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Memorable Make-Overs

I love TV shows that feature old house make-overs. They make it seem so easy. Just tear out a wall here, add a window there, replace linoleum with inlaid tile and carpet with hardwood floors. Cover washed-out walls with chartreuse or fuschia, scarlet or dove gray paint and viola! A tired-looking old house has become a vibrant new-looking one.

One memorable make-over took place in the late 1940's or early 50's. My grandparents' "bath room" had a screen door and half of one wall was screen wire too it was otherwise known as the back porch. A large galvanized wash tub was hauled in from the yard, water was heated in a kettle on the kitchen stove and assorted grubby, grimy grandchildren took turns bathing.

Then one day granddaddy started a construction project on that porch. Planks were erected and plywood sheets nailed up to form walls for an inside bathroom. A real store-bought bathtub was installed along the outside wall, a commode and sink attached to the wall between porch and kitchen. Water lines were extended through the kitchen wall and a solid door was hung for privacy. The porch was never heated and neither was the new bathroom, but what a difference a tub makes! One you could stretch out in, lazing around in foam from a capful of bubble bath just like back at home in town. Now each and every grandkid could have his very own bath water, imagine that! It was a wonderful make-over.

Another make-over the year Tim and I were married was particularly memorable. Although he lived at Creekside, he owned a rental house where we would live after our December wedding. For convenience sake my son and I moved into the house during the summer.

The house had a tiny kitchen so Tim decided to enclose the carport to enlarge both the kitchen and living room. It seemed like a good idea at the time. His building contractor cousin drew up some plans, promising an immediate start so they'd finish in plenty of time for the wedding. Things didn't go exactly as planned, however the construction crew didn't arrive until the week after Thanksgiving. Then a few problems developed along the way.

First, no water. The outside laundry room was carefully disassembled (the new laundry room would be inside the new kitchen). I came home from work that day to find no kitchen water. No bathroom water. No commode water! No workers, either. They'd all gone home. We had to lug in water and eat burgers and pizza for what seemed like forever. But we did have lights, we did have heat, microwave, refrigerator, and television. I figured we could rough it for a few days.

But before the water was turned back on, I came home from work one day to find no electricity. No lights. No heat. No microwave. No refrigerator. No television! I could make do without a shower or microwave but I could not make do with no heat and no television! I threw a major temper tantrum and the workers had our electricity back on pronto. My nerves were beginning to fray.

Next the crew started building a new outside wall where only metal posts had been in the carport. They installed a new raised floor, outside door and steps. At the same time they tore out the old living room wall. Of course, there was no heat in the new part yet. About the time they got the outside wall half-way up, the coldest cold snap of the year hit. By now we were well into December. Only a flimsy sheet of plastic separated us from the freezing temperatures outside. To make matters worse, the new part of the house had no real doors, only doorways. We piled on coats, hats, scarves, gloves, extra blankets and quilts, everything we could find to keep warm at night until those last few bricks were in place. With a couple of space heaters here and there we had relative comfort until the new heating system was finally installed.

What a glorious day it was when we could finally flip on the thermostat. There was this one problem: when you wanted cold air, you got hot. When you wanted hot air, you got cold. Until this little glitch could be solved we just adapted to the fact that if you wanted heat, you pushed the thermostat down to 50. Pretty soon it would be 70 degrees in the house.

There's more to the story, of course. Through several other major and minor construction catastrophes, Tim and I were married on Christmas Day and held the reception in our newly remodeled house. It had taken both our families and every minute of many hours to get that house in some semblance of order those last few days. I vowed never to live in a house being remodeled ever again! Where, oh where were the make-over magicians when I really needed them, back in 1984?


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