UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

 

I have a vision of our old farmhouse before we renovated.  Gray-silver metal roof shingles streaked with rust.  One bathroom with a bathtub and no shower.  An unheated upstairs and air-conditioned nowhere at all.  A fairly large kitchen despite the old woodstove with a walk-in pantry that was quite spacious.  A doorway leading to a stoop that led to a…patio?  On the other side of the kitchen, a doorway led to a small back porch holding among other things, a washer and dryer that we feared would freeze every winter and hid a rat snake during the summer.

The old home was quaint and comfortable unless you wanted to be warm in the winter or cool in the summer…or if you wanted to take a shower.  In 1995 we decided we would renovate.  Not much you understand.  We would take off and seven hundred and fifty square feet of kitchen and pantry while adding an upstairs bedroom and bath, with a shower of course, and a new kitchen, dining room, den and a half bath with shower downstairs.  Later we would replace the roof and all of the old wavy, paint-streaked, lead glass windows.  A total of about two thousand square feet replaced the original seven hundred and fifty…but it hasn’t replaced the memory of the old place and now the thoughts that usually begin “I wish.”

It’s not that Linda and I don’t appreciate being able to take a shower, we do, but we miss the quaintness.  We also miss the huge pantry…especially Linda Gail.  The huge fireplace in the den is a great conversation piece with its handmade “chainsawed” walnut mantle and huge centerpiece stone but sometimes I miss the original fireplace and wood stove.

There is a little bit of pride that goes with saying, “The flooring and cabinets came from pecan and walnut trees from the property…as did the table and kitchen island.”  Even when the table and island warp upward in the winter and downward in the summer.

For some reason, it is just not the same.  We lost the upstairs cubby hole with the pitter-patter of little “flying squirrel” feet and the slithering of rat snake non-feet.  That is actually a bad thing.

It is both funny and odd what Linda Gail misses and she is going to kill me when she sees this in print.  It’s okay Linda Gail, there are still some secrets I will never tell.  When we renovated the old bathroom we changed the location of the toilet.  Linda can no longer sit and see the birds dining in the feeder from her new “perch.”  This is something she reminds me of quite often.

Linda Gail and I aren’t angry. We just wish we had had a crystal ball or maybe enough money for just a little “do-over.”  Are there renovation “Mulligans?”  I guess not.  We thought we were outgrowing our little farmhouse and instead, we found we just overfill whatever space we have.  The good news is that we overfill that space with memories too…good ones.

There are other lessons we continue to learn from living in a house that originally dates from 1890 or so.  Not the least of which is, “Renovations are never completed.”  A new water heater or two to go with replacing the heating system or a leak here or there.  It is odd, knock on wood, “Seems as if everything replaced seems to be the first to go, having to be replaced again.”  Is that the designed obsolescence I’ve heard so much about?

Excerpt from Through the Front Gate by Don Miller which can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is of the old portion of the house, my little piece of heaven.

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Waiting for the Sun

I feel the cold seeping into my bones. The cold and the darkness. The same ambiance that makes our home such a wonderful conversation piece is freezing me to death. Behind those beautiful beadboard walls is…nothing…but the cold.

I wonder…how much my shivering is the old farmhouse’s lack of insulation and how much is just me. There was a time when all it took was a minimal movement to create heat and perspiration. A byproduct of my weight loss or my age?

I am depressed…it makes the cold worse. I shouldn’t sit in the dark, but I am desperately searching for a hint of light on the southeastern horizon but it is not yet visible through my French doors. Maybe when I see it I’ll turn on the overhead light. I despise the winter, I hate the cold.

I often wonder about the people who lived here before me and how they survived the cold. There are five fireplaces in my old home. I doubt the former tenants could have kept them all fed because the one I still use, the one I sit close to warming my feet, has a voracious appetite. I have a chainsaw…they had crosscut saws and axes. My chainsaw wears me out…quickly…but it does cause me to sweat. Splitting the wood makes me sweat. Firewood heats you several times I guess.

I think I know where the people before me congregated, trying to stay warm, trying to sit out the winter…although I doubt there was much sitting as they cut the wood to feed the fireplaces. The beadboard in the old dining room is darkened from what I suspect is the many wood fires lit in its double fireplace. There or in front of the old wood burning stove I found in rusted pieces in a ravine behind my house. I can visualize the former tenants wrapped in handmade, patchwork quilts sitting close to the fireplace attempting to warm themselves. Shivering as the north wind made its presence known…basking in the feeble light. With it dipping into teens in the South Carolina mountains, I think you can keep your good old days.

I need to go walk. My armor against depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. The southeastern horizon has lightened but I wait for the sun to peak above the tall trees on the hillside’s crest. We are still eight days from the winter solstice and the shortest daylight of the year. Seven hours, forty-five minutes and a few seconds before the days begin to lengthen again. With the mountains in the west, less sun for me I think. It seems a lifetime until the summer solstice.

I’m reminded of an old Sunray’s song,

“I live for the sun (sun sun sun sun)
Because it makes fun (fun)
Pretty girls with their guys
Such a love you can’t buy
Baby, we all live for the sun.”

A cheesy, wannabe Beach Boys kind of song. I don’t know about the fun but the sun gives me hope and the illusion of warmth. “(I) live for the sun.”

Don Miller is a multi-genre, Indie writer. Please drop by his author’s page on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.