and all the volunteers have put so much time and energy into it, that it'd be a shame to finish it all and just move on. There's going to be some good vibes in that house. You might want to stick around to soak up some of that goodness.

Keep on keeping on, lil' cuz! :-)


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog, Jenga. You're an awesome writer! I can feel the love and passion you have for this project and it inspires me to work even harder on my own endeavors.
Rhonda aka

Kiini said...

Jenga, you're happy!! How wonderful is that?!? I too have wondered what it would be like to be in love with my day job, and you've tasted the glory! Wonderful. I hope your future keeps opening up before you as you keep moving forward with your dreams.