This Old House

I remember being a very young girl, when I met my Grandmother’s neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Snyder. They lived in a very, VERY tiny one bedroom home that Mr. Snyder built for his bride, so many years ago. Mrs Snyder wasn’t much taller than 4; 10″, (if that tall) and he built the kitchen “just her size”. What a lovely couple. Mr. Snyder had a little welsh pony to go with his tiny, though beautiful, wife and home, and he brought that little pony out to let little me ride him. Mr. Snyder held onto the lead rope, and I rode on the back of this little guy, feeling very big. I loved animals then and I still do. Mr and Mrs Snyder were never able to have kids of their own, so they borrowed me when ever they could. Just for the record, I miss the two of them.

The sad day came when, first, Mr. Snyder passed away, and then later, Mrs. Snyder. My parents bought their little house (or maybe it was willed to them?) and remodelled it. That little house became a rental home, adding to my parents’ income. I have very fond memories of them, their home and my own grandparent’s home, just next door.

The last renters who lived in that little house, had been there for many years, never once respecting the history of the house, the people who built it, nor ever respecting the people who actually owned it. My mom, being the sweet person she is, allowed them to walk all over her, after my Dad passed away 5 years ago. She finally had enough, and they were evicted. Mom asked me to clean it, in order to get it “renter-ready” again. Normally, that wouldn’t have been a problem. A week or two, tops, and it would look good. Nope. They were chain-smokers, drug-addicts, and horribly filthy people. They wouldn’t call, if something broke or needed to be replaced, because that would mean someone would have to actually ENTER their house, revealing every atrocity that they wished to stay hidden. Plumbing, electrical, floors, etc.

I walked into that place, and thought, “what did I get myself into?!” The day came to start to grueling process. Each day brought new revelations as to how damaged this, once lovely home, actually was. Rotting floors in the bathroom, because they plugged the bathtub’s relief drain, allowing it to overflow repeatedly, onto the floor…. Then the outlet in the kitchen that for some reason, they actually cut out, and covered with drywall patch. Plumbing…oh my goodness! The Plumbing! The floors, windows, walls, basement, were all rotting. Not to mention the nicotine-stains, absolutely inundating the entire house. You get the picture.

We, months later, are getting ready to put the finishing touches on this, now remodeled home, and the difference is night and day. In the beginning, I never imagined how horrible it was, compared to my memories from childhood. Yes, I am looking forward to ending the “never-ending” project.

As we’re getting ready to walk away from this home, which will be put up for sale when we’re done, the aura is bitter-sweet. It’s a house. It’s my mom’s house, now. It was “their” house, and my house. It was abused, neglected, and never loved, after the passing of that wonder couple. It breaks my heart, to think of the love that was once in those walls, only to be traded for abuse, later. I realized the connection I have with that house, then and now, when we walked away last weekend.

That house is, in more than one way, an echo of my own life.

Abuse. Neglect. Lack of caring, lack of love, and continuous invalidation. It leaves a wake of destruction inside, doesn’t it? It leaves depression, despair, hopelessness, and stains on our psyche. It feels like it’ll be like that, forever, when someone is in the middle of it. When you look at it, all seems lost. “tear it down and rebuild” would be what anyone might say, who buys the house. It’s what seems feasible, when you see whats left of you, your life, and psyche, sometimes (for some people). At the most destitute of times, suicide actually seems feasible. You are unable to see the beauty that lies just beneath the rotting timber.

The old house that we have been working on (Mr. and Mrs. Snyder’s), holds some of my most precious memories. I couldn’t imagine how I would react if someone were to tear it down. It holds a piece of my heart.

I realized that I am a vessel. A house. It’s this house, though only made of flesh and bone, that still holds my most precious feelings and memories. I am someone’s most precious memory. I, as a house, (bear with me) have been beaten, neglected and abused. I have been unloved and uncared about, by those I loved the most in my life. I can assure you, the mess that was left seemed impossible to fix, without tearing down the house, and rebuilding. I considered suicide, more than once. Yes, I had to rebuild. Yes, I had to remodel some things. But this house is still in-tact.

This project with Mr. and Mrs. Snyder’s house started with ripping out the rotten carpeting and bathroom floor. As we ripped up the carpeting in the bedroom, it revealed the original, beautiful wood floor. On that floor, was a footprint from a tiny shoe; size 3, womens, I think. She must have stepped in the stain which Mr. Snyder was using to stain the wood on the floor. I felt like I was there with her again, for a second. There was some dry-rot along the edges, so we were unable to save the original flooring. We had to remove some of the baseboards, too. Under the baseboards, were some old bobby pins, that Mrs. Snyder wore in her hair. We laid laminate flooring over the top of the wood (a lot of it was still in wonderful shape), replaced the baseboards and it is beautiful room again. Tearing the old, rotting material, recovered some memories, for me. It stirred my heart.

Now, imagine yourselves. Your “house”. You were born beautiful. Someone loved you. Someone laughed when you laughed and fed you. Beautiful. Life happens, sometimes. With life, comes painful experiences. Abuse. Neglect and all manner of evil, leaving a river of rotting destruction. The aftermath seems hopeless, as if it’s not worth the effort to fix it, or rebuild from the pile.

Take a deep breath. Take another one. Don’t stop. Take a step in the direction of the pain and destruction, lying before you. Pick up a broom and see what’s waiting for you. Keep going. When you hit something that seems impassable, breathe and think of a way to repair it, making it new again. Does it erase the damage? No, but it will make it beautiful again. New floors. New fixtures. New life. New hope. The house is still the same house, holding the same memories, but the damage is something you won’t be able to see anymore. You cant forget that it happened, of course, but you won’t have to live with it anymore.

To repair a neglected and abused house, takes a lot of time, sweat, learning and tenacity. It’s worth it. Imagine what is lying beneath the rubble? Find it. Breathe.

You will live again, revealing the beauty of YOU again, I promise.


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