I grew up in a house that was a century old. The stairs creaked, it was a little drafty, and when my parents bought it, it needed lots (and lots and lots) of tlc. My parents saw something in that house I’m sure very few could. Their vision of turning that musty, dusty, old house into a home became a reality as they planned, gutted, painted, tore down, built up, and everything in between over the next 25 years. I can’t remember a summer going by without renovations being made.
When I was five years old my dad decided to dig out a basement. On one particular summer evening, I remember slipping inside our back door with my mom and sister to take a break from playing and get a drink. My dad was working below. As We stood in the kitchen we noticed the wall start to move. My mom rushed us out of the house and screamed at my dad from the back yard. There are few things I remember well from five years old, but the image of my dad running up the hill and the house caving in behind him I can play in my mind clear as day. I remember watching the pink sunset that night and the dust settling as my sister and I sat in our yard terrified and my parents rushed around to assess the damage and make calls. Our kitchen and part of the upstairs has fallen in where my dad had been working.
That disaster was the start of the most memorable summer of my childhood. Dirt piles everywhere, tractors coming and going, huge pipes to crawl through. Countless English papers were written about those particular three months of my life for the next two decades. Forget the trips to Disneyland, the vacations to sandy beaches and amusement parks. THAT summer is what I look back on with the fondest of memories.
If you were to ask my parents to honestly recall the events that took place that evening and the months that followed, you would likely get a much different story. While we were romping around playing Peter Pan on dirt piles and unearthing century-old artifacts, my parents were battling insurance companies. I’m sure many nights were spent stressing over architecture plans and building permits while we slept soundly after a full day in the sun. On top of all the stress they were facing, my dad broke his ankle while working on the project. Their adult reality was night-and-day different from ours as kids.
Earlier this spring my husband and I embarked on our own project of rather large proportions. We knew when we moved into our old home in the country we would have to fix the septic system at some point. That point came sooner than anticipated, and, as most projects go, everything that could go wrong, well, did. In a very big way.
Piles and piles of dirt and sand, tractors coming and going, trees being torn out. Fighting county regulations and praying the inspectors would be flexible, reasonable and kind. I almost cried as I looked out the window the first day to see a muddy hole where our giant, beautiful pine trees once stood.
But among all the chaos comes an entirely different story. Our three boys wouldn’t tell you about the phone calls and the plans, the permits and the worry. Their story begins with the coolest tractors that currently line our driveway and Mr. P, who drives them that let them climb inside and check them out. It’s about mounds and mounds of sand and dirt, running from one to the other and getting so dirty their bath water turns to an icky, brown, thick consistency. I would imagine it would include eating frozen pizza (a time of two more than once, I’m embarrassed to admit) while the water was turned off and mom couldn’t do dishes. THEIRS is a story of a spring worth remembering.
Sometimes as adults we long for those care-free days when troubles were simply an adventure. We remember the “good old days” and forget that we are remembering with a child-like view. I have certainly had flash-backs this month as my boys have dug in the dirt and shouted with glee while my husband and I stress and wished I was back on that side of life.
Then I think about my parents. When they tell the story from those many years ago, they tell of the adventure, the little miracles along the way, and the FUN the kids had as we experienced the excitement. As we face adulthood and all the challenges that come with it, I hope we can live vicariously, even if only a little, through the lives of our children. We will undoubtedly have to face the bills, the paperwork, the phone calls and the frustrations, but they don’t. I hope I can look back and remember the joy on my boys’ faces and see moments like this through those innocent, child eyes. As adults, let’s remember to stress the stress, carry the burdens, and pay the expenses. But when all is said and done, let’s let our kids be kids, and let’s remember to try to see the world even if only a little through their child eyes. Because theirs is the story worth sharing.