Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Yellow House


It’s a big yellow house. I don’t know why I was thinking it was small. Maybe because technically it really only has two bedrooms. The third bedroom is in the attic and you can barely stand up in the middle of it, but for our purposes—guest room—it’ll work. All the other rooms are big. “Rooms” makes me think of my mother. She called apartments “rooms.” We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Maybe that’s where I get it from. Whenever a better apartment became available, we’d move. Up the street. Around the block. Across the hall. My mother would say, “It’s four railroad rooms, make your own heat and hot water,” or “Alice got some really nice rooms on West Side and another one is open,” and the next thing you know, we were packing up.

Every move was an upgrade. We got better and better until we moved down-the-shore when I was in seventh grade, and then finally, bought our own house, a little cape cod on a dirt road where I got my first pony, in Port Monmouth. I thought, this is the country! Compared to Jersey City, where the only horses I saw were the ones the mounted policemen rode, it was the country.

This place, where Kurt and I got the yellow house, is the best of both worlds. It really is the country—I can see a silo out my kitchen window—but it’s still New Jersey. I’m close to everything. I’m ten minutes from town where there’s a supermarket, Rite-Aid, a real New Jersey diner, fast food (three pizza places and one who will deliver!), banks, doctors’ offices, a dollar store, antique shops, gift shops, and a corner bar literally called “The Corner Bar.” It’s got everything!

Best of all, it’s got horse stuff. You could literally walk to our new vet’s office; handy for emergencies and the pocketbook. There were five 4-H clubs alone that we had to choose from, all within ten minutes from the house, three western-wear stores and dozens of tack shops. There’s a Tractor Supply. And a rodeo—Cowtown Rodeo, the longest continuous running rodeo in America. It’s a real horse community! Luckily I didn’t know all this before we moved here or else I would have paid more for the house.

I also didn’t know how big it is. The two bedrooms threw me off. But the rest of the rooms are big. It’s got the biggest kitchen I’ve ever had. The table is right in the middle of it, not pushed up against the wall, just like I always wanted. When I’m cooking in the kitchen and I call Kelly in the living room, she can’t hear me. I have to walk there. I have to cross Texas to get there. My bedroom is so big that when we were painting Kelly’s room, we put all her furniture in our bedroom. I had eight dressers all around the perimeter of the room and I could have fit two more. Plus her bed was in there, my bed was in there, and you could still walk around the room. This is quite an upgrade from our little bedroom in Penhook where the only floor space was a path around the bed.

I also discovered a hidden room. One day while I was scrutinizing the house like a lover gazing into another lover’s eyes—look at the curve of wood over the porch! That’s a Dutch detail! Look at those windows! How tall! Is that wavy glass?! Honey, there’s wavy glass!—I noticed there’s a window up above my bedroom that doesn’t match any of the other windows inside the house. I ran upstairs and looked around. I discovered that there’s space up above my bedroom with no way to get to it. When I called the seller to ask about the room, he was unaware of it. Just what I was hoping. That means it must have been closed off since the original owners from 1925, the Apples, owned it. (What better name for the original owners of an old yellow farmhouse with a big country kitchen than the Apples?)

In the seller’s defense, it’s not that he is completely unobservant. His father bought the place in the eighties as an investment and never lived here. It’s been either vacant or rented out and they never stood outside making visual love to the windows like I have. All they wanted was to keep the roof from leaking so they could get their rent. Someday we’ll break through the wall and see what’s up there. That’s where the treasure is. I saw that on “If These Walls Could Talk.”

One time I did find a hidden room with treasure in it. This was in the Jackson house. We found old milk cans filled with coins (worth about five grand!), baskets, an oil lantern, and faded bills and tax receipts on brittle paper documenting the cost of the house which was less than the coins were worth.

Mrs. Apple would be happy that I’m here. I can tell that she loved it. But the house has been unloved for a long time now and it’s a bit of a fixer-upper—outdated and dirty with olive green counter tops, fluorescent lights, and broken cabinets sticky from the fingers of past tenants who didn’t wipe them before they opened a door.

The windows were so dirty Kelly wrote “Hi!” with her finger. Cracked panes were covered with blue painter’s tape like Band-Aids. There were clogged bathtubs, stained toilets, cobwebs, and the carcasses of insects in all the windowsills and on the baseboards. There’s a wallpaper border in the bathroom depicting a scene of foxhunters in England, torn and peeling.The linoleum floor is also torn and peeling. There are stains on the carpet. The tenants had animals. The molding around the doorways and the side door is gouged from teeth and claws. It smelled.

But it’s got potential! Every day we fix it up more and more and it’s blossoming. I think it’s because it’s getting love for the first time since Mrs. Apple had it because it’s certainly not due to our bank account. We had a few thousand dollars to play around with when we left Virginia and no jobs. We got down as low as three hundred dollars in the checking account before Kurt finally started working. It’s been hairy. But somehow we’re doing it.

