My imagination has been caught by old homes. You know the kind: the ones with worn, wooden floors, run down fireplaces, scratched and faded kitchen counters. Homes that haven’t seen a bit of paint or been touched by a bit of sandpaper. My imagination has been caught by neglect.
A couple weekends ago, we dropped by an open house for an old, century-old, three story home on the other side of Toronto. We always enjoy a little dreaming disguised as research. Or is it research disguised as dreaming? We’re uncertain at this point, but it doesn’t really matter. We went to this open house. It was the kind of house for which most realtors don’t hold an open house. A sign on the front door warned us of the condition of the house and turned children away. Inside, the neglect was evident in all corners of the cold house. There were burn marks on the floor in the corner of the living room, possible evidence of squatters taking advantage of the vacant nature of the house. The upstairs bathroom reaked of urine. The vinyl tile floors in the third floor bedrooms were peeling and ripped. The walls were filled with messages from the lost underbelly of Toronto, phone numbers and names scrawled in pen.
The house was incredible.
It was incredible for what it used to be. A magnificent family home. With six bedrooms in the place, a beautiful fireplace, a decent sized kitchen, I can only imagine the family that original lived there. And the ones that came after that, until the moment it fell into the hands of someone who mismanaged and neglected those walls. It was incredible for what it could be too. The potential called from every floor, every room, every corner. I could tell which walls would come down. I could envision the beautiful kitchen that could fill that space. I could imagine the bedrooms and the bathroom and the attic offices. I could almost picture the basement apartment.
This house was incredible for what it is now too. It has stories. It’s seen so many different people. So many different situations. It’s history is written all over it – the grandeur of its far past, the descent of its recent past. I couldn’t help but appreciate everything about it, even in its current state.
Occasionally, I wish we hadn’t leapt so headlong into renovations on our house. Occasionally, I wish we had worked with the house we had bought, moved in, used the kitchen, put rugs down on the worn honey-coloured floors. I wish we hadn’t knocked down the walls and removed the kitchen window. I wish that, just for a month, we had settled in and fully appreciated our little house for what it is*.
This winter, we will be finally ripping out the last of those old wood floors and finishing off the dark bamboo floors that fill the rest of the house. In a way, I have to admit, I’ll be sad to see it go.