It’s official. On June 18 this old house of ours well start the process of a major interior renovation! Exterior renovations were part of phase one. And now the green light is officially on, for phase two and three.
A bathroom roof will come off, a mudroom will be built, a new kitchen will transform from the old, and the girls will essentially have a new house upstairs with a space all to their own. No longer will all five of us co-exist in two bedrooms and one tiny 5’x8′ bathroom in a 1500 square foot space with hideous metal kitchen cabinets from the 1950s.
It’s a realization of a dream I have had for this old house since the first day we looked at it during the summer of 2005. It’s not rationally, nor financially, the smart thing to do – seeing we could just move to a nice new house for about the same amount of money we are putting into this old house. But it wouldn’t be the same.
All these scenarios went though out heads last week as we perused the internet and drove through neighborhoods thinking about a new house with a pool and everything already fixed for us. We were wooed with a case of the wants. But really, we knew in our hearts that’s not what we wanted.
I was reminded of that several days in a row with friends stoping by, just at the point when we needed to see a friendly face. They were all neighbors. And our children are growing up together.
A friend of mine made an evening call to see if I wanted to get out for a drive with her while she ran an errand, just to catch up. A couple nights later we had an impromptu cookout with neighbors and the boys next door.
I thought about the girls being thrilled every time their older friend from up the street appears on the sidewalk riding her scooter, looking for them to play. And when impromptu sleepovers happen with friends as close as sisters, because the fun never wants to stop.
There are so many families living here that we all got together for Halloween and filed with the city to close the road for Trick-or-Treating. When babies are born enough meals are cooked for the new parents that they go weeks with hot dinners delivered to their door. And where else could I live where I can send out an email with and SOS call for veggie broth while making soup for sick kids, and have someone else’s husband stop on his way home from work to pick some up for me? Or have Grandparent-like neighbors who build a staircase to their yard with my daughter’s name on it, for easy access when they call them over to pick blueberries. Nowhere.
If we lived in a house off the beaten bath, with more woods, or surrounded by homes all having counters of granite – I came to the realization it would really just feel like a big empty house to me. I’m not dogging granite countertops. I like them a lot. But where in East Tennessee, in a subdivision where all the houses have granite countertops, you are not likely to find a purple house. And I find comfort in the fact that someone in our neighborhood just painted their house purple. Homes in our neighborhood have spirt, individuality, history, and people giving them a whole lot of love.
The life around us makes our home. Our friends make us happy. Our community makes me happy.
After this exercise last week of driving, and looking, and dreaming, and imagining us living somewhere different. We realized we are right where we need to be.
Our little neighborhood you see, is kind of off the beaten path. It’s full of interesting people, artists, children, gardeners, musicians and business owners, all living a little off the beaten path together.
When we moved to Knoxville six years ago one of my husband’s co-workers lived here. They were transplants from the DC area. We were moving from downtown Atlanta, where homeless people asked us for money in our driveway. Our new friends convinced us this was the place we needed to be. Colorful and family oriented, minus the homeless people eating my homegrown tomatoes from my front yard.
Our realitor had never sold a house in South Knoxville. We lucked up by finding ours through word of mouth, that someone from Atlanta was moving here and looking for a house. The 80 year-old woman called us! We took one look at the house with no central heat and air, covered in wallpaper, antiques, shag carpet, all bathtubs and zero shower heads – and said it’s perfect. The magnolia tree in the front yard and the big front porch sold us. It was all it took.
For the first several years we lived here we were still known as the people in the “Weaver’s House.” The Weaver’s lived here for 35 years. When we met them, the first thing Mrs. Weaver said was, “You’ll have to have more kids to fill up this big house.”
That we have done. And now the upstairs will get restored, with central heat and air, a larger bathroom and three little girls to fill it up.
The first morning we saw the house she was in the kitchen at 9:30 a.m. cooking shrimp and grits on a cast iron stove, a faux variety made by the House of Webster that still sits in my basement (if anyone wants to come haul off the the 300 pound beast out of my basement – it’s all yours). I tried using that stove, in her honor, for a few weeks after we bought the house. But after I had to buy a smaller cookie sheet to fit in the oven and then flip the cookies half way through to get them to bake – I turned in the towel and ordered an upgrade.
And now the whole kitchen will finally get the upgrade I’m sure Mrs. Weaver would approve of, with hand built custom cabinets to match the original built ins and soapstone countertops.
And it all starts July 18!
Excuse me now, I must get busy packing up half my house into spaces we can use this summer, while we co-exist with our three contractors and the many improvements to come.
It should be interesting!
I’ll keep you posted.