Later this year I’ll start renovations on my home that will probably end up costing me the price of a newer and larger house in the suburban sprawl twenty miles farther down the highway. This money I’ll be spending won’t buy me a great room with a wet bar or a kitchen with a sub-zero and Wolf 6-burner professional range. I won’t have a master bath Jacuzzi with a dozen jets or a walk-in closet. A few years after we moved in a knock on the door introduced us to the couple that had raised kids in this home two owners and a generation ago. They had bought the house for $68,000. We had spent almost ten times that for the same property, now just a decade and a bit shy of a century, and I’m hoping that we can keep the plumbing overhaul under that $68,000.
This house won’t have the bells and whistles that drive so much residential development. What it will have, however, is the deep porcelain sink like the one where I stood on a stool with an apron tied up under my arms while I helped Grandma wash dishes. This kitchen will have the walk-in pantry with open shelving that proved such an enticing hide-and-seek spot for her grandchildren and storage for her bakeware. If I’m lucky, I’ll locate a table with a graniteware top and retractable leaves, which always maintained a cool temperature for rolling out pie dough. Instead of wall cabinets, I’ll ring the room with shelving to display the cookie jars, vases, mixing bowls, and kitchen tools from all the women who cooked in our family. The foundation of the upstairs screened-in porch will be rebuilt so the space can be reclaimed and furnished with the wooden chaise lounge from my Granny’s sunroom in her apartment that was just several blocks from where I am now. Her telephone table will probably sit next to it. The fireplace surround and mantle will be replaced to better show off the red Weller cachepot and the blue dogwood twig vase that decorated my mother’s house, as well as the botanical lithograph that had previously hung in my in-laws front entry. Because no modern purchase can match the artistry of its delicate curves, I’ll repair the shade on the matte bronze Arts and Crafts lamp with the tulip-leaf base that came from the estate of my husband’s dear aunt. It will sit in the living room filled with chairs from living rooms of family we loved. Bookshelves will be refashioned with glass doors to protect the ancient publications bearing the fading hand-lettered “Property of . . .” completed with names from our family history. The walls will be painted to highlight the art we had grown up seeing every Sunday at family dinner, and our table will sit on the same rug that had cushioned my husband’s family table.
When I’m finished, it won’t be just my home. It will include all the homes we loved.