This is a (house) test
By Janice Lindsay
I think our house tests us. After ten years, it’s still trying to decide if we’re clever enough, hardy enough, or over-all worthy enough to live here.
Of course, that’s impossible. Houses are inanimate objects. They don’t form judgments about people. Everything that happens has a logical explanation. Right?
The first, major, biggest spell of testing came soon after the winter day when we moved into this “move-in condition,” five-year-old, expanded cape on a wooded lot. (“Move-in-condition,” you might have noticed if you’ve ever moved into somebody else’s house, can mean simply, “It looks good.”)
We might have sensed an omen when a snowstorm hit on moving day. Our necessary first step in this new housing adventure was to locate a local plow guy so we might actually get to the new house. The moving van was hours late because it broke an axle on the way. Trying to tell us something? But never mind, we merrily moved in.
“Not so fast,” the house said.
From the beginning, we noticed the occasional sounds of explosions. They reminded us of sonic booms. Because our previous house was all-electric, we did not recognize the signs of the oil burner misfiring. With some regularity, the furnace simply quit. Once it sent heavy black smoke billowing up the cellar stairs. The smoke alarms paid no attention.
One night, we were awakened by an extremely loud, hysterical buzzing. We hastened to follow the clamor to the cellar. Someone had told us about something-or-other that had an alarm in the cellar; we couldn’t remember what it was. It was the septic system.
Later that winter, when the weather brought heavy rains on top of deep snow, I discovered water rising in the cellar, like high tide in a hurricane.
The front door bell rang at unpredictable times, of its own accord.We had a garage door that wouldn’t open, gas burners that wouldn’t light, internal doors that wouldn’t latch, and a faucet that objected to relinquishing water.
On the surface, we found a reasonable explanation for each of these situations. But I could not suppress the feeling that the house was testing us. After all, the previous owners never had any of these problems. At least they hadn’t mentioned them.
I like to think we proved worthy. Whatever the problem, if we didn’t know how to solve it, we found somebody who did. But for the first two or three years, I was a little bit afraid of this house, while I also loved it. What would it think of next?
Apparently the house developed some respect for us, and some acceptance. Yes, the smoke alarms might go off for no particular reason. Gutters might leak. We might get a plague of little toads in the cellar. But the tests have diminished in quantity, severity, and frequency. I am no longer so fearful.
The most recent flurry of little tests, this time electrical in nature, occurred within a couple of weeks early this summer. The DVD player stopped loading DVDs. My husband’s old computer died. Our router took a hissy fit and refused to route. The built-in wall oven emitted a pitiful, steady beep, indicating that the control panel had bitten the dust.
Once again, we have met the challenges with, in my opinion, grace and courage.
Dear House, we are still here. Please admit that, in the past ten years, we have proven ourselves to be worthy and that you, House, are better off because we are here taking care of you. And, by the way, do you think you might stop the testing?
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