It’s approaching six years since we bought our Massachusetts fixer upper. The renovations, repairs, fantasy addition, and landscape design we’d imagined a la HGTV never happened. Hell, I’m still working on painting the kitchen cabinet doors I took off right before we moved in and by “working” I mean I’ve finished painting and put up exactly two. But even though we’ve yet to tackle our old wish list – let alone the growing list of important but unsexy things that have rapidly deteriorated since 2015 like, say, structural supports – I’m ready to celebrate what’s become an annual right of passage now that we’ve made it to March: our house made it through another New England winter. “But shouldn’t you focus on more important things?” you might ask while looking in the rearview mirror at 2020 slowly receding, 2021 still in a blindspot.
Yes, we’re in the midst of a pandemic and have barely left the house for exactly one year. Yes, my spouse is working two jobs from our dining room table. Yes, one child is remote learning via Zoom for five plus hours each day. Yes, my high schooler is in the middle of distance learning high school from her (shared) room. Yes, our tiny dog has developed an expensive and pathological hatred of all delivery trucks (reserving a special loathing for Amazon Prime like the very good dog she is), tearing at the blinds, gnawing at the window sills, and shredding the couch. Yes, I’m managing a level of personal anxiety higher than I’d ever thought possible while also being peri-menopausal so believe me when I say that I’m feeling A LOT ALL THE TIME.
And yes, because of all this, the past year has been unlike any that many of us have ever experienced in terms of loss of life, normalcy, security, democracy, civility, health, education, social interactions, and mental health. It’s been weird AND we’ve personally been lucky. Considering all of this, acknowledging the continued existence of our tiny tent-like* house has taken on new meaning. Because, while it is metaphorically killing us financially and is much more of a liability than an asset, it is our one and only home and a symbol of what we’ve been able to accomplish by following our own decidedly non-traditional path. Most importantly, it did not crumble around us when we needed it the most, and if you are a structural engineer you would understand our relief.
There are new cracks. There are new gaps. The dips in the floor are a little dippier. One window may be a bit lower than it was last year. The siding is squishier than wood should be. The exterior is molting and paint chunks are blowing around the yard like tumbleweeds. The stairs may be moaning. Clearly there’s a lot wrong. But now that I can see spring up ahead, I’m choosing to focus on the positive. We started 2020 with 1,485 square feet and by gum we enter 2021 with about the same.
Our little house in the forest has been our life raft these past 12 months and has felt just about as fragile: she leaks in the rain, rattles and shakes in the wind, and is always in danger of collapse. But in a plague year full of suffering, loss, fear, and loneliness, never have we needed this house more. And while she’s never aged faster, we’re all still here. Thank you, tiny. We’ll try to make it up to you if you promise to keep the snakes out, especially now that they’ve come to accept snow which seems like a troubling adaptation.
*This description is mine alone as a person who historically vacations in a tent, albeit one found in a drive up campground with electrical outlets, bathrooms and showers, laundry facilities, and other civilized conveniences.