I read the first part of a sermon by Rev. Hardies over at Best of UU yesterday, Love the Contradictions, part 1, and was reminded of a very brief moment over the weekend. I was walking from one part of my messy, dirty house to another on the day that I was working on a sermon after working all week and I just wasn’t making time for cleaning. (That’s my excuse for mess, this week—next week, I’ll have another handy one.) But as I walked through the house, the sun was shining and reflected off the old hard wood floor that had been hidden under carpet for most of the time that we have lived in our 1960s ranch house (11+ years now).
The sun hit the floor and shined back up at me, and then I looked toward the rug on the floor in the next room and then up to the fireplace with its red mantle and back over to the red wall that was next to me and I was flooded with a feeling I don’t have often in this house. “I love my house,” I heard myself whisper and the feeling overwhelmed me.
I do love my house. For so many years, I’ve been thinking of this place not as the place that I love, but as the place that, in my most generous moments, I said “will do.” When we were looking for homes, there really wasn’t much on the market that we could afford. From the outside, I said, no, it’s too small. Then we walked in to a hideously decorated, but open floor plan. There is so much about this house to hate. The big brick planter in the middle of that wide open space, with the mortar hanging out of it that we have threatened to remove 80 times the number of times we have knicked our skin on said mortar. There’s that fireplace, paneled with a mantel made of something akin to a railroad tie, that I have painted over and over to make look fresh. There’s the shelving unit on the one wall, with plywood “doors” on the ends to cover utility closets and the doors have been cut out—long ovals with these midieval handles on them. I call the doors the Portals to Infinity. Oh, they are so hideous.
There’s the poor transitions between the kitchen and the dining room where a toilet overflow preceeded the removal of the carpet that lead from the hallway into the dining room. That’s when we found the hard wood floors (and th 30 or so nails nailed directly into the floor, apparently to silence a squeak). But the linoleum in the kitchen needs to be replaced, so I haven’t put the little metal flooring transition strips back on. There’s the new wall built when the basement remodel was complete, when we took out a bit of the the steel beam as well as part of the upstairs floor/downstairs ceiling to make the stairs to the basement manageable. When that wall was built, it took the place of the wrought (or is it rought?) iron railing that kept us from tumbling down into the open staircase. And that new wall hasn’t been finished because there is so much more work to do upstairs.
And the mess…I could take better charge of that, but I don’t. Some clutter comforts me. Too much makes me crazy. It is all about living in the balance of it all—the balance of work still to do and what has been accomplished, of too much and too little.
So reading Rev. Hardies sermon brought me into a nice place, and brought me back into that moment when I saw where I lived, the home that I created, and it felt good to say “this, I love.”
It takes so much energy to hate a space and when I realized I didn’t, any longer, I felt a little bit of the weight of the mess lift. Life is too short to hate the tensions, or even tolerate them. Perhaps in loving those tensions, in embracing the quirks and quibbles, we find the energy to create the change that we want. Perhaps.
And yet, in the loving of this house, I still long for a bathroom I don’t share with three other females, where there is a bathtub that fits an adult form, a shower head beneath which I must not duck, and enough drawers and cupboards to store and stash all those things girls make use of in bathrooms. Oh, and a heated towel rack. That would be lovely.
Perhaps it is age. My house and I are roughly the same age and it shows in ways that are similar. Perhaps there is a tenderness with knowing a thing as intimately as I know this house, now, that comes from caring for it whether I want to or not. Perhaps this is what happens in those storybook arranged marriages: You come to love that to which you are stuck.
What a gift this is, to find out, after all this time, that I love what I already have. To learn that it isn’t what flooring or fixtures I have that make me swell with gratitude—it is the warmth not just of the sun hitting the floor, but of the memories this space holds, of the people. We could take better care of it; we could take better care of each other. And still, I love it as it is already. What a gift, indeed.