The Love Shack

By Rose Ann Sinay

The newspaper listing described it as the coziest Cape on the street, which was just another way of saying it was probably the smallest house in the neighborhood. That didn’t deter me. After all, it was just the two of us. How much room did we need? And besides, I loved the address. Who wouldn’t want to live on Maple Avenue?

The realtor took my husband and me up a set of concrete steps that led to the front walk, and the home to a family of six. The house with its weathered shingle siding was indeed tiny. I marveled at the thought that so many people could fit under its roof.

As we walked through the chopped up maze of rooms featuring walls with patch-worked paneling, we heard the front door open.

“Oops,” a woman said, stopping short as if she hadn’t seen our realtor’s car in the driveway. Her large white badge identified her as an agent of another agency. “You don’t mind if we take a little look, do you?” she asked waving her clients in the door. “We’ll be quiet as mice and give you your space.” She flashed a smile and turned to her clients. “I told you it was adorable! It has so much potential. It’s going to go fast; I just know it.”

She’s right, I thought, and found myself listening to her sales pitch. We had already seen half a dozen houses in our price range, and this was the best of the lot.

I looked at the makeshift, orange (trying-to-be-peach) cabinets and pictured simple wooden cupboards in its place. The one and only bathroom jutted out into the kitchen. I could see the toilet if I stood in the middle of the room. I couldn’t easily conjure a way to deal with that.

We would have to gut it, I decided. A blank canvas. I had lots of ideas, and my husband was good with his hands. He could build almost anything. Between the two of us, we could transform this mixed-up, little house into a beautiful, spacious home. Suddenly, I didn’t want to lose it to the couple behind us who had been anything but quiet as they came up with their own ideas.

I poked my husband in the side. “Let’s put in an offer.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” he said. “It will be a lot of work, but we can do it.”

Within twenty minutes, we had started the paperwork to become first-time homeowners.

Three weeks later, our offer was accepted. We secured a mortgage and signed the papers. The house was ours – and the bank’s.

We planned to move in over the weekend. I arrived first to figure out where everything would go. We hadn’t been back inside the house since the viewing and hasty bid.

I walked into the kitchen, placed the box I was carrying on the counter, and proceeded to cry. Without the curtains and appliances, the room was even more naked and ugly. The orange cabinets looked a dirty tangerine in the morning light, and the patch-worked paneling stopped short where the refrigerator and stove had been. The linoleum floor was scarred and dirty. The single window on the longest wall was visibly crooked. There was nothing I could do to improve the room except to close the bathroom door – which I did. I roamed the empty house looking for one redeeming room. What had we done?

By the time my husband and friends arrived with our belongings, I had calmed myself down, pulled out my cleaning products and scrubbed the kitchen until the offending orange paint lost its muddy tinge. The floor was still ugly, but it was clean enough to eat off of. Nobody said it was going to be pretty.

During the next few months, we tore down walls and rerouted wiring. We installed new, chestnut stained cabinets and built a center island. Yellow laminate countertops made the kitchen look happy… or at least habitable. The offending bathroom was relocated into the Cape’s attic which would later become our master suite.

Little by little, we removed the old and made it new. We found linoleum with a delicate yellow and green design that complemented our new avocado stove and matching fridge.

My husband cut out the side of the house with a chainsaw and installed sliding glass doors. We partitioned a section of the space, designated it a sun room and filled it with plants. The crooked window was removed and a larger, perfectly square one was put in its place.

We broke through walls, created a built-in sofa (it wasn’t comfortable but looked good), and made drapes that matched the pillows. We bought everything on sale and scoffed up the carpeting that was on clearance. Strings of colored beads, purchased at a yard sale, were used to replace an inside door.

Our weekends and evenings were consumed with tearing down and building up. We were young and strong, and our house had no rules. We wallpapered a bedroom with a wild print and covered the living room with a shag carpet remnant that wasn’t quite long enough. A bookcase was built to hide the exposed area. Our renovation had become fun project instead of work. We learned to create what we wanted, to take chances, and to do without what we didn’t need.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of our first home – no before and after, or during. In those days of our youth, the present was eternal – there was no need for pictures (sad sigh).

But, we’ve never forgotten. How could we? We had laughed and cried, fought and celebrated as our house took shape. It was a time of changes, discovery and foundation building.

Our home, like our relationship, was a work in progress filled with the promise of a beautiful life.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer typing away in sunny North Carolina. Her articles/stories have been published in The Carolinas Today, The Oddville Press and The Brunswick Beacon.

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11 Responses to “The Love Shack”

  1. Diane Q says:

    I so wish there were pictures of your first house for others to see, but the important thing is you have the everlasting memories locked away. Once again what a wonderful story…❤️

  2. Mary says:

    Excellent, Rose Ann! I also cried when we got possession of our first house, a real handy-man special. I even called the realtor to try and get out of the deal. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Tammy says:

    What wonderful memories you brought back. There truly is something very special with your first house and you captured it beautifully.

  4. Beautiful Story! Very much like ours. I share your enthusiasm for that wild and crazy time when we had a lot more energy and very little money! We had fun! And so did you!

  5. Your story made me think of when we purchased our first. The green indoor/outdoor carpeting came from the patio outside…inside and covered the Kitchen floor. We made major renovations, but that image is forever with me. Like you, I wish I had photographed it. Nobody believes it. Enjoyed your story!

  6. Rose Ann says:

    Isn’t it funny . . . today, we take pictures of EVERYTHING with our cell phones, and yet, back then we didn’t give the “before and after” a thought. You just did it. Glad you had those fun and interesting memories of your own :)

  7. Gwen says:

    Rose Ann. What as sweet story! You and Terry were living on love being newly weds, so The Love Shack is a great name for your story. I remember your charming little Maple Ave. home well. Your details of it brings back warm memories of over 40 years ago. I’ll have to look in some old photos of mine as I might have some from my bridal shower that was held in your living room of the Love Shack. Keep on writing and keep in touch.

  8. Rose Ann says:

    Mary, I hope your handy man special turned into great memories. Looking back on it is always so much more fun than while you’re doing the work!

  9. Rose Ann says:

    Oh the memories!! I hope you can find those pictures–to see it one more time. Thanks, Gwen for reading and going down memory lane with me!

  10. You and your husband did a magnificent job accomplishing your dream house. Not only that your great description of it was outstanding as well. Watch out for the woman card though.

  11. …It’s easy to read a nice story, and take for granted the writing skills that made it so readable. I’m a bit of a writer, myself, and so Rose Ann’s writing skills do not go unnoticed by me. The best actors make it look like they’re not acting. The best writers get you hooked from the get-go, and the reading is effortless. This was another gem.

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