It was September 2013 when I saw it for the first time.
The house cannot be seen from the road, so as we pull into the driveway, I’m anxiously waiting for the house to come into view.
We pass a building close to the road. No idea what it is, there is over growth up to the roof.
We pass another, this one is very large and I can see a silo rising out of the brush. This building is also swallowed up and nature is attempting to take it back.
I can see the field behind it, I know there is a creek, but I can’t see it from the driveway.
We come around a corner and the house comes into view.
No. Nope. Not happening.
It’s bad. It’s really really bad.
I look at my husband, his expression is not matching what I’m feeling. There is joy and excitement in his eyes as he turns to look at me.
Oh my God.
We pass a broken down car in the driveway. Nature is attempting to also reclaim the car.
We walk up to the front door, the porch is packed with trash and weight benches. Old coolers and broken chairs. Trash. Garbage. Liquor bottles. Scattered everywhere on the porch are what look to be a million .22 shells.
We walk in. The smell hits me first. Cigarettes and some weird sweet smell. I absolutely can’t stand the odor of cigarettes, I think it’s because I’m an ex smoker. 16 years without one, I think I brainwashed myself against them so I wouldn’t go back. They are awful and I can’t believe I smelled like that when I smoked.
Anyway, it smelled very strong and very bad. There are towels for curtains, large thick black cobwebs hanging all over a weirdly textured ceiling. The floor was half finished, someone had glued hardwood straight down to the old wide pine boards.
I looked into what was the kitchen in pure horror. There was a sink sitting in a decaying cabinet. I could see at least four mouse holes chewed into the drawers.
It wasn’t a kitchen. It was a nightmare.
The bathroom was worse. I couldn’t imagine sitting in there, bathing or showering. Whatever was on the mirror prevented even viewing a reflection.
The bedrooms… one of them had been turned into a closet, since there were none in the house. There were plumbing pipes nailed to the ceiling to hang clothes. There were even thicker black cobwebs up there. One room someone had glued beer bottle caps straight to the plaster wall. Thousands of them. An entire wall filled with glued on caps.
What the hell?
I hated every single inch of this pile of garbage.
There was an outbuilding next to the house that was so over grown I could only see the roof. When you walked onto the second story back porch, you could touch the top of weeds and trees and other vegetation that had grown out of control and was attempting to take over the house.
There were still people living here.
There were broken windows, bullet holes in the walls. Liquor bottles everywhere. And it smelled.
The basement was completely packed and massive spider webs everywhere.
Oh, the things we found down there. From crack pipes to old toilets.
There was no freaking way.
I look at my husband with complete fear and a ‘hell no’ attitude.
We leave and head back to our house. He looks at me with pure joy, “What did you think?” He asks with excitement just dripping in the tone.
“Well, that’s a no.”
He looks crushed. He says, “You can’t see it like I do.”
He grew up in this area living in old farm houses. He’s always talks about them and there is a fondness to the memories as he tells me. Now he has the opportunity to do it again.
So the house becomes ours.
We bring the kids and as soon as our -at the time- 8 year old daughter sees the house she bursts into tears. I totally understand but comfort her and try to reassure her of the joy that is here and try to look past the ugliness and garbage.
Even though I myself cannot do so.
So begins the year of working on the farmhouse.
I do some research and it doesn’t take long to see the house was built around 1850. Putting it around 170 years old.
We cannot move our family into this house in this condition. So we live at the old house and work on the farm in the evenings and weekends.
It began to grow on me. I started to see my husband just a little different. He worked hard all day, would spend his nights and weekends at the farm. He was working late into the nights trying to create a home for his family.
The weeds came down and outbuildings emerged. A storage shed, a cattle barn, a summer kitchen.
The three feet of grass in the field came down and the creek came into view.
The carpets were removed and walls and floors scrubbed, the smell started to go away. The cobwebs came down, the spider webs removed, the junk packed in the basement and on the three porches hauled away.
We worked hard. He worked hard. The kids worked hard.
Our son that claimed the bottle cap room worked for a week scraping them off. They helped drag out the carpets and they helped wash floors and walls.
I would come home at night exhausted. Black stuff in my sinuses. The smell of the house still sticking to me.
But I noticed I started smiling. I began to look forward to going and working.
He ripped out what was the kitchen and installed a new one. It’s amazing. There are two walls that still have exposed log beams and I absolutely love it.
I started to really feel the house. Sometimes there was work I couldn’t do. Construction things that are out of my capabilities. That’s what he does for a living, that fell to him.
The cleaning, scraping, painting? Me.
I would help him if he needed a hand, and he often did, but fixing walls, wood stoves, chimneys, roof, deck, porch and so on was on him. He also built a closet in each room too.
Those big black gross cobwebs all over the house were created by a wood stove that was not venting correctly. The house is heated only by wood, so he fixed that really early on.
