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The Inside Story

Originally written Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Memory is a funny thing.

As a little girl, my mother used to recite a poem she learned in grade school, * "The House With Nobody In It"; a story about a broken down old wreck of a house not too different from the Bailey's honeymoon mansion in the moive, ' It's A Wonderful Life'.

Growing up with this sad, almost human like connection to poor old negleted houses, combined with a latent obsession over mom's wonderful, lightweight Melmac dishes, I, unfortunately, succomed to the emotion; and in 1989 found my house with nobody in it.

It was a wonderful 1955 Mid-Century Modern with all the trimmings. We lived there for almost two years; now deceased hubby, three kids, a dog or two, and the yearning to bring it back to it's former 1955 glory. This was impossible due to the financial regularities of a growing, young family. Now, don't get me wrong; in 1989 it wasn't a bad place. Cosmetic changes would have been enough.

After an absense of 18 years and contracting a self sale of the house (so it would remain in my possession if the purchaser renigged) I was the 'lucky' recipient of my wonderful old house, once again. And THIS is where the story begins... I had a "Horder" in my house!

In the interest of staying concice, I'll just list the costs and damages; think of it as the old VISA ad (priceless?):

Foundation - $27K; Sewer lines - $3K, Roof - $15K, Glass replacement - $3,500, 3/4ths of the A/C units - $2,500, Kitchen Counter Tile - $2,300, Carpet - $5K, Termite removal - $1K. These are the ONLY items done by others!

As you can imagine, with all those major items in disrepair, it was only the beginning of a two and half year JOB. Interior and exterior Paint, flooring, doors, lighting, electrical, plumbing, bathroom rehab.. on and on it goes.

At this point, there are some quirky little items still needing work and sometimes I look on them fondly as a reminder of the hell and discomfort it has been. But you know what? I've only hated this house for two seconds of my life. Once in April and once today. (God, I hate exterior painting!)

I am reminded of the horrid smell and odor that remained here for the first 4 or 5 months. The sad, broken down patio bricks after the roofers used them for steps. The stained carpet covered with piss and feces by my 'buyers' dog. The complete destruction of the Master bathroom from the ceiling caving in. The huge hole in the living room ceiling from the roof leak and buckets permanently sitting below.

I also remember the professional people who were so kind and helpful: The appraiser who encouraged me to "come on - I've seen worse than this" on our initial tour. The insurance man who tried to warn me in advance of my first 'viewing' after 18 years. The 1-800-Got Junk guys who pulled all the carpet and wood/nail strips from the floor on Jan. 2, 2007. The carpenter who repaired my huge living room windows and frames. The carpet company who took over after LAKE AIR INTERIORS were total assholes. (yes.. naming names.. lol) The nursing home director who was the best friend of the lazy bitch who ruined my house, but got her to sign needed items to restore title to my name, and saved me several trips to Waco from Houston. The tile guys who were absolute dreams - they didn't argue with me about ANYTHING, and on a trip to the bathroom, figured out HOW to actually DO the kitchen tile edges!

Today, my back hurts like hell. I'm sweaty, achy, and tired. But you know what? My 'house with nobody in it' is a wonderful testament to 'living your dreams', 'climbing every mountain, don't stop believin', and even, 'if today was your last day'. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

The thrills I get come at goofy moments. Melmac Colorflyte dishes in the drain rack; looking at the before pictures.... even "I" don't believe it sometimes. Being able to walk on a level floor; cooking in a beautiful shiney kitchen, sitting in the living room looking out the glass to the patio. Even pushing the button to open the garage door. It's great.

But I wouldn't do it again!!! (Or would I?) Memory is a funny thing.

Yeah.. some things ARE "Priceless"!
An 'ode' to my Mother Below:  Her favorite, often recited, memorized poem. (The one that caused it all??) :):) :

*The House With Nobody In It
                          - Joyce Kilmer

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.