The Fixer Upper is a new book by best-selling author Mary Kay Andrews that sounds like a good beach read for me. It’s about a woman’s quest to, “redo and old house, and her life.”…
“…Dempsey is in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. ‘Bird Droppings’ would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismol–pink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There's also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey's distant relations, who has claimed squatter's rights and isn't moving out. Ever. … All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected—back home again.”
For those of you in the Jersey Shore area, you can meet Mary Kay tomorrow, Monday, July 13, at the Spring Lake Library (1501 Third Ave.) 7:30 p.m. The library is a gorgeous Tudor building that is definitely not a fixer-upper. It's stunning, and was built in 1923 to serve as the Spring Lake community center, which it serves as to this day.
I've learned when owning an older home, you're kind of in a perpetual state of fixer-upperness. There are so many times we wonder about the history of the house, and about what might it might have looked like one hundred or so years ago.
So imagine our surprise last Sunday night, when two women came up to us..."Excuse me...our husbands were born in this house, and our mother-in-law is in the car...she drove by earlier today..."
Stop the presses! Grab mom and come on in!
Pat and Lenny bought our house in 1972. Apparently for $16,500. But let's try not to dwell on that. OK?!?! They've long since relocated to Georgia and were sadly in town for Pat's sister's funeral. It was their first time back in years and years. They were reluctant to knock on the door but when they saw us outside, they pulled over.
When they walked in the front door I could see from the looks and smiles on their faces that it was like stepping back to a happy time in their lives. (In fact, they had just been married and it was their first home together.) We thanked them for not painting over the gorgeous woodwork. They told us that in fact, they had to redo some of the woodwork when they moved in. So we thanked them again!
We decided not to gut the older kitchen, and instead opted to scrub, scrub some more, and do quickie updates. As we’ve lived in it over the past year and change, we’ve come to like the layout and the wood cabinets are so well made I’d hate to rip them out.
Pat’s also responsible for the toaster built in to the wall. That’s right; toaster in the wall.
The daughters-in-law were anxious to see their husbands’ nurseries…and I can’t tell you how cute I thought that was. Turns out the babies were in what is now the green room.
Pat apologized for the other small room they paneled. But reminded us it was the 70s and all. She seemed to like that we whitewashed it, but I was also glad to learn the original walls were under there should we decide to eventually take it down.
She asked if we still had the claw foot tub. Yup!
The WHAT? How anyone could have kicked that to the curb I’ll never know.
OK, that one hurt. And I was still smarting from the sting of the marble sink news.
We chatted a bit more, and wound up having a bit of a reunion in our front yard when they recognized another neighbor they’d lost touch with since moving. It was so lovely meeting them, and hearing in great detail what they did to and/or knew of the house (I could have easily made this a three-part post!). Pat gave us each a warm hug as she was leaving, and her husband thanked us for turning what started as a really awful day into something beautiful. At which point I got a little teary.
We plan on being in our home for a long time, but most importantly want to be good stewards for the next generation that will call it home some day. Like Pat and Lenny before us.
Cheers to good fixer uppers everywhere.