I wish my mother could see it. She would come and help me. She would get out a razor blade and scrape the paint from the glass on the windows. But my father and sister have been here, and my niece, cousins, girlfriends… I’ve had more company figuratively scraping windows in the past couple of months than I’ve had the whole eight years I was away!

Maybe that’s why I’ve stopped crying about my mother. When I was in Virginia, I cried about her constantly. I couldn’t stop crying. I haven’t had a crying jag in a while now. I don’t know if it’s because I feel closer to her up here, or it’s the comfort from all my other loved ones around me. I do know that, like Mrs. Apple, she would be happy that I am here. She would say, “Debi, these are really nice rooms.”

15 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

I love old houses and all the history that they've seen. I also like to fix them up and find treasures. That hidden room sounds interesting. Wonder what you'll find. If it's above your bedroom how about a spiral staircase to a sitting/tv room in the future. Ah, so many possibilities.

Good luck with your new house it sounds perfect and so does the town. Let us know how the fix up is going occasionally. I know you'll be busy but it will be fun to see what you're doing with the big rooms.

Tammy said...

The Apple House. I like it. :) And go check out that mystery room. I am dying to know what's in it!!!

Leonora said...

I'm so happy for you Debbie! I know you guys will fix this place up into a perfect home for your family. I also know how it feels to be sad and depressed with an ache to be somewhere else. (I felt that way for the two years we lived in Alabama.) It makes your happiness so much sweeter after you've endured such a trial, no?

sarina said...

Oh I love yellow houses.. When I bought my house in Powhatan, it had ugly brown board siding and I picked a sunny yellow vinyl to wrap the house. It looked great.. in fact, I really miss that house.. it was only 20 minutes from work, had a 9 stall barn, 4 acres and the house had three bedrooms and 2.5 baths.. plenty of room. We sold because we thought we were being squeezed in the size of the land. I am now 55 miles from work, no barn, 1 br 1 bath... but we do have 65 acres.. so if we ever scrape it together (this economy sucks!) we can get our place in shape.

CountryDew said...

I would have had to have broken into the mystery room by now! You're more patient than I could be.

Good luck with the fixing up.

Christina said...

I loved reading this. Please share some secrets about your secret room.

Gilly said...

I just love that house! Your description made me want to come right across the ocean and help you! AND a mystery room into the bargain! Hope there's something more interesting in there than just spiders!! ;)

We will expect updates at frequent intervals, with pictures so make sure you have your camera at the ready!

Beth said...

I love the color of your house, Debi---it's so cheerful and happy. I'm quite certain that the spirit of the Apples is still present there and that they're glad to see their old house loved again. I've felt a spirit in every single house we've lived in.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the progress on your house. I think you have a real gift for decorating.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Yellow is my favorite color! It's so happy and cheerful.

Kurt's doing so much work around here, I can't ask him to break through the ceiling in our bedroom to see what's up there when it's likely to be just an attic with dirt and insulation. I don't think it's going to be tall enough to actually make living space, when I look at it from the outside and compare the height over the window to that section of the house where the "third bedroom" is, but we'll see.

I'm going to try to post some before and after pictures regularly so you guys can see what I'm doing. I can only post a couple at a time because I have bad Internet. And I can only upload and download between two in the morning and seven in the morning! Never get Hughes satellite if you can help it. We had no choice. That's all that's available here other than dial-up.

Cape Coop said...

Darlin' come to visit me and you can piggyback on my internet all day if you like! THIS is the right place for you, and what fun you are having! It sounds as though that window is just a dormer that has been closed off- but let's crack it open and find out!

Jeff said...

You've got a project there, Debi, that will keep you busy for quite awhile. Yellow is my favorite color, too! If the house was built in 1925, I wonder about the "wavy" glass. Wavy glass is not machine made, is it? I'm amazed that all you have for Internet is Hughes satellite or dial-up - you aren't that far from Philly!! You've got some nice big trees close to the house - what kind are they? How much land do you have? In your renovations, keep an eye out for wadded up newspaper in the walls - you can learn a lot about the house that way. What an adventure you are embarking on! Congratulations!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Rebecca, you and I are going to go out and celebrate when I find the treasure!

We were shocked too about the lack of Internet here Jeff. Comcast cable is right down the road but nothing comes this far. Comcast said they'd come to me if I pay $47,238.19! lol The drawback of living in the country, even in Jersey.

I have almost 11 acres. Exactly what I had in Virginia. I kept in mind what you told me about growing my own food.

LadyJennivieve said...

My grandmother had that hunting scene on a set of placemats. I loved those placemats. I wonder who got them when she died...

Cynda said...

I think your mother does see it because she wanted you to be at that house and she is right there next to you. Now I want to see it! I hpe you will show us more pictures!!

Tanya said...

i am happy that you have found peace in your new home :)