It’s been four months since I came home from holiday to find a gutted house.
At first the repairs were rapid, as the salvage and demolition crews worked side-by-side.
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.
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.
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.
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.