You CAN go home again…

…and sometimes you must. Even if you really don’t want to.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at my mother’s house these past couple months. It’s also the house I grew up in. The house that’s been our family home for more than 50 years. The house I lived in for more than half of those years. And the house I’ve avoided staying overnight at for many years since.

Why? Partly because many of the memories of living there aren’t that great. Partly because it’s a very inconvenient house to live in — one bathroom (until recently) with no shower (well, there’s a really scary shower in the cellar) and a vanity so low it hits you in the thigh; a 1940s kitchen (all the inconvenience, little of the charm), and an alarming lack of electrical receptacles. It’s also a maintenance nightmare. At nearly 110 years old, it’s always in need of something. I mostly just hold my breath and wait for the next thing to break or leak or fall apart. Since I live in fixer-upperhood at home, it about puts me over the edge to think about it there, too.

More than that, though, it’s just not home anymore, where a homebody like me wants to be, sleeping in her own bed with her husband and the cat (in that order).

I’ve been trying, though, to get over it. To see the house as others might see it. The pretty entrance hall with its big wooden staircase and mantle (the house has 6 lovely tiled fireplaces with wooden mantles — just ignore the asbestos covering, ’kay?) The big stained glass window on the landing. The tall ceilings. The old cast iron kitchen sink and 1940s stove. The fact that it hasn’t been “ruined” by various remodeling efforts over the decades, like so many older homes have (a few light fixtures and c.1972 pink & green flower-power vinyl floor covering in the front room of the attic nothwithstanding). Being non-design and décor inclined over 50 years has its advantages, I suppose.

mantle

hall

It’s all how you look at it, and I’m trying to look at it better. Mike thinks it will make a great home for another family someday. In the meantime, it’s still a big part of ours, and like the rest of us, is merely showing its age. I should give it the same slack I hope others give my aging self — chalking up the various squeaks, cracks, stains, and other imperfections to character rather than calamity. Battle scars earned by a lot of living, with, God willing, lots more to go.

home

Home is where you can say anything you like
’cause nobody listens to you anyway.
~ Author Unknown
(but I’m thinking it was another “youngest”)

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Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble

Well, might this post be about the upcoming Halloween festivities? What if I said “Clang, Clang, Hiss & Bang”? Or “Drip, Drip, Basement Trip”?

Yep, it’s heating season again, or as I like to refer to it, “6 months of 62.”

Let me start by saying I’ve always been a forced air girl from Furnaceworld. Getting heat there meant simply walking over to the thermostat, kicking it up a notch (a la Emeril), hearing the click, and a minute later feeling warm(ish) air flowing out of those inconspicuous grates in the floor, wall, or ceiling. You’d change a filter once in a while, call the guy to check the works every year or so, replace a part now and then. That’s about it. Oh, and a bonus: You can also get air conditioning with very little trouble.

Now I live in Boilerland. It’s a cold place, where valuable square footage is eaten up by hulking cast iron radiators lurking under pretty wooden covers (that, of course, reduce heat flow). In this land, due to some quirk understood only by my husband and other HVAC aficionados, upping the thermostat more than 2 degrees at a time causes water to spew out of the “pressure relief valve” onto the basement floor and whatever is stacked there. Any maintenance involves a task called “draining the system,” which in our case means hooking up a garden hose out the basement window, as we have no working floor drains (which makes any water spewage even more fun). The reverse of this, “filling the system,” means pulling off the pretty wooden covers (and the pictures, books, plants, lamps, vases, kleenex, and other tchotchkes displayed on them) in every blessed room in the house and “bleeding the radiator” with a little key and an old margarine tub. Then running back down to the basement every 5 minutes to make sure no water is spewing out anywhere. Oh, and there’s still the mysterious “thermocouple” that goes bad when it’s -3 degrees on a Sunday, leaving you heatless — Boilerland doesn’t have anything over Furnaceworld in that respect.

“But hot water heat is so nice,” you’re thinking. “It’s not so dry as forced air. And it’s less dirty — no dust blowing around.” Yes, that’s what I’d always heard. However:

  1. 62 degrees is 62 degrees — cold enough for your hands and feet to go numb. You can pull the cover off and clutch the radiator to get a little warmth, but that only goes so far. Why 62? Well, getting a $450 gas bill is a good reason. (I’ll save the discourse on uninsulatable [I made that word up] “clay-tile-over-brick construction” for some other time.)
  2. We still get shocked whenever we touch anything, and the cats’ hair all but leaps from them to us, so that “less dry” stuff is bunk, too, as far as I can see.
  3. This is the dustiest house I’ve ever lived in. Some of it is because we are always sanding something, but even when we’re not, the place is a dirtpile. I just can’t keep up.

But it’s not all bad. We’ve supplemented with lovely little ceramic cube electric heaters. You walk over to one, kick up the thermostat a notch, hear the click, and warm air starts pouring out. It’s a beautiful thing — almost like being back in Furnaceworld.

May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart.
                                                                             ~ Eskimo proverb