Granny let me have a party at our house back in the 70’s with a bunch of my hippie friends. She bought potato chips and 7 Up and told me I could even crank my record player up a notch. (“In A Gadda Da Vida, Baby” was a fave.) As she retired to her bedroom, she said, “Now have fun, dear, but don’t raise the roof!” Funny that I am remembering that little piece of advice right now. Because when the architect said he was going to ‘raise the roof’ of our old, fifties ranch I had no idea what I was in for.
We are now at the end of week two of ‘the renovation’ and someone has dropped a bomb in our backyard. The cement patio is jack-hammered up. The white picket fence has been ripped out and stacked behind a tree. The salvageable rose bushes are stuck in a clump of what was the lawn but is now a churned up, chocolate mess.
Should I venture to step out the patio door now, I would fall into a five foot pit of old bricks, broken up cement, spiky, metal rods and rotten boards filled with rusty nails. Inside, the walls have been sledge hammered out into piles of rubble. Now, there is a panoramic view from the living room smack into the master. Well. . .we were looking for more light. Now we have it.
Renovating a house is like living a life. You really don’t quite know what you’re in for until you’re IN it. You have a vision of what you hope it will be, but getting there can be treacherous, circuitous and downright messy. The same goes for raising kids. You have a vision of who they might become but their own paths often wander far astray and leave you anxiously wondering.
I have to remember that tomorrow at 7 am when the crew arrives and Thomas gets behind the wheel of that back hoe and Lenny wields his jackhammer, biceps blazing through the concrete. Remember that, as Salem guides the men through all the drilling, pounding, banging of boards and whizzing of saws. Remember, that somewhere in the endless swirl of plaster dust that settles everywhere at once—that all dreams, no matter how starry take shape in chaos. Raising a roof means tearing things down but the view will amaze you.
Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a non-fiction memoir of the years she and her husband cared for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s.