Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hey, what do you think we live in a barn?


“What do you think we live in a barn?” my husband asks as I lumber up the near-vertical staircase that leads to our living space; front door flung wide open, schlepping armloads of groceries from the car.

“Uh, yaaah,” I answer in the most adolescent tone I can muster.

It never gets old.

Of course, any time I tell people I live in a barn they usually ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ and marvel at how romantic such a dwelling must be. Understandably, they are equating barn with the catalog antecedent, Pottery.

No. I live in a B-A-R-N — a big, red structure that is drafty in winter and sweltering in summer and for more than 100 years, in a meandering order of succession, has been used to shelter horses, cattle, a Laundromat, a plumbing contractor, a telephone company and a string of the town’s more established homeowners.

Rooms have been constructed and reconstructed by inhabitants of equal or lesser skills than our own, and each addition unflinchingly boasts the era of its commission.

We’ve even learned parts of our estate have been hacked off and dragged to different parts of the neighborhood. A garage here, a house there; each starting out as a pod from our monstrosity. All this slicing and dicing has made it necessary to send out search parties for my visiting Maine mother-in-law, who always thinks she can ‘get there from here.’

Of course, with two full-time jobs, two perennially shedding dogs, an overflowing diaper pail and only one airless closet of a bathroom, our humble abode has a thick carpet of dog hair and sometimes smells like the Bronx zoo. When we welcome visitors it is usually after a frenzied cleaning and straightening session that goes late into the night. Otherwise, we turn off the lights and pretend that we’re not home.

It’s the story of our lives: With two-dozen family members invited for Christmas, we chose right after Thanksgiving to replace the kitchen. Our wedding prompted the complete gutting and renovation of main room of the building so we could host 135 guests for the reception. And when our daughter was born she was welcomed into a new room of her own painted only minutes before her homecoming. Of course, none of the rooms have trim.

No matter, the words on everyone’s lips after the grand tour is always the same: “it’s got potential.”

Since we’d bought the place for a song and are paying far less in mortgage than we could have ever wrangled in rent we couldn’t disagree, we just didn’t know how potential would make the leap to polished.

The answer, happily, is that it won’t. Our home will always be a barn. It just evolves with us and mirrors our every wonderful imperfection.

I can’t wait until our daughter leaves the door open as she tracks in all manner of seasonal detritus.

“Hey, whah-da-ya think we live in a barn?”

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