What You Can See When You Turn The Lights On
I love my house.
Prior to moving into it, I lived in a central city condo for 10 years. The condo, which I still own (but rent out), is a gem. It was built sometime in the 1960s, and, in my opinion is an architectural wonder.
My unit boasts 15 foot ceilings in the living room, as well as floor to ceiling windows overlooking the palm tree sprinkled pool area. The community is not one of these condo complexes with hundreds of units crammed into a small space. The complex consists of 32 units, all facing each other in the shape of a square.The unit is now within walking distance of the Phoenix Metro Light Rail, as well as several hip restaurants like Federal Pizza, Postino, Joyride and Windsor.
At the time I bought the condo, the closest (and best) restaurant within walking distance was the well-known (and well-loved) Katz’s Deli.
That was in 1999. The low price tag of the condo made sense because while the bones of the structure were cool, the interior of the joint was a mess and needed major TLC.
For nearly a year, my parents helped me remodel the dated interior. For the first time since I had left home just over a decade prior, we spent every weekend together, smashing concrete and countertops, getting to know each other in a new way.
Some of my most treasured memories are from the condo remodel period. Today, the inside of the condo reflects the fruits of our love, creativity and togetherness. It would take something out-of-this world to lure me from the sanctuary of the first little place I owned…
It would take a guy…and an urban ranch house.
The Atomic Ranch Years
James and I wanted to get married. As part of our plan to join our lives and expand our family, I understood I would have to leave the comfort of my little condo. I was convinced I would never find something that would feel quite like home as the condo did.
James and I searched for the right place for months on end. We looked near and far. Our realtor, one of my oldest and dearest friends, drove to all ends of the earth to help us find the right place.
James and I happened upon the ranch house one fall Sunday evening by accident. It was within a five minute drive from the condo. When we set foot inside, just like with James, I knew it was “the one.”
It was a single story brick house on a one acre lot. The entire yard was grass and surrounded in the back by 15 foot oleanders. While it hadn’t been updated since the 1970s, the place was solid. It felt as though a bomb could go off in one end of the house without being felt in the other end.
My favorite room (which we now call “the conservatory” with an English accent) is equipped with a fireplace surrounded by slate. The centerpiece of the room is the biggest picture window I’ve ever seen in my life which faces the massive back yard. It is cozy, and the first day I saw the house, I envisioned myself cuddling up on cold (as cold as Phoenix gets) winter Sundays reading or snuggling with our future children, all while watching our puppy play in the back yard.
The house closed the day after Thanksgiving 2008. I almost didn’t think it would happen, because my first request for a loan was rejected almost contemporaneously with the October stock market crash. The owners were patient as I looked for someone else who would lend me money.
I partially attribute their patience to the fact that the owners were a priest and a nun, children of the former owners. Their mother, “Loretta,” had recently passed away after living a life well into her 90s. Their deceased father, “Robert,” like me, was a Notre Dame graduate.
<We alumni stick together.>
Much like my parents and I had done 10 years earlier, James and I spent the next year and all of our free time gutting, ripping, cleaning, and rebuilding the home in a way that reflected our “collective” personality. Not only was our young and passionate love reflected in the vibrant oranges and reds and blues in which we painted the interior, but we tried to stay true to the ranch feeling that was present the day we first saw it.
The Kitchen’s Lights
My favorite part of the house is the kitchen.
James and I tore it apart so there was nothing remaining but the shell of the four walls. Slowly and strategically, we introduced paint, a tin ceiling, new appliances, custom decorative cement floors and finally, new cabinets. James installed everything (but the cabinets) himself.
As with the entire house, the kitchen is a mix of “old” with “new.” The kitchen lighting is amazing. We have track lighting, a modern fixture over the sink, and an antique Russian chandelier over the kitchen dinette.
Shortly after our baby was born, the track lighting went out. I have been cooking, eating and living in the dark for about three years now. I didn’t realize until this past week how the darkness was affecting my perception about the beauty evident in my kitchen…and in my life.
I think I could have OCD. To a certain extent, I am one of those people like the character Bradley Cooper plays in “The Silver Lining Playbook.” When I want something, I usually want it right that second. When I am looking for something I can’t find, I will destroy the whole house looking for it until I find it, regardless of the day or time.
This drives my husband nuts; without fail, I manage to rope him into my mad cleaning and search missions. Oftentimes if I can’t find something, I blame him (because he “cleans” by sticking the stuff I want in obscure places I would never think to look if I wanted the item). In any event, when I want something done, I can get a little crazy.
This happened a few weeks ago with the track lighting. Out of nowhere, I got pissed because it was broken. It was his fault.
Not the fact that it was broken, but the fact that it had been broken for years without being fixed.
He is the man of the house. In my book, this means he is charged with fixing all mechanical and electrical things that are in need of repair. My job, as the woman, is to point these broken things out to him.
I did. And I had, years before.
Perhaps I was on the verge of my birthday meltdown, but I’d finally had it. I freaked.
The light needed to be fixed. Now.
James lamented that he didn’t have the parts necessary to fix the light. I tried to pin him as I would a witness on the stand.
What equipment did he need? Where could he get it? When could he get it? What was getting in the way of him getting it? What could I do to help? Should I call someone else to fix it?
Call someone else?
That was a low-blow to my capable and handy man.
He promised me he would get it fixed immediately if not sooner.
He got it fixed prior to the expiration of the first week of August. After our regular date night on Friday, we pulled into our driveway, and James said,
“I have a surprise for you.”
I was thinking chocolates. Or something delicious to drink. Instead, he flipped on the light switch as we walked into the kitchen.
What I Saw Once The Lights Were Turned On Again
Having the lights turned on after a long period of darkness gives you a different perspective on your life.
Last night, I was standing in the kitchen making dinner. Having recently cleaned the house, the cabinets and stainless steel appliances sparkled in their newfound illumination. I remembered James and I giddily installing the “easy snap and lock” tin ceiling at 3 in the morning, only to realize that our square kitchen walls were not perfectly straight. This resulted in us having to cut and customize the bordering squares.
I remember making mistakes in the creation of our kitchen, then having to adjust. I remember how easy it felt, when it came to the kitchen, to correct and get on the right track. I wondered to myself why real life can’t feel this way.
I stood in the light of my beautiful kitchen and reflected upon how for a few years, I’ve been feeling in the dark about certain things.
Then I remembered my condo. And the times with my Mom and my Dad, as well as growing up with James and a baby over the last several years. I thought about the sweet in-between.
And how, after turning the lights on again, I once again see how amazing life has been…and is.