It’s official. We have taken full possession of the farmhouse, and it’ll never be the same. Within a few hours of the renters’ departure, we began vacuuming and scrubbing. Then we rented a dumpster. A few days later, the place was a complete mess.
Here it is, before:
Everything you’ve ever (never) wanted to do with a crowbar, we did last week. We feasted on demolition in clouds of dark dust, plaster, and mouse turds. Our white respirator masks turned black on the outside. Our hair stiffened. When we walked, we billowed like the Peanuts character, Pig-Pen. It was great.
Andrew’s parents drove from Indiana with a carload of tools and food. His brother flew in from California to help wield those tools, filling his long dark curls with decades-old filth from above our ceiling. I love these people.
Things started innocently: We peeked above the dropped ceiling panels, installed in the 1960’s, oppressively close to the top of our heads. Above those low panels, the original ceiling soared at 9 ½ feet from the floor. In the kitchen, it was made of lovely interlocking boards, still in good condition. In the living room and downstairs bedroom, it turned out to be plaster, also 9 ½ feet high.
Things proceeded quickly and energetically. We tore out dropped ceilings in the entire first floor except the bathroom, and ripped off a bunch of walls, too, revealing the studs. There. Deviant electrical wires (some of them live), absent insulation, wall studs that dangled at one end, a missing load-bearing wall, and red revolutionary war themed wallpaper—this house had it all.
I’ll admit it: Five days before Christmas, I had a moment of pause. Was all of this Really Necessary, right now? The electrical wiring alone, though, convinced me. As the dust settled and new wires began coursing through the open walls, the house became much safer, much less likely to self-destruct.
This was important work for many reasons. Ripping the house apart alongside Andrew, his father, and his brother, I watched their flow together. They bent and turned and reached like ballet in dirty old pants, seeming almost choreographed. Similar in their speed and controlled movements, they were always aware of each other, yet focused on their task.
Their sawzall blade razed two-by-six boards from above our heads, and each one was carefully, quickly escorted outside, without bonking anyone or breaking windows. Dust coated their mugs during coffee breaks. They sleuthed out frustrating wiring together and constructed a support beam to replace the previously removed load-bearing wall. In the end, they were still friends.
On their last supper here, December 23rd, Andrew’s mom crafted a table centerpiece using a chunk of wood from the ceiling, lit with candles. The refrigerator was installed and the stove worked, thus ending a week of cooking in the bathroom with the microwave. There was still no drywall, but the ceiling was lovely, so we looked at that, and at each other. We sat around our picnic table in the kitchen, since half our stuff hadn’t yet completed the move. We basked in a tired gratitude, a sense of coming home.