I was asleep in the upstairs bedroom of my dear friend’s house with my 10-year-old daughter, waiting for the call. My husband was standing watch on higher ground while our street filled with water during Hurricane Sandy. He could finally get back in when the water level was low enough and he called me from the destroyed version of our house, half a block from the Navesink River. What he said will always haunt me because I knew what he was going to say before he even uttered the words.
“It’s bad. I don’t know how to fix this.”
My heart sank at the sound of his despair. Yet, I knew how it would be fixed---insurance money and a builder who understood our urgency to get back there and continue scrambling around like the over-worked, under-paid, sleep-deprived yet fun and creative people we were before our cozy little headquarters---and I do mean little--- took a hurricane bath. From minute one I decided not to get depressed and started yapping out the silver lining. The house had been renovated twice and it was still somewhat dysfunctional for a family of four. It was missing storage and an extra bathroom. Kitchen counter space was lacking and no matter what, I could never completely clean for that uncluttered look I lust after on HGTV. Because I believed our house had architectural indigestion, I was kind of hoping the storm would take it down.
Be careful what you hope for though! What I didn’t factor in was the lag time between the first conversation with the builder and tucking ourselves in for a good night’s sleep upon completion of the project.
I stood in my friend’s kitchen with no power and no clue what we were going to do. We needed a plan. She and her kids were taking off for North Carolina to see her brother while school was closed and the power was out. I couldn’t help but cry as I said goodbye to her. The look in her eyes told me she didn’t get it. “I can’t go home,” I said. “Everything is going to be OK,” she promised, “and you can stay here for as long as you need to.”
Arranging to stay with my in-laws was a temporary solution, but I knew we’d need another plan in place when that got old.
Each time I remembered we couldn’t go home because there was no home to go to inspired a rush of anxiety pumped adrenalin followed by nausea. I couldn’t get into my own bed and lose consciousness. I couldn’t sit on my favorite leather couch--- something I actually craved every day---and let it swallow my exhaustion. I realized it was almost as bad as not being able to see someone I truly loved and felt calmer to be near. I never fully understood the actual vibrational power of home until it was missing.
Another friend came to the rescue with a house on the real estate market. There would be two months that we could stay there before it closed. And that is where we set up our new comfy spot, even though it was huge and a bit spooky to us, while waiting for our new digs to be transformed.
Fast-forward 10 weeks. We now have what we call the “Groovy Beach House” for its new beach-y colors, dark hardwood floors and bold molding. Our little nest also has new closets, a second bathroom, a laundry area, a kitchen island and a cement crawl space. It was still the same size, but now there’s no wasted space. Every inch was well-appointed. Later, it was raised, so we now have an improved water view. The master bedroom is still in the same place, but now we have a deck to the outside and new built-in cabinets giving the room new meaning.
It was worth the wait. However, now that my children stand taller than I and we all need more space, the house is up for sale. I anticipate revisiting that feeling of not being able to go home when we sell it and move. Of course, things have a way of working out. I’m choosing to remain positive. We created this home and will create a new one wherever we land.