Those of you who read my occasional blog posts at edgymama.com know that the Edgy family currently is living through the chaos of home addition and renovation. While I feel blessed with the opportunity and means to improve our 1920s cottage-style home, dealing with the decisions, the dust, and (sorry, guys) the sweaty men tracking dirt and debris through my house makes me feel like I’m flying down a steep hill on a barely controlled skateboard.
What I’ve learned during this experience, besides a lot about building materials, granite remnants and parking at Lowe’s, is that, while it’s great to have a nice home, the shell isn’t nearly as important as the lives that are lived within.
I’ve wanted to add to our house for years, but I didn’t want to disrupt my kids’ lives when they were younger. Turns out that the disruption affects the adults much more than the kids. The kids seem remarkably relaxed about the clutter and construction. They don’t find it weird that the living-room sofa is buried under boxes of light fixtures; that their rooms have become temporary storage facilities; and that, for several weeks, a kitchen door led to nowhere. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m living in the attic at Hogwarts but without a magical cleaning wand.
When we returned from vacation to learn that the bathroom renovation wasn’t quite complete, the kids were blasé. We can bathe at the pool, they said. We don’t mind trekking down to the half-bath in the middle of the night. That’s right, I said, 100 years ago, you would have had to use an outhouse if you needed to pee. At which the girl gave me that pre-teen eye roll that communicated clearly, “Duh, this isn’t 100 years ago, Mom.”
In truth, the kids rarely need to avail themselves of the facilities in the middle of the night. My birth-battered bladder, however, needs regular relief.
Thus, after one night of me thanking the goddesses that someone discovered indoor plumbing and fantasizing about the new toilet that will be located only 8 feet from my bed, we decided to move in with the in-laws. Luckily, they live only a few minutes away. They also have working bathrooms right next to the guest bedrooms and an incredibly clean house. And they graciously put up with a family of four, all of our laundry, and our yappy Dorkie-Poo mutt.
At first, staying with their grandparents was fun for the kids—a bit of summer adventure. But we were too close to home for them to last long. My kids are like dogs—if they can smell their territory, they need to be there. Being near just isn’t enough.
As soon as we had a working upstairs bathroom, we returned to the dusty, dirty, cluttered mess, and everyone relaxed. The cats, who are the only creatures who’ve had to live 24/7 with the renovation, thrilled at our return. They even took the kitty-humping Dorkie-Poo in stride.
What matters, especially to the kids and the animals, is not the dust or the fact that we have to rearrange an entire bedroom to access semi-clean sheets. What matters is that we’re all together in our little shell.
The house is going to be remarkable when it’s finished—the workmanship and craft of the new parts are far superior to the original. It’ll be better insulated, have a waterproof roof (always a good thing), and solar-powered water and heat. But, really, it will just be the shell that our family continues to play out much of our lives within. And I think the next time the house becomes dirty or messy, I’ll remember the chaos of construction, and it won’t really matter much.