Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

You Are Not Alone

November 14, 2010
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I was driving down the Coast Highway listening to Mavis Staples sing “You Are Not Alone” and I was thinking “Is that a threat or a promise?”  In our abbreviated house I find it difficult ever to be alone.  When the house was intact we all had places to retreat when we felt the need. We had bedrooms aplenty for refuge.  I usually staked out the living room, grading papers or reading on the blue couch.  Tim would come in occasionally play some guitar for awhile before he would continue his work in his shop. With our new, very open floor plan, there are only a few places to sit and be comfortable.  But really, it is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  It just takes a little getting used to this new, unceasing, togetherness.

Tim, Joey, and I are all sleeping in Sam’s old room, the only intact bedroom in the house. 

The room is at the front of the house so the light and sounds are entirely different from our old bedroom.  In the back of the house we hear the freight trains go by, conductors laying on their horns, at around midnight and again at 5:00 a.m.  The first couple of nights I woke up at those times wondering what was wrong.  It took me awhile to realize what was troubling me.  The loss of the train sounds are made up for by the snoring and snorting of the boys.  I am used to Tim’s snoring.  Tim falls asleep so fast!  He is in dreamland before I get to the last syllable of “good night.” He begins his snoring symphony slowly, first breathing deeply, then a little louder, and finally it sounds as if there is a walrus sleeping beside me.  If I can fall asleep in the first or second stage of snoring I can generally sleep through the third.  Joey doesn’t snore per se, he snorts very, very loudly, but thankfully not often.  Joey’s snorts punctuate Tim’s snoring in a way that encourages louder snoring from Tim.

When I was thinking obsessively about how we would manage sleeping in one room, without a proper kitchen, and with workmen coming in and out of our house, I thought it was going to be a nightmare.  I was sure the dirt and dust were going to drive me crazy.  My mantra was that no matter what, I would be optimistic and good natured.  

So far, it really is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Sure, it is dirty and dusty, but now I don’t have to spend so much time cleaning the house.  My routine used to be that on Friday I would clean the house, starting in the kitchen, moving to the den, then the living room, and finally tackle the bathrooms.  Well the kitchen is all torn up, the den is so crowded with our stuff that I can’t really get it clean, and the living room is gone.  That leaves me with one bathroom to spend my cleaning energy on.  So I find myself on my hands and knees making sure that the baseboards are pristine and the tile is glowing.

The makeshift kitchen we are using is pretty rough, but in a strange way I already like it better than the old kitchen.   Even though our kitchen was in a big space, the kitchen always felt small because there was a counter peninsula with a bank of cabinets above it.  Once Tim tore that out, the kitchen opened up considerably.  We brought in the maple base of the European workbench that Tim started years ago, added a plywood top, and called it our island.  All of our kitchen stuff is in open shelves which is very handy.  I can be at the stove and glance across the room to see if we have any chicken stock or oatmeal, or whatever I need for the dish I am cooking.  I am thinking seriously about having an open pantry in the final kitchen, or maybe an open pantry with tambour doors.

We all have become quite knowledgeable about how a house is constructed.  With its drywall, paint, and molding on. hiding the interior workings,  the house always seemed mysterious.  Things would go wrong and Tim miraculously would fix them.  He always said “Our house is a ship and I am the captain.  I just have to keep her afloat” On our Love Boat Tim was Captain Stubbing and I always felt a little like the clueless cruise director, Julie Mc Coy.  Now that all the trim is removed, and we are down to the skeleton of the house, I see it really is a pretty simple system. In essence it is a big box with tubes that carry water and wires that carry electricity.

So now when things go wrong I am much more confident about being Tim being able to fix it.  A couple of nights ago we were sitting down eating dinner and a load of laundry was doing its thing, when all of a sudden a geyser of water shot up from the ground.  When the workmen cut the slab that day they must have hit the waste pipe.  A year ago I would have been freaked out about it, now I know that it can be fixed relatively easily.  We are all more resilient  than I thought we would be.

Still the hardest thing for me is to find a little sanctuary, a place to think unmolested by life’s demands.  I have my office at school and a couple hours in the night when Tim and Joey have gone to sleep.  I also have my car.  I sometimes get in the car and drive down the Coast Highway, listening to music, just to get away.  The renewed joy of driving idly around town is reminiscent of when I got my first car in 1976.  It was a white Triumph Herald convertible and I drove that car all over the place with the top down, music blaring, my long red hair blowing in the wind, feeling young and free.  Now I drive a blue Honda sedan, and I don’t feel very young or free, but the music is still blaring.


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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.