So when we would work on it through the nights and long winter weekend days, I would keep the fire going. The evenings the kids didn’t come with us turned romantic and fun. The moving blankets all over the place got put to good use.
Bringing this house back to life seemed to bring us closer together than we had been in a long time.
I started to see what he could see that first day. As it took shape, I could finally see through the mess and see it was a very cool house with an amazing history. I would often step back, look around and see the past moving around me.
I would stand in the windows and look out at the creek through that old wavy glass and know I wasn’t the only one to do so. To just stop, to just look, to just breathe. The history and the past surrounded me every time I came to the farm to work. I started to love it.
I watched my husband that year work so hard. I admired him. I found him sexy as hell creating a home for us. I would bring us dinner to eat on milk crates that were scattered in the living room. I would tell him every chance I got how proud I was, how beautiful it was becoming. We always ended those long nights wrapped up in each other in one of the rooms somewhere in the house.
I enjoyed him. I loved scraping century old paint from old windows for hours, listening to him sing or whistle from whatever song he was listening to, working on whatever project was on the long list of things to do.
We were ‘unplugged’ then. We only had electricity and that was also a nice break from the world. No tv, no internet… just work and working together.
There were times there wasn’t much for me to do while I waited for him to finish something, so I would explore the property. The barn, the storage building, the summer kitchen.
I found relics of the past and I more than once wished I could’ve seen this place on its heyday. More than once we have all experienced a visit of some sort from a past resident. I always hope it’s the one that built it and is happy we are bringing it back.
The summer kitchen fascinated me. A two story building that has a curved staircase to the top floor. A massive fireplace with an absolutely gorgeous wooden lintel that I just know is American chestnut.
I found myself standing in the wreckage of this building so many times. I can stand back and just see the hustle that happened in there. The cooking, canning, candle making… I know it was the heart of the home once it was built. It had a small porch and after digging around the scraps of wood and trash that was there, we discovered an old hand dug, stone lined well.
Amazing. Life then really did surround that building. The fireplace, the well, the outhouse located on the back. I feel like the house itself held the sleeping area but the summer kitchen was the center.
But it’s not structurally safe. I only made it to the second floor once. There must be 4000 empty beer bottles in there. Now all of those bottles are broken… smashed against the fireplace bricks… but that’s another story.
So the house grew on me. The land it’s on called to me. The flow of the creek is spiritually cleansing. The animals, the wildlife both air and ground change daily. You never know what is going to come through.
This September will be 6 years we’ve had it, 5 that we’ve lived in it.
It’s become a part of me. From the creek to the land, the barns, the ghosts and the house itself. It’s truly a part of me.
We brought it back together and that year was the best year of my life.
I told him. I told him constantly how amazing he was and how I was blown away that he could see through all that trash and decay to what he turned into our home.
November 2014, just a couple of months into living here, his brother and work partner had a massive heart attack. It rocked my husband to the core. His brother is an emt, had the heart attack at the station. If he had been anywhere else, he wouldn’t be here today. I think they call it a widow maker.
My husband didn’t quite come back from the shock of that. He was not the same. He started to withdraw and shrink away from all of us.
It was rough. I didn’t know how to reach him. I could see him struggling. Some internal demons he couldn’t talk about.
I tried. But he has never been a talker.
10 months later he’s in bed with a 6 foot whore.
He continues to run to her bed for the following 8 months. Often telling me during that time “I’ve already lived half my life. What do I want the last half to be?” I knew when I found out about the affair, much of it had to do with watching his brother almost die.
There were other things too, but I feel that was the biggest.
Now it’s July, 2019.
I still love every inch of this house. I love it more than he does.
I love this property. I’ve explored every square inch of it that I can. He has barely taken a stroll on one of the many trails that winds through the woods.
He has never sat under one of the massive trees by the creek and listened. The land here has so much to say. But I have. I listen.
There’s a section at the end of where I mow that I’ve nicknamed the Cove. There’s rushing water, woods behind me, meadow in front. I go down as often as I can and write, meditate, listen.
As much history is here, I know I’ve now left my own stamp. My love for this place is beyond words. I feel at home.
That’s something I’ve never had. The feeling of home.
I’m often asked “Why don’t you leave him?”
I think I know somewhere in my heart it’s this place I don’t want to leave.
Financially, I could not keep up with the demands of living in a home this old that needs constant maintenance.
I know this. I sometimes think that’s what keeps me here. My kids enjoy it, I love it.
Strangely enough, it saw the best part of my marriage and the worst part. It’s kept us protected inside during the worst of the storms that came with infidelity.
I don’t know how to go. I’ve never had a home.
The foundation here has stood the test of time. But does my marriage have the same strength? Was it ever strong enough to rebuild on after such betrayal? I don’t know.
I have so much to think about.
Sunset time lapse from my kitchen window.