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Loving an Old House that Doesn’t Love You Back

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By Heidi Stevens

old_house(MCT)—My dad warned me long ago about unrequited love.

It was more lament than warning, I suppose: “It’s hard to love something that doesn’t love you back,” he says.

We were talking about my cat, who was evil. It was hard to love that cat, so I didn’t. Problem solved.

My house is a different story. I fell fast and furious for this house and it has proven a needy, selfish partner since the day we met nine months ago.

First there was the soggy basement, which revealed itself to be not just leak-prone but also leak-damaged when we (and by “we,” I mean contractors) started peeling back layers of old drywall and carpet to refinish the space.

There was the washing machine, which appeared to have laundered as many clothes as my grandmother did in her 93 years and was equally weary of the task. The only way to coax it through an entire spin cycle was to place a 25-pound dumbbell on its lid, and even that stopped working after the first six loads.

There was the busted furnace.

And the family of rats living in the garage.

There was the frozen pipe the day after Christmas, and the other frozen pipe during January’s polar vortex—the pipe that grew bored of the whole exercise and burst at the seam.

There was—is, actually—the new water damage. So very much damage from that pipe that burst open and flooded our newly refinished basement. The drywall, the baseboards, the floors—all shot.

The dryer will quit next, I figure. We broke up a matching set when we replaced the weary washer, and the dryer has worked triple time since the flood, tackling every towel we own. (In addition to three children, boundless energy and eager hearts, we brought roughly six dozen towels each to our midlife marriage.)

Still, and through it all, I love this stupid house.

I love the way the transom windows in the kitchen reveal a beautiful tangle of branches from the emerald ash in our backyard. I love the welcoming window seat perched atop our living room radiator, and the winding, wooden staircase that leads to the tiny, cheerful bedrooms where my children nestle in for the night. I love waking up to the house in the morning and coming home to it in the evening.

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