HomeIn the StudioOld House, New Story

Old Window View of Even Older Catalpa TreeOne of the really cool things about renovating a very old house is the stories that are embedded within the structure. You will only get little scraps of a story, but you can feel it as you poke around in walls and attics, strip paint, and take walls down to their very bones. There are stories here.

Floor Sanding by Tim Peterson

This week the original wood floors of my soon-to-be-studio are being sanded down, refinished to reveal the glory hidden in the wood.

Also this week my husband bought a new car—a 2013 Electric Ford Focus that he had been watching for months. It had been sitting at the dealer’s, forsaken by all buyers. The price kept dropping and dropping. Finally we went in and took it for a test drive. It’s the perfect car for handling the little errands of life, and it is 100% electric. We got an utterly fabulous deal on it.

This was the scene in the salesman’s office:

Salesman: What names are going on the title?

Me: Well, both of ours.

Salesman hands us both loan applications. I begin filling mine out. There’s all kinds of fun boxes like gross monthly income and how long have you worked at this position. And these are all questions that sting, because my gross monthly income is, well, presently zero, and I’ve been in that position for a long time. (This is not entirely truthful. For quite some time Jason and I worked together building his business, and I was paid for that. So I guess when we sold our business I also lost my job. However, I’ve always considered my real job art, and it has been a long time since I’ve been able to really invest my time in that work.)

So I slide the incomplete application across the desk and say, “Forget it, just put it in Jason’s name.” And I felt humiliated, almost. Certainly defeated.

I am tired of the way my heart stings over my lackluster career. I question—strongly—this veiled assessment of worth that is connected to one’s capacity to earn an income. As a mother I willingly sacrificed my own career for both practical and principled reasons. Mothers make these sacrifices every day. Every mother, in her own way, navigates the worlds of career and motherhood, and there is always a sacrifice to be made.  We have only two hands and twenty-four hours, eight of which need to be sleep.

But those days of difficult navigation are over. I don’t homeschool anymore and I don’t need to manage my husband’s business. What I need is to build my career.

The Roof is FirstFor months we’ve been renovating this little house to be my studio.  I would step across the old threshold (and sometimes the door knob would fall off when I did), and I would get a little knot of anxiety. How much money were we going to invest in this house? How much work would need to be done? (The short answer is a lot.)

Now we are on the other end of that hump.  Or should I say, that lump of money. Because it has been expensive. And at times I’ve wondered if this was the right thing to do, to sink so much money into this building.

Floor, Detail of Wood Grain

Today I crossed the threshold (the doorknob did not fall off) and surveyed the floors of my studio. They have been sanded down to a creamy luster, not yet sealed, and you can clearly see the strips of heart pine intermingled with cedar and other unknown blossoms of wood-grain. The floor is beautiful and we hadn’t seen that before. We couldn’t have seen it, had we not been willing to invest in the house.

This hundred-year-old house is adding my story to its very bones. Every dollar spent reveals a story, or begins a new one. I see the thousands that are in the walls, and the ceiling, the windows and the two wood stoves, and I do not have anxiety. I have excitement. Anticipation. Not just for how the house will be transformed, but for how I will be.


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