This is the second story that I will start off with a nod to my parents, whose mantra is:
“If you really want to get your place cleaned up, schedule a meeting.”
We learned how powerful the “people-are-coming-over=MUST-CLEAN-UP” hormones can be five years ago when we hosted our son’s high school graduation reception here at the farm. Next was a visit from a magazine photographer who’d asked to document our fireplace restoration project (full story here). To say that our home is not BHG-worthy is a massive understatement, and my husband adamantly requested that I never, EVER cause such a thing to happen again.
However, The most recent home “tour” was quite a bit more unexpected. We were eating lunch one day and a strange car came up the driveway. HoofPrints frequently gets deliveries from vendors, plus the mail comes around lunchtime so I didn’t pay much attention. But this car was going MUCH slower than normal and didn’t seem to be delivering anything. I left my food and went stomping out to see what the heck they were doing.
Turns out the folks in the slow-moving car are former residents of our used-to-be scary farm house on the hill.
They introduced themselves, apologized for intruding, and asked to take some pictures. We had a lovely visit out there in the yard. And as I listened to their stories of fond memories on this farm so many years ago… I found myself telling them that if they gave me a week or so to clean up, I’d bring them inside so they could see what it looks like today. They are such nice people, and I was smitten with their sweet stories of a big family that obviously has a lot of love.
Rob, however, was not on board the warm fuzzy train. He was not even in the station. He’d just started work on a room downstairs. This room is a main thoroughfare into the house; in its current state it is still pretty scary and there is no way to avoid seeing it. Unless, of course, you blindfold the guests and lead them through, which I did consider briefly.
He decreed that I shall call these people back and tell them that I was temporarily insane that day and that our house will not be fit to be seen until at least… oh, never. Rob has some amazing plans in the works for this room, and the idea of allowing anyone to lay eyes on it in this terrible state was more than he could bear. Nevertheless, I persisted. There is not much that can be done to make unfinished walls, floors, exposed plaster and lath, etc, look nice, (unless you are Dawn DeDeaux) so I concentrated on what I could tidy up and tried not to stress over what I couldn’t.
When the big day came, guests arrived in 3 different vehicles. Brother and sister who lived here as teenagers, and daughters who had precious memories of time spent at Grandma’s – all stepping back in time in a place that is now quite different than it was then – but also the same. They shared story after story, and their memories are now mine, too.
What a profound thing that our unremarkable old farm house has been witness to so much history. Maybe not the kind of history that you read in books, or that they make into movies, but important history nonetheless.
Someone mentioned that every year at Christmas, Grandma lined all the kids up on the tall, narrow staircase for pictures, so on this day, the kids and grandkids that were in attendance lined up on the steps so I could try to replicate the photos that the matriarch had taken so many years ago.
Now that the day has come and gone, I feel better than ever about several things.
One: Maybe our decision to buy this disaster of a farm really was the right one. The wisdom of our efforts to save this old house from the wrecking ball has been subject to endless (and sometimes not very happy) debate. One doesn’t have to be a financial analyst to figure out that for our thousands of hours and 28+ years of spending money on repairs and renovations, we may have been much smarter to pass this one by and move into something that had all its doors and windows, along with functioning plumbing and wiring. But few things have made me so proud as knowing that a tangible piece of another family’s precious memories exists solely because a young, dumb (albeit ambitious) couple bought a fixer-upper.
Two: The world does not revolve around housekeeping and decorating. My guests were not gasping at the awful peach color that is my office walls, applied during the first renovation, after which I was too tired paint over when I saw that the color was truly gag-worthy when it dried. They didn’t frown at the K-mart curtains. Or the remnants of Jack Russell Terrier hair inextricably woven into the 20+ year old Overstock.com rug in the living room. They didn’t seem to notice that the original knotty pine paneling that we left in the kitchen is a little worse for the wear; sitting in an empty house with broken windows for 10 years didn’t do the finish any favors. In their memories, it was beautiful and new and perfect, reflecting the warmth of a loving family at holiday dinners.
Three: We are not really in charge of what’s going to happen to us during our lives. We can comfort ourselves by thinking that we are, and sometimes if we dig in hard enough it feels like we have some semblance of control. Until we don’t. Which is basically 5 minutes after we thought we had everything in order. At any rate, ceasing efforts to micromanage everything, and trusting that stuff will be okay can be pretty darn exciting. Author Robert Moss says it best: “The Australian Aborigines say that Big Stories hunt for the right people to tell them. Sometimes a Big Story seizes us through a riff of coincidence we simply cannot dismiss. When we are seized by a Big Story, our lives are different. We have the power to cope with everyday dramas with greater courage and grace, because we are aware of a deeper drama. We now travel with a sense of mission, we draw different events and people and opportunities toward us.”
Four: If you wait till everything about you is perfect before you extend the love and grace of God to others, you will never do so. Perfection is not nearly as important as kindness I decided. I’m glad I did.
Indeed it is what the Bible tells us to do: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~Hebrews 13:2
Want to see what happens next?
Some Scary Pictures are here
More Scary Pictures are here
Fun on the Farm Part 1 is here
The Epic Mess of Fixing the Fireplace is here
Tearing Down an Old Barn to Repurpose the Timbers in the house is here
The adventure of utilizing the first few timbers as a Fireplace Mantle is here
Utilizing more timbers in a big room upstairs – Of Trials and Strong Backs is here
No One Will Ever See It – an Adventure In Remodeling is here
We are still not finished, but you can see “The Aftermath” of one barn beam project here