Sometimes I feel packed into this house … jam-packed. It’s not the biggest of houses, but we’ve managed to live pretty well here as a family of five. Mark and I built this home and moved in before our first year of marriage was over. Our kids have all been born while we’ve lived here and it’s the only house any of them has ever known. As they grew up, so increased the amount of stuff inside our house. Over the years, we learned to be creative with our home furnishings. Any new furniture was chosen because it included some kind of hidden storage or ability to maximize space. There were bunk beds at one time when the boys shared a bedroom, cube shaped end tables with removable tops in the living room, and a captain’s bed with drawers underneath in Kacey’s tiny bedroom. The closets have all been equipped with organizers and we’ve had to be somewhat diligent about purging and donating unneeded things on a regular basis.
While many of our friends and relatives have house-hopped over the years, we’ve stayed put. Sometimes I was jealous. There’s always been a part of me that has wanted more. More space. More room. More house. And it’s when we have company, in particular, that I wish for a better space in which to entertain.
I am just fascinated with living spaces. I love to look at others’ houses, and see how they make them their homes. I love to watch those television shows where the experts make something useful and beautiful out of homes that just don’t work for the owners. I love to watch The Rehab Addict and see old houses restored to their original charm! I’ve even had dreams in which I discover entire additional rooms in my house that I never knew were there before! SO disappointing to wake up from those dreams!
Mark always says we’re going to live here until we die. And why wouldn’t he feel that way? So many of his talents have created and enhanced this place we call home. Besides, we live in a good neighborhood full of great people. And as much as I always think I would go in a heartbeat if the right house came along, I don’t think it would be so easy. I dreamt of that very opportunity just the other night. And in my dream, I felt so conflicted and sad about leaving the place where so many of our memories have been made.
Anyway, we’re pretty happy where we are. We began with a very basic house, only as much as our newlywed budget would allow. And over the years, we’ve improved and remodeled and refined things until this place really became us. Our personalized touches are everywhere, inside and outside of this house.
Of course, being a homeowner means there’s always something to be done. It’s been awhile since we’ve taken on a major home project and I’ve had a list brewing in my mind all winter. Oh, it’s nothing some new carpet and fresh coats of paint won’t cure. But I’m kind of thinking we need fresh paint throughout the entire upper level. And painting is no one’s favorite chore around here. Still, we’re starting to dig in.
Our purchase of a new bed a few weeks ago got things kick-started. Kacey happily claimed our old queen sized bed. She’s long been ready to abandon the twin bed that’s been in her room since she was four years old. And along with the bigger bed, she moved herself into the bigger empty bedroom that’s been serving as the spare room. She claimed that bedroom in spite of the fact that Brad seems to think it should be reserved for his visits home.
I was talking to Brad today, explaining that we were preparing a new spare bedroom and that it would be ready when he comes home for Easter. He was concerned that we might not be planning to paint over the colors that have adorned the walls of Kacey’s old room for the past many years.
I assured him there was a fresh coat of paint on the way, along with new carpeting and a new bed.
“Is it going to be big enough for me and two dogs?” he asked. “You know Lucy always wants to sleep wherever Dacotah and I are.”
“It’ll be a full-sized bed,” I told him. “Plenty of room for all of you.” He tried to argue for something bigger, but I reminded him that the room just wasn’t big enough for a bigger bed. I told him that as long as he’s planning only to be a visitor and not a resident here, he’ll have to settle for a full-sized bed and fight for sleeping space with the dogs if necessary.
We packed up Kacey’s old furniture today. Mark’s niece and her husband just bought their first home, which is ironic, because it seems like just yesterday when she was born, just three months after my Brad was born. And here she is all grown up, married, and with a baby on the way. She and her husband are happily taking any home furnishings they’re offered. The timing was perfectly aligned with our need to swap out some of the stuff in our own house and I was so happy to donate it to someone we know and love. I helped unload the matching dresser, nightstand and captain’s bed from the pick-up trucks, and watched as the guys hauled it all into the house and up a very narrow, steep staircase into the upper level of the house.
Theirs is a teeny tiny old home, in an old neighborhood in St. Paul. I was instantly fascinated by its charm and history, the six-panel doors with glass doorknobs, the plaster walls, and the bathroom tile. The tile was recently painted white, presumably to make the house more sell-able. But when we looked inside the vanity, we could see the tiles behind it hadn’t been painted. Those tiles had retained their original Pepto-Bismol pink color – the very same pink tile as was in the bathroom of the house where I grew up!
As I looked around the old house, I was struck by the smallness of it all. Mark remarked that when we were kids, our parents raised bunches of kids in these tiny houses, and we never thought a thing of it. True story. My parents raised four kids in what was technically a two-bedroom house. Back then (if you were lucky) they just threw paneling on the basement walls and created extra bedrooms. Others just squeezed as many beds as would fit into one room and the kids just had to deal with it. We didn’t feel deprived by the houses we lived in. We didn’t think twice about sharing a bedroom with a sibling, or pushing the kitchen table back against the wall after meals so there was room to walk through the kitchen. That’s just the way it was. We lived in little houses and we grew up just fine.
I recalled all the times I said I hated this or that about our house, and all the times I wished for something more, something different. Looking around our niece’s house today, I realized that I’ve never needed more. Of course, it’s not easy to entertain more than a few guests here. And when we do, it’s crowded! But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that our friends and family spend time with us here. We’ll continue to make memories here. No one is going to look back and remember only that it was too crowded. If that was important, they wouldn’t keep coming back. And they do keep coming back! No, we have enough. In fact, we have more than we need.
(Still, if Mark ever makes good on those plans to expand out the back of the house, you won’t catch me arguing!)