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Daze of My Life: Home unimprovement, so far
Daze of My Life
Home unimprovement, so far
Along with my wife, Dina; my golden retriever, Bailey; and my Rex castor rabbit, Chester, I live in a 260+ year-old converted log cabin home located in the northeast corner of Montgomery County. We moved in during the latter part of May, 1992. Soon thereafter we had a weekend party for friends and family; half of whom, as it turned out came on Saturday, while the other half came on Sunday. As much as it was a social occasion for us, it was also an occasion for me to listen and learn.
As our invited guests knew, Dina and I had, and still have, very little experience with respect to home maintenance and repair, inside or out, which also includes the grounds. And so, over the course of the weekend, we received lots of suggestions--and heard lots of observations--having to do with the treatment and upkeep of this old house. And as helpless, admittedly so, as I am, I actually took notes of what I heard so that I would have some record of the many conversations in which words to the wise, or in my case, words to the stupid, were exchanged. Otherwise, much of what was said would have gone in one ear and out the other.
Well, that was 14 years ago, and much has changed but, regrettably, even more has stayed the same, gotten worse you might say. And try as I might to ignore the broken casement windows closing in the breeze; the peeling interior and exterior paint, the downed and out down spouts and gutters, the discolored and dislodged shingles, the two chimneys each a few bricks short of a full load, the cracked tile and dripping faucet in the upstairs shower, the dried up and old-fashioned linoleum floors in the kitchen and upstairs' bathroom, the hardwood floors downstairs that hardly look like wood, anymore, the wallpaper split along its seams and hanging awkwardly--from the ceiling, the kitchen not of your dreams, the basement that give cellars a bad name, doors that barely close, screens that hardly screen, toilets that struggle to flush, sinks that hesitate to drain, and of course, as in any old house, the lack of closet space, linen space and storage space, and in our old house, any real modern conveniences--like a dishwasher (not exactly, Dina has one--me), garbage disposal (other than the dog, that is), double oven, space saving-type appliances, and usable countertops and ceiling fans (our ceilings are barely seven feet), etc. The reality is, I feel like I'm swimming upstream, constantly, except not to spawn, but rather to keep from drowning.
But what our house lacks in function, it more than makes up for in form, as in nooks and crannies, charm and privacy, as our house sits in the middle of two mostly forested acres. At some point, however, that uniqueness begins to cost money, money that if I had I'd be hesitant to spend; and when it's money that I don't have, then it becomes credit I'm lucky to have but somewhat afraid to use, under these circumstances, anyway.
But I can't neglect basic repairs, forever. I mean, our house has stood since 1742, according to the plaque hanging alongside our front door. It would seem to be a shame that, as its latest caretaker, I can't keep it standing for at least another 25 years. Not that our house is falling down around us (it's built too well for that) but, it sure doesn't seem to be aging with its dignity intact. So I'm faced with a decision, invest or divest. And that's a question much easier asked than answered.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.
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