November 1st, 2010. Day of the Dead. The realtor hands me keys to this 1930’s ‘fixer upper’. A friend, upon first seeing the house said “Oh! This house is so you! So spooky!” Darby went to work. My brother and I crept up the stairs with a crow bar. We’ve been anticipating this for weeks. I peel back a portion of the dark blue eighth inch ply board “There’s drywall!” We start yanking off all the blue board, rip out the shoddily built two by two closets. Then into the east room; pink ply and pull off all of those.
Tavis has to head out. I descend to the kitchen and pry up a portion of the vinyl flooring and there’s old fir underneath. I am ecstatic. Ask any carpenter; demo is fast, dirty, satisfying but what I was hoping for was hidden treasure. The house stood almost a hundred years on what was originally main street of this town, somewhere in these walls there’s bound to be things left behind. I wanted to tear the place apart.
Darby gets off work and comes up to the house. He looks around, speechless. I stand sweaty, breathless, grinning; gently swinging the party bar in my right hand. ‘What – have – you -done?! How are we going to live here?!’ By ‘live here’ he meant my contract up at the farm started in three weeks. I’d be gone for over two months leaving him with this disaster I’d birthed. Optimistically, I said I could get A, B and C done before I left. This included packing up our apartment downtown and moving into this beauty.
East room. The dusty rose ply board was covering mud wasp nests, abandoned but lots of them. They’d eaten out the gypsum and used it to fashion their kingdoms. In renovation triage this room became priority.
Bagged up all the sawdust insulation. My friend Siebe swung by with his carpentry pouch cause he ‘wasn’t working’ and was ‘bored’. He helped us fir down the two by four framing so we could fit six inch batt insulation between the rafters. When I took off the drywall closing a four foot cavity between the wall and the roof, I shrieked.
Toys! 1940’s newspapers! WW two propaganda art! A creepy child’s rocking chair! Old tins and boxes, a box of receipts and postcards! At some point in the mid to late forties the upstairs attic was converted into two bedrooms and all this stuff was tucked in and sealed off. On purpose? By accident? Sadly, I had to throw half -if not more- of it out from mice living, shitting and pissing on it over the years. I salvaged everything I could though.
Three more parts to come – the toys, World War two newspaper headlines and propaganda art celebrating womens war efforts.