Tonight I found myself standing at our crappy little stove thinking, we’re going to miss this. There’s a really fun upgrade to the oven temperature electronic panel that makes it almost impossible to select the desired bake temperature. For example, if I’m going for a bake temp of 425° I press the ⇧and the preheat jets up to 500°. Press ⇩ ever so lightly and I land on 225°. ⇧ again and I’m back to 475°, then ⇩ as I find 350°. I’m getting close! Setting the oven timer is pretty much a five minute game show of The Price is Right (the Bob Barker version) which is fine for most things except the rigidity of baking where specifics matter.
This stove however is symbolic of our Santa Barbara starter home where we got to spend an obscene amount of money on the ugliest house on the block. The location is a dream and I remember jumping to action the minute I saw the listing come up. We managed to do a walk through the next day after which my husband proclaimed that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Admittedly, it was in bad shape, downright disgusting to be honest, but the property had an undeniably comforting and magical quality to it. We can do this, I persuaded, and we did.
The agreement was that we would undertake an expedited gut job, spending only what was necessary to make it clean and functional. We knew we’d be facing a larger remodel in the future once we could cultivate funds and a clue as to what was right for our needs and the property. Glittered popcorn ceilings were scraped, fixtures removed, flooring torn up in some rooms, carpeting replaced in others, bathrooms gutted, kitchen demoed and a fresh coat of white paint on everything. The grounds are seasoned with the sweat and probably a little blood of yours truly and the dear friends who offered their time and manpower. The only things we kept after a deeeeeeeeeeeeeeep clean was a bathtub, a refrigerator and this crappy little stove.
I remember standing at this stove and making fresh popcorn. I’m a popcorn snob, special ordering my kernels and swearing by the Whirly Pop gifted by my aunt Susie. Popcorn was our dog’s absolute favorite treat and he was the very best dog. The best of the best. Ozzie loved the babies too. He would dote on them and clean all the spit up, occasionally licking it straight out of their mouths. He was the pitty-mutt rescue that represented everything right with second chances.
I would stand at this stove and throw popcorn over my shoulder as I was making it, knowing he was right there inhaling every puff. I’m embarrassed to admit the ratio that ended up in the bowl. I know his spirit watches over this house.
This is the house our sweet, tiny babies came home to, followed by long stretches of sleepless nights. This is the house where is seems I spend all my time cooking and cleaning for two demanding little bosses and sometimes can’t seem to remember if I managed to accomplish anything else in a day. This is the home sheltering my own evolution as I sort through the fibers of my being, learning to call myself “friend” and considering my next steps.
This homely little house has taken care of us all. It’s given us safe shelter to lay our heads and open our hearts. Sure, there’s been a flooded garage here and a little mold there to deal with but overall we’ve been well cared for. At the ripe age of 69, this house could have given us a lot more trouble.
As we finalize plans for the large undertaking of breathing new life into this house, I stop to pay it my respects. I’m going to miss this homely little house, this incredibly sweet and often exhausting chapter of life when I have to beg, borrow and steal for a moment to myself. In the future, when I’m no longer marked by the sticky hands and warm tears of toddler tantrums, when I have all the Me Time I can dream of, I’m going to miss this. Deep down I know these are the very sweetest days.