She bought the house because it had turquoise trim, it was almost one hundred years old and had original hardwood floors, and the neighbors on either side were clearly super liberal. She would be safe here. She bought the house because it needed work. So much work. The house would cost roughly two years worth of paychecks to fix, assuming she didn’t touch her savings or go for a loan. The work would save her.
The day she closed escrow was a Thursday. She’d anticipated the close and taken Thursday and Friday off work. Waking at 6 am out of habit and excitement, she had some time to kill before her 9 am meet up with the realtor to get her new keys. Her first stop was coffee. She should probably give up drive thru coffee, it was so expensive and not any better than what she could make herself at home, but it would be her last luxury, she told herself as she took her place in the line of cars and rummaged through her purse for her cards.
Coffee in hand, or rather in her cars cup holder, she proceeded to her second stop. Arriving at the home improvement big box store she grabbed her list from her purse, her coffee from her cup holder, her keys from the ignition, and walked inside. It felt so amazing to be in jeans on a work day. She couldn’t help the bounce in her step or the excitement mixed with fear she felt as she grabbed a cart and turned left toward the cleaning supplies.
She would need loads of wood floor cleaner and the right sort of mop for the job, something good to scrub all the wood paneling with too, and those giant trash bags definitely some of those. Didn’t they sell a giant pack of cleaning rags, cause that would fit the bill. And some generic all purpose cleanser, at least a gallon. Window cleaner, check. Paper towels, check. A thick face mask for when she pulled up that carpet. A good pair of gloves for pulling those weeds. And last, but not least, and certainly the most exciting part, new door handles and locks for the outside doors: front, garage, and side.
She spent quite a bit of time perusing the handles. Choosing the right front door handle was important. This house would be celebrating it’s centennial birthday in a few years and deserved to have a handle that fit that status. No silly newfangled electronic thing or plain round knob. The house deserved an elegant handle. And she finally found the right one. It was copper, which would tarnish with age to a lovely turquoise to match the trim she intended to re-paint but keep. It had scroll work and a Victorian look to it, perfect.
Before leaving, she checked on inside paint colors and grabbed a few samples cards. The wood paneling was awful but removing it would be too expensive and dirty, and it would delay her move-in. She’d been scouring the internet for weeks to see what paneling looked like painted and had found scads of beautiful results. She knew she wanted everything in the house to be bright and cheerful, especially since she was leaving the original wood floors, the wood beam ceiling, and several of the built-ins in all their natural wooden splendor. The painted paneling would help offset all that brown, help make it pop.
With her car loaded up, she made her way to the house. She was still a little early but she figured she’d just sit and commune with the home, enjoy the morning sounds of the neighborhood, get a feel for her future. There was no street parking but she didn’t care, she wanted to pull into her driveway anyway. Hers. This was hers now. Exiting the car to walk around it and stand in front of the house she suddenly froze. The enormity of what she’d just done hit her. She’d bought a house. A house that needed a ton of work. A ton of money. What was she thinking? She’d never restored a house before? She didn’t know the first thing about…anything.
Sinking to the concrete she sat. Staring.
She had planned to lose herself in the work. When you have to clean and scrub and scour and prepare for painting you have nowhere to be but inside your head. Sure you can turn on music to help the time pass and make it a bit more fun, but after the third or fourth hour, after the first and second breaks to pee or grab lunch…at some point you realize the music is on and you’re not hearing it. You’re listening to yourself for maybe the first time in ages. She’d counted on that.
She wanted to fix the house up, sure, but in return the house was going to help her fix herself. The house would force her to exercise. The house would force her to listen to her own thoughts as she pulled weeds for the third hour in a row, or scrubbed the paneling of yet another wall, or pulled up that nasty carpet in the bedroom. The house would be her therapy. Isn’t that how it works in the movies? You start a project that’s too big for you, you find yourself during the work, and by the time it’s all done you have something you absolutely love and you’ve also managed to find love within yourself and somehow magically outside of yourself too, because Mr. Right always makes an appearance. She’d counted on all that.
Her realtor arrived, chirping with the thrill of a house sold and another satisfied client. It wasn’t til their eyes met that the realtor realized something was wrong. Taking the tack that sitting down might be appropriate, she criss-cross-applesauced her way to the cold cement and stared up at the house.
“Did you ever do something you maybe shouldn’t have?”
“All the time. It’s important to scare yourself at least once a day…someone famous said something like that anyway.”
“I think I’m in over my head.”
“Then you’re right where you need to be.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. The birds were calling in the trees all around and it felt a bit like spring even though it was still the middle of winter.
“Are you going to keep the turquoise?”
“Good. I like it, too.” After a beat she asked, “ready for your keys?”
~~~That’s one hour~~~