We are currently nine months into our nine-month remodel, and I’m thrilled to say, we’ve got about two months to go. This statement makes perfect sense to anyone who’s gone through this process. And for those of you who haven’t been through it, bookmark this sentence for later. You’re gonna need it.
Last week, we hit a major construction milestone: walls went up. We now have sheet rock covering the pipes and wires and framing, giving us a true sense of what the house will feel like when it’s done. And the good news is that it feels wonderful: partly because of the beauty of the design, partly because of the skill of our contractor and his team, and partly because of a little something special we have hidden behind those walls. But before I share what we did, I’m going to take you back a few years, to when we lived in LA.
(Cue Wayne’s World flashback wavy hands and “diddly-do, diddly-do, diddly-do…”)
We lived in LA for about six years, and while we were there, we made some amazing friends, many of them through our beloved preschool. Our friends, Jim and Leslie, are one such couple. The Wilsons are both talented architects, and while they were building their own house, Leslie turned 40. Jim had the brilliant idea of hosting a surprise party for her in their unfinished house. He decorated the empty space with strings of lights, folding tables and chairs, and with him, the rest of us filled it with flowers, food, cake, love, laughter, and the sound of a hearty “Surprise!” when the birthday girl arrived. That night, the house was spilling over with happiness, before the walls had even gone up.
While we were there, Jim and Leslie invited us to take markers and write all over the framing and subfloor: birthday wishes, blessings for the house, dreams for their entire family. So forever, no matter what, that house would surround them with love, from the inside out. I thought this was the greatest idea ever, and I have to say, every time we visit their home, I am transported to that night and all the love that was quite literally sealed into the walls.
Now, cut to a few weeks ago, back at our own unfinished home in Northern California. Our framing had been up for months, but sheet rock had finally been delivered, and the workers were scheduled to put it all up. Inspired by that magical night at Jim and Leslie’s, my husband and I bought a giant package of Sharpies, ordered some pizzas and invited another family of dear friends to join in the fun. Before we started, we made it clear that there was just one rule: only messages and images of love, family, friendship, joy and happiness. And then, after a toast with champagne and sparkling cider, we all went to town. For hours. The children drew pictures all over everywhere and played tic-tac-toe on the handrails and stairs. The men drew full-scale musicians on the walls that will surround our piano. We ladies went to work on my little reading nook in the office and on the entryway. One of the six year-olds wrote, “YAY!” on every spot he could reach. And all evening long, we filled the house with wonderful first memories that will set the tone for the many, many years of living we plan to do in that house.
In the days that followed, I wrote messages over every window and doorway: to my boys, to my husband, to myself, and to all those we love. In every bathroom, behind every mirror is the simple message, You Are Perfect Just As You Are. And at the doorway, this simple wish for our new home:
Now that the sheet rock is up, I can feel what we wrote and doodled radiating from behind every wall. The boys know what’s there for them, and they know what they placed there with their friends. I know what will surround me as I read, curled up in front of the fireplace, and my husband knows what’s all around his desk when he sits down to write. Our family already has so many happy memories and so much love in a home that still has no floor and no tile and no paint and no porch.
And while this process has been far from easy, when it is all said and done, this house will mean so much more to us than any other house we’ve lived in as a family. It will truly be our home – shaped by our decisions, forged with our frustration and patience, cured with our tears and laughter, and infused with lots and lots of love.
So, if you ever build a new house, remodel an old one, or even tear out one piece of tile, consider stealing from Jim and Leslie just like we did. You won’t regret it.
It will be a special secret that you can either share with the world or keep just between the two of you: you and your home sweet home.