Why am I indoors on a gorgeously sunny spring Saturday? I could be hiking the Tallgrass Prairie but instead I am vacuuming the 1894 wood plank library sub-floor of an historic old house. WHY?
I enjoy the mindlessness of the work and a special feeling of being a tiny part of the restoration of a grand old house. I would be doing this for my own Victorian house if I had not bought the family mid-century house my dad built. Yes, I have work to do at home, but I need a break from the emotion involved there.
Methodically and meticulously I vacuum wood shards and sawdust out of cracks and pull nails while I inquire within. Ross had briefly asked, “Do you really want to…do you like doing this…?” I haven’t given him an answer, partly because I haven’t yet formulated the words to help him understand. People don’t comprehend how comfortable I am in construction zones, because I grew up in a home perpetually under construction. Maybe that is one reason why I am drawn to helping Ross.
I realize it is a complex combination of motives even I may not quite understand.
Something gave me hope the first time I read The Emporia Gazette, March 2014, New owner gives breath to historic Emporia home. It was during my shadows of grief and depression, still reeling from Mother’s absence in our house and other deeply rooted family issues that insisted on my attention.
It was an inexplicable moment that defies human understanding when I read the article’s every word. My mind’s eye can still see a photo of Ross’s silhouette inside the cavernous hull of the Cross House staircase. I noticed an unusual feeling that I want to be there and meet this man.
Reading about Ross’s vintage lighting business, I looked for a way to connect. I desperately need new mid-century lighting for my house. I checked out his eBay store, sent him an email, but got no reply. Since I believe everything happens in Divine Order and Perfect Timing, I didn’t think much more about it.
By summer, again I reinvented my life and took action to get out and live in my Emporia hometown, not just inside my family’s house. I volunteered for Dirty Kanza 200 and it changed me. I kept working on lots of emotional healing and by fall I spoke my truth to others. I finally had the big shift in October when again I stood up for myself about the concrete staircase resurfacing. Isn’t it interesting how house restoration can be a metaphor for personal restoration?
January 3, 2015 I saw another Gazette article Hidden Emporia with Ross MacTaggart giving an inside tour of the old post office. He seems to be an architectural expert! I recognize his name and it was immediately confirmed in an adjacent story about The Cross House renovation moves along. Oh My God! (OMG!) I dove into every word and learn Ross has a blog. What have I missed!? Again I took immediate action, engaged in making blog comments that include self-disclosure about growing up in my Emporia mid-century home. Mine may be the house Ross couldn’t find when he bought The Cross House.
Again, now why am I inside preparing a floor to be covered with oak? Because I CAN! I am no longer confined to a bed or an elaborately cushioned recliner that I can’t get up from without an intensely careful plan. OMG! I CAN help someone else, for no good reason other than I want to be of service to what I believe is a remarkable and highly visible improvement to my hometown. I’ve seen too many grand old historic buildings suffer and some were razed. I am uplifted by Ross’s amazing passion for restoration, not just his Cross House, but preservation of any building’s historical integrity, even my mid-century home.
Standing in the living room we take a break and visit about blogs. Ross exclaims, “YOU HAVE A BLOG!? Why do I not know that? Will you send me a link?” I agree shyly without saying he already has my Google ID and could easily find it, because… OMG! It’s a mess. I’ve ignored my website for a year. I haven’t posted on my blog since when? And before that it was mostly about my depressive challenges. My readers don’t even know how wonderful I am after finally flipping my life last October.
Following The Flow rarely took me back to the blog. Now it has, because I can’t send Ross a link until I clean up some things, make it more presentable, like vacuuming my own house before I gave him a tour. Oh, WHATEVER! My website is better than it used to be and it doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be better. Nor was my house perfect when Ross saw it. What-frickin-ever! Let it go.
Sunday is another totally gorgeous afternoon and I find myself walking down to help Ross again. I go west to Union so I can come upon The Cross House from the north to get a long, slow look. I walk past many familiar houses on the outside and linger long in front of the vacant green Squires house that Ross longs for someone to rescue. Past the two inhabited Squires houses south of it and the Splash n’ Dash car wash, The Cross House comes into full corner view. I see the remains of the prior owners work and relax knowing it will be respectfully covered. Across 6th Ave/Highway 50, I walk very slowly in front of the grand old mansion, even pause for a moment to breathe it in. Looking at the mostly repainted front, a warm familiar sensation of understanding ripples through me. Now I get it. I don’t have to just admire it from the street any longer. I get to go INSIDE now and become personally acquainted with it, even if only by vacuuming.
Growing up in Emporia, of all the Victorian houses I admired, this was always my favorite. The impossible reality of ever living there deeply buried that fantasy. It was only safe to dream about owning a small, quaint Victorian home. In the 1970s, on two brief glimpses inside this treasure, I envied my friends who lived in apartments made from this Grand Old Queen. All the years I watched it decline, my heart hurt. Now looking at its façade, still incomplete, it’s absolutely fabulous and fills me with a new breath of hope for this house and our community.
I want to strip wood so I can learn how, and also visualize the Tiffany Blue walls behind the stained glass windows that Ross seems to be agonizing over on his blog. He asks if I’m afraid of heights. No. He drags the scaffolding from the living room into the library and thinks he needs to find a stepladder for me to mount it. I look at the intermittent horizontal poles on the end and decide to climb them like a ladder because I CAN. The strong odor and fumes of the denatured alcohol trigger a coughing response in me. He makes certain I am okay with this while I silently work my internal Healing Magic to stop the response. I’m fine and strip paint for two hours.
I don’t mind being inside The Cross House on a gorgeous afternoon, because the whole room is flooded with daylight through the clear gigantic windowpanes. The light exquisitely reflects the stunning beveled and stained glass above. No photograph can do justice to the experience. Indeed, I am honored and joy-filled to be of service here in any capacity. Thank you Ross!
It’s dangerously close to tax time and yes, I’m consciously aware it’s another convenient excuse to avoid my work there, but that will get done. This is part of my commitment to the reinvention of my life, to Follow The Flow, do whatever makes me happy, be nice to myself, love myself. Find a balance with my online virtual life and get out into my community and build real-life relationships with real-life local people. Yes, some of them I met on FaceBook, but let’s be real, have real conversational threads, eat together, walk together, work together, look each other in the eyes.
Ross and I take a break. It is a joy to listen to him weave his intricately detailed stories and really HEAR us both uproariously Laughing Out Loud together. How does it get any better than this?
Note: I’m not done. I want to perfectly edit this post. It’s too long. I whacked it from 1500 to 1300 words, but then trying to whack it down to 1000, it increased to 1400. Whatever! Let it go. Thanks to the reader for hanging in here with me. I’VE GOT TO GET MY TAXES DONE NOW!
© Copyright B. Grace Jones 2015 All Rights Reserved.