The Cross House
I started work on the Cross House a year ago today.
And what a year it has been.
I first saw the house in 1999, when Debbi and Bob Rodak had an open house shorty after they moved in. I was awestruck and mesmerized by the huge structure (almost 9,000 square feet on four heated/cooled floors), and had a desperate, aching yearning to be a part of its resurrection.
As the years passed, I often parked across the street and stared balefully at the house.
Then, in 2013, while looking for properties on Zillow, there it was. The Cross House was for sale.
On March 1, 2014, my first day in the Cross House as owner, I worked almost twelve hours. Had a ball! Was up/down all four stories dozens of times, and all over the house.
Then I drove home, feeling great and with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and excitement.
When I parked in the driveway, and opened the car door, I could not move. I am not kidding. My body was frozen in a sitting position. For those reading this under the age of, say, 45, you will have no idea of what I am writing about. For those older, you will smile in recognition.
I finally pushed myself out of the car, and was frozen, still, in a recumbent position. I was on my feet, but my upper body was bent way over. I could not stand up, and so hobbled over to the door.
I felt very very very old.
It took twenty minutes for my body to became erect again. I had never before appreciated the joy of verticality.
Day Two at the Cross House? It took ten minutes to stand again.
Day Three? Just a minute.
Day Four? No problem. I felt twenty again. Sorta.
I write all this because in addition to all the standard exciting things about restoring an old house is the effect that the project is having on my old structure. One does not consider this when young.
I must emphasize, however, that I am convinced that all this up/down, climbing scaffolding, bending over, and hauling stuff around is GOOD for me. They say that if you do not use it you lose it. I suspect this is true and assume I will be in MUCH better shape in ten years time by owning the Cross House than if I had not made the purchase.
Because the house is so physically demanding, I realized about six months ago that I needed to be in better shape for the house. Thus, I improved my diet, and have since lost a nice chunk of weight. Whoee!
It is a great relief to state that there has not been a moment, even a second, when I regretted buying the Cross House. Indeed, I normally feel a constant low-level (and often high-level) tingling excitement about the whole great endeavor.
Whew. This is good.
I had worried before the closing: Will this be THE stupidest thing I have ever done?
It is hard recalling my pre-Cross House existence. I used to work seven days a week restoring vintage lighting. My life was nothing BUT vintage lighting, 24/7.
Days and days would go by and I would not see another soul. The town I lived in was but 500 people.
Today, I interact with people all the time. There are those working on the house with me. There are people I meet because of the house (the house attracts people). And there are several new friends whom I am greatly enjoying, having met them all because of the house.
In short, my life is a lot more fun than it was a year ago. And vastly more interesting. My brain is having a ball (SO much to be thinking about and solving and designing and sleuthing).
Most nights now, when I go to bed, my head just on the pillow, I smile.
In year one, a lot has been done. A lot.
In addition to my Year End Report, I have since done numerous posts about the columns being resurrected on the front porch (last post), posts about the thrilling discoveries regarding the original finish of the interior woodwork (last post), and posts about the living room and library going from rooms which looked like bombs had gone off in them to rooms which look like, well, rooms (last post). There have also been amazing archival discoveries (last post), and dramatic discoveries about tile (last post).
The constructions funds are now gone (they had to be spent in one year) — great sigh — so out-of-pocket rather than financed will mostly be the norm in the future. Ouch!
However, the Cross House was just approved for a huge grant. So, zounds & whoee! And I am applying for tax credits and an energy grant. These funds are vital to help restore the Cross House, as a full restoration is well beyond my means.
Too many big old houses die a slow death because they just soak up money, and I am deeply grateful that the Cross House is clearly blessed in receiving support.
I am old enough to experience with wonder the internet, computers, and tiny smart devices. I feel kinda bad for young people who cannot have this sense of wonder, because these things have just always been there.
But I still recall mimeograph machines! Do you?
I started this blog because of the Cross House. There was so much interest in the house, and there was so much cool stuff happening with the house, that one day I thought: A blog!
I thought blogging would be a chore. And when, when, did I have the time?
Somehow though I found/find the time, and as it develops I really love blogging! It is (so far) not a chore but rather a pleasure.
A significant aspect of this pleasure is having people comment. I never thought the blog would reach so many people (one day the blog had like 3,300 hits. How did THAT happen?), and assumed a readership of perhaps a dozen old-house die-hards.
Through the blog comments I meet a lot of really interesting people, get excellent advice, have intractable problems effortlessly solved, and my heart just sings at the encouragement and support. I love you guys!
FEELINGS I CANNOT EXPLAIN
Many many times this past year I have been suddenly overtaken by an awareness: I feel like I have been waiting my whole life for the Cross House.
And my life also feels right in a way it never did before.
AN EVENT I CANNOT EXPLAIN
A few months back I was giving a tour of the Cross house to Jim and Sue (not their real names). In mid-sentence, I stopped because Sue was crying. I looked at Jim, and he quietly said: “It’s OK.”
So I remained silent as Sue cried.
After a while, Sue dabbed her eyes, and said: “I am sorry, but you see I am, well, an empath, and I pick up feelings.”
Sue went on: “Sometimes, not often, the feelings I pick up are not from those people around me, but are rather…of those long departed. And as you were talking about restoring the grand stairway, I felt this surge of great happiness from a woman. I do not know who she is — Mrs. Cross? — but she is clearly joyful that HER house is being so lovingly attended to.”
In my very first blog entry, I wrote (in part) the following:
Just before signing the sales contract I wondered: When was the last time I did something crazy? I had not expected the thought; it just popped into my head.
When I was younger I did a lot a crazy things (no, I will not let you read my diary). In retrospect, many of these actions almost wrecked my life, but some, some, proved deeply nourishing. And, you know, even some of the disasters make me, today, smile when I think: I did what? I admit to a certain pride at the impressive, glittering foolishness of some of my actions.
In 2014 I was fifty-seven. As I have grown ever older I have also grown ever more cautious. This dynamic is not unique to me, but…should I, could I, would I be willing to, for perhaps one last time, joyfully jump off a cliff and toward…?
The last crazy thing I did was in 1996. Had eighteen years really now since passed?
The thought stunned me. Eighteen years! Was I now frozen in a kind of old-age conservatism?
At fifty-seven was there enough boldness left in me to fuel THE craziest thing I had ever done?
The question stopped me cold.
The answer catapulted me off that cliff.
I have no sense. And, obviously, I am immune to a rational sensibility.
Funny though, since jumping — arms outstretched, a radiant smile blazing across my face — I feel many years younger.
Incaution may be a magic elixir.
A year later? I am ecstatic I made the leap.