That Peculiar Smell

posted in: prose, time, work | 3

It’s so humid today that when I open the closet door, it smells the same peculiar way it did a year ago when I was soaking those same closet walls in water to get the loose, cracked, 112-year-old wallpaper off. Alethia’s closet has since been mudded and painted– mine remains gritty and gray. We’ll get to it someday.

Yes, it’s been a whole year since we bought this old house. Next month we’ll celebrate the anniversary of bringing all our stuff here. Really, we’ll be celebrating the fact that, as far as we know, we won’t be moving all our stuff again for quite some time: we have everything we need here (space, friends, potential… lots of potential) and we’re both self-employed, so we don’t foresee any job transfers.

We love this place, even on the days when we don’t feel like we love this house (like the day I went to the pest control aisle at Menards and bought one of everything). We love our community, our neighborhood, and our home. When Alethia see’s her neighbor-friends out on their yard, she’s jumping up and down to join them. When we see neighbors painting their houses in pretty colors, we get giddy, because we want everyone to see how beautiful this place up on the hill is.

Last summer I spent every day prying and scraping and carrying and sweating. It was a good, hard time. At the end of one of those days, I washed up, strapped Alethia into the homemade camouflage mei tai on my back, and took to the streets because it was Historical Homes Tour night. The houses were beautiful. The owners were happy to meet a new neighbor and they told me how bad their houses were when they started. I could have hugged them right there, but I was too stinky.

Last night was that same night again. This year’s houses were also beautiful. I was encouraged again to hear that it had taken time to get to that point. Even more encouraging was the homeowner who cheerfully, shamelessly said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen my own house this clean!” For a second I thought that it would be a shame to have such a beautiful house and never have it clean, but then I remembered what I’ve been learning:

You don’t have to wait to be happy until your house is clean. Or until your remodeling is finished. You don’t have to wait for your work to be done, for your student loans to be paid off, for your projects to be complete, for your career to take off. You can enjoy your life while you do your work. You can have people over to your torn-up house. You can give of yourself while you’re still gaining ground.

Good thing, because it’s going to be a long time before we’re done with anything, much less everything. We put in a six-ton patio and planted grass in the back yard, but I need to add more seed and finish planting the patch by the driveway. Ryan’s been re-wiring lots of outlets and lights, but there’s a long way to go on that. About the only thing we’ve finished is the Subaru– we sold it to a scrap yard.

We have a lot to do, but we’ve come a long way and we’re enjoying the ride. It feels like we’ve squished many years into this past year. The peculiar smell of those damp closet walls seems like a smell from a long time ago.

3 Responses

  1. Karissa Sjaarda

    I like your writing style!

  2. Glenda

    HOPE is in the journey…sounds like you are learning life lessons in your busy days, and closets 🙂 Your writing skill hasn’t waned–I hope to read more, whenever you take time to do it. Your photo would only improve if I could see more of your face. The joy shines through!!

  3. Dawn young

    This is a philosphy I’m always trying to tell myself! And Re: the comment you made about having others over, when the situation is reversed, we should be gracious guests, when invited to someone’s home, and not feel we are imposing by coming when invited, and just enjoy relationships with people. 🙂 Thankyou for the article!!!