By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
There’s good news here at home. Those two gaping holes in the side of our house have been plugged with new living room windows, just in time for January’s cold snap. We keep doing a double-take every time we pass that room as the unexpected sunlight catches our eye.
Suddenly the space seems wider, taller. It has an airy feeling it never had before. Our living room is like a face that finally opened its eyes. We can see out. Sunlight can see in. And everyone can see the difference.
As frustrating as a home remodeling project can be, this is the part that makes it worth the hassle — when a structural or cosmetic change feels like it was somehow meant to be that way all along.
That phrase — meant to be — reminds me of how we ended up here in the first place. It was almost 17 years ago, and I was on my way to pick up our two boys (aged 3 and 1 at the time) from a Mother’s Day Out program at a local church. But I was about 20 minutes too early for the pick-up time, and I knew the boys would still be napping. Since only a lunatic interrupts her kids’ naps, I simply drove around until nap time was over.
I turned into a little neighborhood I’d passed plenty of times before but hadn’t ever ventured into. The road split and curved into a cul-de-sac, and I was instantly charmed by the leafy, towering trees in each yard. Just like homes, neighborhoods sometimes have a “vibe,” and this one’s vibe reminded me of something from yesteryear. Beautiful without being showy. Peaceful but not pretentious.
As I turned around in the cul-de-sac, I slowed to a stop in front of the only home in the neighborhood that had a “for sale” sign in the front yard. Even though Tom and I weren’t looking for a house, I dialed the number on the sign anyway, just to settle my curiosity. I was sure we probably couldn’t afford it anyway.
When I got the realtor’s voicemail, I left a message inquiring about the price. Then I drove back to the church to pick up my toddlers and head home. But before I got there, the realtor heard my voicemail and called our home phone number. Tom answered and was understandably confused and alarmed when it became obvious I’d been asking questions about a new house without him knowing I had thoughts of leaving the one we were in.
“Do we need to talk?” he asked as I breezed through the door with a baby on my hip and a toddler close behind. I explained the happenstance house hunting, knowing Tom wouldn’t be able to resist a chance to look at a house, even if it was just for fun. I lured him in with descriptions of big trees, the garage on the side, and the gently sloping driveway that might be perfect for tricycles. Then we called our realtor and made an appointment to see the inside of the home, which had been empty for almost a year.
They say, statistically speaking, that people know whether or not they love a house within 10 seconds of walking through the door. That’s how it happened for me. I saw the staircase and could envision our kids scrambling down it on Christmas mornings. I had the strangest feeling of deja vu in the upstairs hallway — as if I was hearing echoes of my kids’ footsteps that hadn’t even happened yet.
Long story short, the house was owned by a bank, and a previous offer to buy it had already fallen through. It was one of those “right place right time” scenarios you never imagine will actually work out, but it did. Shortly after we moved in, we began a series of renovations — some big and some small — that are still in progress today, (hence the new windows).
Often, the changes a house goes through over the years mirror the family who calls it home. We evolve and mature, and the nest adapts with us — sometimes out of necessity and sometimes just to look younger than it is. This place has been our safe harbor during a pandemic, and it has grown and changed right along with our three kids.
It’s in no way perfect and shows some wear and tear, as we all do eventually. Sometimes it’s a mess after a remodeling project. Sometimes it smells weird because one of the dogs rolled in something (again). But no matter what, it’s the place I’m eager to come home to — every single time.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.