Our roof is in terrible shape. We knew this and got credit for it at closing. And it was at the top of our list of things to do after we moved in. But then we discovered the truth about the trees, the 60-year-old boiler, the lining for the chimney, the leak from the third floor bathroom and the roof got pushed back a bit (along with all the cosmetic changes we wanted to make).
I’ll be blunt: buying this home has been a humbling experience. This experience has made me realize I know absolutely nothing. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed by insecurity and uncertainty since Em was born. I’m a novice, a bit of a fool. I had no idea what came with buying an older home. People warned us, sure. But you can only know so much.
And that’s the thing. I can’t help but compare this experience to becoming a mother for the first time. People warned me while I was pregnant. They offered me (often times, unsolicited) advice and I would let it register, acknowledge it. But I never fully grasped what it meant to be a parent until the doctor handed me the baby. You can spend hours explaining what it’s like; you can warn a person about how hard it’ll be, how much sleep they’ll lose and how they’ll never be an independent human being ever again—not in the true sense of the word, responsible solely for oneself. You can say all these things, and the other person probably understands the words, but to fully grasp it? I think that’s impossible until you’ve actually done it.
We were warned by many about how hard it would be owning an older home. (We were also told how rewarding it would be!) But we didn’t fully get it until we got it. And now that we’re getting it, holy got, it’s had. (Wait, what?)
And it’s clear to me now that our greenness benefitted the sellers. They needed a novice homebuyer to snatch this one up. They withheld a great deal of information on the disclosure agreement and lied about a few things as well, things that seasoned home owners may have known to look for. The good news is, and what I need to remember, is that the home appraised for a great deal more than we got it for.
I’ve been biting my tongue when it comes to writing about the sellers. It doesn’t seem fair to slam a family I don’t actually know. And slam them I would! I have a great deal of animosity built up toward them. And given what we’ve been told by our neighbors and contractors who have worked with them in the past, it’s solidified; there’s no going back.
But I’m also trying to keep things in perspective. I’m hormonal, after all, and full of an intensity I don’t normally possess. I tend to go from 0 to 60 with no warning whatsoever. Suddenly every injustice and every problem in the world, even those that have nothing to do with me, become a whole hell of a lot more intense. These problems need to be dealt with NOW and HARSHLY if need be.
I was this way with my other pregnancies as well. When someone leaves their cart in the middle of the parking lot because they’re too lazy to return it to its proper vestibule, the one with the GIANT sign that reads: “PLEASE RETURN CARTS HERE”, I let them know. Non-pregnant Michele would probably let’s it slide, maybe bitch about it to Toby Joe. But Pregnant Michele becomes self righteous and wants people to realize how lazy they’re being and how NOT following the rules WILL RUIN THE WORLD.
“WHAT IF EVERYONE DID THAT? THE SOCIAL CONTRACT IS IN PLACE FOR A REASON, YOU LAZY ASSHOLE!”
Most of the time, the other person simply stares at me, like I’m an escaped zoo animal. They know better than to provoke the crazed hyena. I have no idea what I would do if someone actually responded. I’d probably throw up or something. Because when I’m reacting this way? I’m not myself. I’m Pregnant Michele and she’s kind of mean and a lot grumpy.
So, when it comes to the previous owners of this house, I don’t know if non-pregnant Michele would care as much. But Pregnant Michele hates them. Pregnant Michele wants them to know exactly what they’ve done wrong.
During the home inspection, and before we knew anything about the family who lived here before, Toby Joe described it as “a house whose inhabitants suffered from severe and chronic depression.” And I think that sums it up perfectly (and politely). This house was perpetually sighing, shrugging its shoulders in hopes of a little warmth and a huge hug.
So, here we are, 6 weeks in. And we have given it many hugs. We replaced the 60-year-old boiler and the lining that aerates it, literally warming it up. We replaced the damper on the chimney. We got rid of the rust along the bottom of the bathtub, the one that was leaking directly into the boys’ room below it, because instead of FIXING the bloody thing like any functioning member of society might do, the sellers simply let the water sit in the tub (and therefore ceiling) rusting the pipes and an otherwise beautiful claw-foot tub. They simply wrote it off—a family of five simply chose NOT to use that bathroom.
We cut down the trees that were threatening the foundation and creating mold and moss all over the roof and exterior walls. We removed the overgrown poison oak and poison ivy from the backyard. We had the gutters cleaned and the pipes leading to the street cleared of a decade worth of debris. We had the claw-foot sanded and refinished and I hope to have the ceiling fixed and patched over the next couple of weeks.
I’m disappointed we haven’t yet been able to update anything cosmetically. But what good would it do updating a kitchen with new appliances, countertops and cabinetry if the radiators alongside them spits out hot, brown liquid rotting them because the boiler is over 60 years old? And what good would it do updating the attic bedroom and bath if the roof is going to leak directly into it? Why fix the garage if it’s rotting due to the sticks, stones, and dirt they tossed along the backside thereby rotting its wood?
A pretty exterior with a rotting interior will only be pretty for so long.
I’m learning. It’s slow. I am new. I feel a bit overwhelmed and a lot freaked out on some days. Like today, I just want to cry. And drink. And I can’t drink so I usually just eat dark chocolate and cry.
But, just like when I became a mother, I am learning. I’m stumbling a lot, but I’m learning nonetheless. And I think on the other side of this experience, I’ll have a wonderful little home to house and hug my family.
At least that’s my hope.