“Really? The house is still standing?” John asked into the phone with me hanging on his shoulder listening.
“Ok, we’ll be up on Saturday morning.” He hung up the phone.
We both sat with a thump. Shaking out heads in disbelief, we kept murmuring, I can’t believe the house didn’t fall.
Finally I grasped that our entire porch, the porch that wrapped around two full sides of our house fell to the ground.
“The porch is what sold me on the house.” I said as if it mattered.
Ice built on the roof, slipping between the porch and the house, finally tearing the porch from the house. I just couldn’t believe ice could take down a porch large enough to simultaneously hang a hammock on, host a dinner party on, and cultivate a flower pot garden on.
I underestimated the ferocity of a Maine winter. By the time my blood thickened to ice-crystals and snow covered my first floor windows, I had learned my lesson well.
Unearthing the house from the collapsed porch was worse than the fact that it fell. We didn’t need more work!
In our early days of home repair, we hadn’t learned the trick, “If something is destroyed, cover it and begin again.” No, we stripped the house naked, redressing her in lovely layers of new. We left nothing of her old self except her bones.
Aviation cable pulled the second floor peak to a semi-straight tilt. We jacked first floor beams to an almostbutnotevenclose to level. We replaced windows. We removed ceilings and let Hedgehog nests rain on our heads. Neighbor’s cheered when the old chimney fell. We pulled up two hundred years of cat-pee soaked flooring. Our hands filled until nails, insulation, and siding ran into the street.
One long evening, my cousin and I sat on the second story floor playing cards while we waited for John to return with building supplies. The entire front of the house was removed. From our interior post on the floor, we talked to people in the street passing by.
Nothing halted our determination. Not even hunger, although I consistently begged for lunch breaks. For the longest time we had no water in the house. We took no showers over the weekend. We worked. We caught rain water to brush our teeth. We trudged through miles of muddy field, cutting through a patch of woods to use a port-a-potty at the baseball field. We worked, always holding the hope that one day we would rebuild the porch to its original
I regret we never did.
We did build a little half porch/stoop in the front of the house. I obsessed over every floorboard we cut and nailed. I wanted to seal the wood in a clear water sealant, so we could enjoy the pureness of a porch. John and I even worked in socks to keep a mud-free porch-ette.
Mud is a season in Maine. When the snows melt, you’re up to your armpits in mud. Maine mud can consume cars, small children, and possibly pets. It’s not to be taken lightly. Mud season found us laying a porch.
Every board was perfect, clean, and waiting sealer when an old woman and her dog rounded the corner, heading right for our house. We put down our hammers and nails, ready for a break and friendly chat.
I stood regally as a dirty, smelly woman could stand, waiting to receive visitors, but before I could yell GETYOURMUDDYBEASTAWAYFROMMYPORCH!!!, her devil dog jumped, planting all four muddy paws on my sacred floorboards. Clear became opaque as mud splattered my socks and sent my nerves into an IwannakillsomeoneNOW frenzy.
“You may as well go back to where you came from.” The voice of the devil dog’s mother said. “You won’t like it here anyway.”
Her disturbing words broke my death gaze from her dog. An old woman stood before me adorned in at least ninety years of meanness.
I only had one other conversation with her. She and her devil broke loose when I was planting flowers on the hill just below my once grand porch. She stopped long enough to frown at my dirt covered front and say, “You must like to be dirty. I hate dirt under my fingernails.”
The walking piece of unlovable female history and her devil were known far and wide in our region. Not long after our second collision of personaltities, she was found alone in death. Rotting too long in her home before someone finally found her.
Till today I regret my short encounters with this old woman. Although mean as a nest of scorpions, she was alone in life and death.