One morning last summer in Colorado, while the girls slept in, Bill and I hopped in the pickup and drove to my family home about 20 minutes away in Little Woody Creek.
This white clapboard, green shuttered, rambling house looks a little out of place in Colorado where everyone usually builds “mountain homes” replete with huge pine logs, antler chandeliers and Navajo rugs, but that just makes me love our old Colonial even more.
My mother moved our family here when I was 7. She had eight children and proceeded to turn every big closet into a bedroom and every sofa into a bed, barely cramming us all in. We had one bathroom (yup, 7 girls 1 bathroom), 27 acres, and a big red barn. I walked to school everyday through the hay fields with my best friend Emily Smith, who lived up the road. And thus my love affair with Little Woody Creek began.
Over the years this house has become the center of the family. It has hosted all of our Thanksgivings, Christmases, and 4th of July BBQs. Six of my sisters were married there: three in front of the fireplace and three (including me) under the big cottonwood tree in the back yard.
Eventually my mother decided the house was too big for her and another era began. My older sister moved in and raised her three children within its embrace. And yes, they too, walked through the hay fields to school every day.
My Father died there in 1985 and my Mother in 2009. Their ashes are buried together under a rose bush in the backyard.
A lot of deep living has happened in that house; a lot of ritual and meaning. And in this modern world where ritual is shoved aside in service of convenience and meaning is replaced with material possessions, there is a sacred place in my heart for that Little Woody Creek house.
But last summer after Bill and I arrived in our pickup, we climbed into a D9 caterpillar excavator, raised the bucket over the roof of the living room, opened its jaws, and dropped the lever.
I started to tear that house down.
Here’s the story. Last Christmas, thanks to my family’s generosity, Bill and I became the proud owners of my family home in Little Woody Creek. The thought of growing old in that house (okay, growing older) felt like winning the lottery.
But it turned out the house was built with super glue and staple guns. The final blow came with the engineer’s remark,
“No one should step inside that place without a hard hat.”
With a perfect ironic twist I had to tear down the very home I was trying to preserve.
But…. WE DECIDED TO REBUILD THE EXACT SAME HOUSE ON ALMOST THE EXACT SAME SPOT!
We are giving the soul of the home a new body. We found a fabulous designer Lonni Paul who, in the spirit of What the Flicka, is a single mom with two wonderful kids, trying to juggle it all. When I told her we wanted the same “feel” in the new house as we had in the old one, she insisted on visiting Little Woody Creek before the house was torn down. She walked through the house quietly, drinking in the ambiance, and has been my north star ever since.
She GETS IT!
I have never had a designer before, and after experiencing how talented and SMART Lonni is, I swear I will never do another project without one. Actually, without Lonni!
We are going to build it well. We are going to build it as if it was built a hundred years ago and as if it will last another hundred.
This new body will be a hundred feet farther away from the creek and closer to the potato field, but hopefully the soul won’t mind a bit and will continue to swell with more Thanksgivings, Christmases, weddings, and grandchildren walking to school through the hay fields.
The building project itself seems full of family and meaning. Our contractors, Divide Creek Builders, are a local family who have been building houses for generations. Max and Gus Filiss (cousins) immediately built a serious fence to protect the rose bush that shelters my parents’ ashes. Dean Filiss, the father, has spent hours planning how to save the two lilac bushes, that my mother planted outside the kitchen door.
So as we proceed we wanted to bring you along on the journey. We have been scouring showrooms, we joined HOUZZ, we have a gazillion boards on Pinterest devoted to plumbing, tiles, doors, lights, flooring, etc.
We want faucets, sinks and tubs that look antique, we found one! Kohler has an “Artifacts” line that is perfect. We even tested out some bathtubs in the showrooms.
Well, here we go. There are a lot of decisions to make in joining the past to the future, choices with the guide of tradition as our Polestar.
I will send updates every once in awhile and since I am terrible at decisions, I might ask you to weigh in.
Any electricians out there that want to get into show business?
Here is to home, family and deep roots.