The 5 ½ months since the fire seemed to go more slowly than any other time of my life, but the 5 ½ days before moving back into the house are moving at top speed. Every day I go by the house to see noticeable progress – windows, flooring, doors – but there’s still so much to finish before move-in day. There is no plumbing, so forget about using the bathroom or shower. No kitchen yet either. That should come in a few more days, or rather the cabinets are coming then. The company installing them will need to finish that before taking a final measurement for the granite countertops. They are cutting it close, in more ways than one. Mark (my contractor) assured me that the countertops can be done in a day, but I’m a bit skeptical. I’m assuming that my first few meals in the house will be take-out.
Anyone who has done some major remodeling knows the frustration of waiting for everything to be done. And then waiting some more. Since my ‘remodeling’ wasn’t voluntary, I’m even more anxious for it to be done. Then again, at least I’m not paying an arm and a leg for it – my insurance is. Mark and I walk through the house each day, noting what has been done and what still needs work. Most of the windows have blinds on them now, but the large living room window is still bare. Originally, we had discussed putting in plantation shutters, but Mark informs me they’ll cost $1200. Gulp. Now if I were planning to stay at the house longer, I might have forked out the extra money, but as it is, if the next residents want them, they can pay.
Brown paper is taped on all the downstairs floors to protect the wood. Two large boxes fill the center of the kitchen – my new stove and dishwasher. The refrigerator is too large and will just get in the way when the cabinets are being installed, so it has been relegated to the garage. The steps going upstairs are still naked wood, some cracked and all showing small, pointy nails, lying in wait to scratch you or snag your shoes. I notice the banister rail has the slightest curve to it, warped just a bit from age and use. Upstairs still looks rough as the carpet has not yet been laid and the subfloor is dusty and cluttered with scraps of wood here and there. I wonder aloud if it will be done by the end of the week and if not, I’ll need to block it off so the dogs don’t hurt themselves. Mark seems convinced that it will be done and I decide not to worry about it now.
The house is starting to look good, if unfinished. Friends ask me if I’ll change my mind about selling the house. Even my realtor asks me, but no, I assure her, the house is still too big and too expensive for a single woman with two kids in college. I’ll love living in it for a few months, but then it’s on to the next stage of my life, the one I had intended before the fire changed my plans. I’ve learned a lot during the process of restoring my house and I’ll take that knowledge to my next home. I think of it as a rehearsal of sorts. I can live with the darker floors and different kitchen style and new light fixtures and decide if I like them enough to do the same in a new place. I’m already looking ahead to a house I haven’t found yet, but it’s fun to think about it. Except . . . I want my contractor to keep working for me. I like his practical advice and he has a good eye for materials and colors. I wonder if he does freelance contracting outside of his job restoring houses after disasters. I wonder if he’d even have time given the amount of damage the recent fires have caused in central Texas. That’s a discussion for another day; there’s too much to do right now and the day is ending. Mark waves good-bye as he heads home, and I slowly make my way back to rental house. I greet the dogs, who act like I’ve been gone for days instead of hours. As we head outside, I tell them that in a few days we’ll all be back home, and I wonder how they’ll react after being away so long.