A Brief Moment of Civility
This Friday I am having a party at the Cross House.
A party! It is my very first in the house!
The party is to celebrate the house receiving a Heritage Trust grant. However, it will be quite surreal having a gala in rooms which look like bombs have gone off. There is missing plaster, dangling wires, holes in floors, and dust dust dust everywhere. And more dust.
Before entering the house, every guest will have to sign a waiver, stating that they cannot sue me if they vanish into a hole, get strangled on a dangling electrical cord, or any number of potential mishaps inherent with a big old house under a full-blown restoration.
While all the rooms are in various stages of near-ruin, I am, quite perversely, doing what I can to add a modicum of civility to the evening. I have been feverishly, for example, vacuuming the intricate stair balustrades, and then hand-washing each component. The stair looks amazingly better, no matter that the surrounding walls and ceiling look like something in ancient Egypt.
Most of the first floor has intricate Lincrustra on the lower portion of the walls. This is all caked in dust, which even a vacuuming does not fully remove. So, there I am, sitting on my 58-year-old butt, washing every inch with water laced with Murphy’s oil soap, an old rag, and an all-important toothbrush. Even though the Lincrusta will soon be covered in dust again, I am exalted over how much better this wonderful feature of the house looks. For a brief moment.
In the dining room, I have hung up a huge crystal George III-style chandelier purchased for the house. It was a thrill to uncrate the monster and see it glittering in the Cross House. Even though it, too, will be covered in dust by next week, I am exalted over this showy bit of bling, no matter its temporary magnificence, and keep sitting in chair to stare at it in abject wonder.
Under the glittering chandelier is a massive table, also purchased for the house. It, too, has been revealed at last and is all polished up.
In the living room (looking not too bad after months of work) I have uncovered a sofa which has been encased in shrink-wrap since last year. After the party the mummification of the sofa will resume but in the meantime it is a joy to, you know, sit on the damn thing.
There are eight mantles in the house, and all eight have been vacuumed and Murphy-soaped and scrubbed and toothbrushed into a surprisingly presentable state. For now.
In the basement I — nut that I am — vacuumed the four high-effenciency pulse boilers (for the radiators), and then washed each. Then I toothbrushed clean the cute little green/red on/off indicator lights. Upon completion, I stood back…and smiled.
In short, for the first time since owning the house some parts are VERY clean all the while being surrounding by hard evidence of bomb damage. This past week, I keep wandering slowing through the many rooms slightly awestruck by the surreal juxtaposition.
The rational part of my brain (a very small part) thinks all this cleaning is a waste of time. It is, really, but an inner knowing disagrees. For, isn’t it important, on a long-term restoration project, to occasionally step back, bring out the water and soap and all-important toothbrush, and do what you can to make the rooms shine? As a reminder: This is what I am working toward.
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