It's been the spring and summer of the great construction project. The third floor attic renovation that has curiously managed to take over my entire house, and left me wondering how it can be that we are paying a sizable mortgage payment every month for a five bedroom house, and yet somehow I don't have a quiet place to lay my baby down for naps anymore.
The air compressor, the nail gun, and the drill blast through Nell's nap time every afternoon. She wakes too soon and decidedly too grumpy, day after day. A large shopvac blocks the hallway, preventing me from coming and going to Nell's room except by turning sideways and squeezing past, inevitably squishing a foot or an arm of whichever child is in my arms and eliciting squawks of protest. My kitchen pantry cabinet, instead of holding steel cut oats and almonds and canned goods, was home to a saw and other sundry tools for a week or longer recently. My living room wall boasts four small drilled holes, a means of searching out some electrical question or other, and small piles of plaster dust in nearly every other room of the house belie similar explorations having occurred elsewhere, too.
I've given up trying to sweep the stairs or the upstairs hallway. I've given up trying to vacuum anything, either, but only because the vacuum is literally inaccessible. It is put away neatly in its corner in the guest room... and now covered with the things of our new tenants, my poor long-suffering brother- and sister-in-law who will be living in our newly renovated attic space as soon as it is finished.
A queen sized mattress leans against a wall in our TV room. The second bedroom upstairs, intended to be Nell's "big girl room" soon, would be an ideal place to put a dresser for her clothes so that I wasn't cramming everything for both girls into the one smallest bedroom in the house, into the four little baskets of a changing table. Yes, it would be ideal -- if it weren't currently filled with stacks upon stacks of things belonging to these new housemates of ours.
Even the garage is filled with things not mine, filled to capacity and beyond, so that entering it is nearly impossible and certainly walking from one side to the other would be inviting personal injury, and I can't store Nell's outdoor toys there this summer.
Our master bedroom, probably the only room not directly affected by the renovation and the new housemates, is messy. "Messy," really, seems inadequate to describe it, in fact. But with no other room available to lay the baby for her naps, she naps there, on our bed, and thus every time that my arms are free and I could tidy the bedroom, instead I must vacate the bedroom to let sleeping babies lie.
It's possible that a person might find these events upsetting, even aggravating. Another woman might have reached her limit weeks ago, or even months ago. And I can't say there hasn't been frustration over the course of this project. But it wasn't the enormous saw stored on the nursery floor for several days that challenged my sanity -- no, that just made me laugh. It wasn't the constant noise of the power tools leading Nell to wander the house saying, "Daddy, BANG BANG BANG! BANG BANG BANG!" to describe the process unfolding upstairs.
It was the smell of cigarette smoke on the plasterers' clothing today as they came and went from my house all day long today, slamming the door repeatedly with no understanding of the importance of quiet for children napping. That smell, that wretched smell. It was today that I felt, for a brief moment, as though I might have reached my limit.
And then I poured myself an iced coffee and reminded myself that I have a house, a roof over my head and the heads of my children.
We have a future, this little family of mine, and one where we won't fear for our lives daily. We plan for this future with extravagant ideas like buying furniture someday for those extra bedrooms because we have incomes and we can do things like buy things occasionally. We dwell within these walls, we have food on our table each night, we bow our heads in gratitude. We practice our faith with freedom and without fear.
We have family, these in-laws who are our new tenants, a dearly loved aunt and uncle to our kids, here sharing our home with us for the time being. There are families twice this size not so very far across the globe from us who live together in just one room, and us? We have ten rooms. We have shared pizza nights and glasses of wine and laughter together. We have in-house babysitters who love our kids because they are family. We have a finally-almost-finished (!) attic that will improve the value of our home should we decide to sell it someday, or give us a lovely play space someday if we stay here for the long term.
Perspective. Family. And grace to endure a few more days of chaos. That's what I chose to breathe deeply of today when for a moment I thought all I could smell was the cigarette smoke.