Rising from the rubble

It’s been four months since I came home from holiday to find a gutted house.

House before and after

At first the repairs were rapid, as the salvage and demolition crews worked side-by-side.

House rubble 1040992 BLOG

But in recent weeks the progress has been slow and full of surprises: Asbestos in the basement, poor plumbing in the kitchen, weird wiring in the bathroom. It’s taken time to tackle these surprises — and in that time, our house has sat quiet and empty.

Although the emptiness feels strange and unfamiliar, it’s helped me see my old house through new eyes. Stripped of its walls and floors, it reminds me of the abandoned houses my sisters and I used to explore when we were kids.

House on May 4 old BLOG
The living and dining rooms, as seen from the front door
Stairs to main floor old BLOG
The stairs from the second story to the main floor

I was sad to see the antique lead-crystal doorknobs ripped from their sockets, and to think that the familiar old faucets would never again yield water.

Doorknobs old BLOG

Faucet old BLOG

But as a consolation prize I at least got this old window label, which had been entombed inside its white-pine sarcophagus for some 50 years.

Andersen grunge BLOG

Over the past four months, I’ve learned some lessons about (re)building a home: Everything takes longer than you expect. Everything’s more complicated than you think. Everything’s more expensive, and more frustrating.

But I’ve also learned that strangers can be kind. Insurance companies can be helpful (yes, really!). And most things can be replaced.

The new wiring and plumbing are in place now, and we’re hoping the new windows will arrive next week. I’m half-tempted to put the old window label back into the wall — a treasure-in-waiting for the next owner, 50 years hence.


    • Aw, Jim … thanks. I met with the contractors just this morning and it sounds like we’re getting the insulation in next week. Things should start moving pretty quickly from here on out, provided I can make my mind up on the finish carpentry and the cabinetry! (Nice problems to have, eh?) Needless to say, I’ll post updates. 🙂

  1. Ufff, and you can still write us such beautiful posts! Incredible. Take care. Mucho ánimo. Un abrazo fuerte desde Graná.

    • Realmente no me puedo quejar, Rosa. Mi esposo y yo estamos viviendo en una casa alquilada muy bonita, y hasta la fecha no nos ha golpeado demasiado el bolsillo la famosa reconstrucción. Lo único que me está molestando es tener que cuidar dos jardines, pero ¡qué pequeña queja! Gracias por el abrazo. Right back at you! 🙂

  2. Wow. I am sorry for all your pain and the loss of your home. I can’t imagine. I would like to say that your husband sounds like an amazing friend and partner. Awesome.

    • You’re so kind, Dixie … thank you. And you’re so right that my husband is an extraordinary partner. I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to be married to my best friend.

  3. Its not uncommon to find old newspapers and lunch remnants behind plaster walls from older buildings, leastways in Australia. I loved discovering such treasures. Once I found an old oak level with lovely brass fittings. Its kind of like a time capsule.

    • An oak level! That would be a treasure, indeed!! As in Australia, it’s not uncommon here either to find old newspapers — which were actually used as insulation in some houses. But lunch remnants? That sounds like practically an invitation for a rodent invasion!

  4. Gulp, I didn’t realise the destruction was quite so wholesale! You have made some beautiful, poignant photos out of this calamity at least. And just think how streamlined your life will be now that you’ve had the chance to offload old stuff! 🙂
    But seriously, I hope that it all comes together soon. Your house looked so pretty, and we all need a haven of our own, I think.

    • I’m such an odd duck, aren’t I DB? Where some people see wholesale destruction, I see a photo opportunity. 🙂 But I’m very hopeful it will indeed all come back together soon. As for the haven end of things: I’ve already discovered that *Esteban* is my haven. Wherever he is, home is.

  5. A similar thing happened to us when I was a young child back in Scotland, one winter. I thought it was an adventure at the time. But now that I’m “all growed up” I can understand what my parents went through; and how skilled they were at shielding me from the trauma. I hope your “new” house becomes as much a home as your old one was. 🙂

    • What wonderful parents, Xpat, who shielded you from the destruction so you could see it as an adventure rather than as a devastating calamity! I’ve been lucky that my husband has done the same for me. (I still have no idea how he managed to keep the incident a secret until I got home from Paris!) As for your last sentence: I am very optimistic that our “new” house will feel like home in no time. It won’t have the same character — but all of the cabinets will probably close. 😀

    • How kind of you, Fiona. It is indeed encouraging to stop by every so often and see that progress is being made. Here’s to new beginnings!

  6. I feel a special connection with your house, both old and new, since you and I were having lunch together in Paris around the time the drama was unfolding. Neither of us could have imagined was was awaiting you on your return to the US. I love the way you both have dealt with what would have completely flattened most of us. You’re a star! Can’t wait to see the ‘new’ house when it’s finished and you’ve transformed it into your perfect nest.

    • Thank you very, very much for your note, Des. I really haven’t felt like much of a “star” — believe me when I say I’ve had my share of meltdowns. But it’s nice to know that mostly my positive feelings are coming through. (Because no one likes a whiny blogger!) In any case, I look forward to reporting back with some more encouraging news soon. And as always, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.

  7. Oops! sorry about the typo ‘was was’ – should have been ‘what was’. And no, it’s far too early for alcohol so it it’s either senility or my fingers simply disengaged from my brain!

    • Ha, ha! I know for a fact that you’re not senile, so no worries there. 🙂 And perhaps it will cheer you up to know that I didn’t even notice the typo until I read your message? Great minds err alike, I guess. (Grin.)

  8. What a traumatic thing to happen to you. I read your other post too and have decided that you must be married to the nicest husband ever! I hope work is progressing well and you’ll be back in your beautiful home soon x

    • What a kind soul you are! And a very astute one, as well: I am indeed married to the kindest husband ever. I’ll pass along your compliment. Thank you! xx

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