Unfinished: The Story of a New House

Photo by Petra Keßler on Unsplash

My family moved from my childhood home into a new house in a new town in 1987. I was 8 years old. The first time my parents drove me to the new house to show me where we would be living, I was confused. It was a field, and it felt like it took forever to get there.

My child brain wondered why we would be living in a field, in the middle of nowhere.

“We’re building a new house,” they said. It sounded exciting to me. I imagined photos I’d seen in magazines, but that’s not how our new house turned out.

We stayed in an apartment for a few months, and then moved into the barn that had been built on the property that was converted for living so we could stay there, waiting.

Waiting for a house, that it turns out, that would never be finished.

We started living in in the house in 1988, but it was not the magazine spread I expected.

Some of the floors remained concrete for at least a year, and some walls were unfinished. I could slip through the exposed studs for a shortcut from the living room to the kitchen pantry closet.

Even after it was finished, it was never finished.

Some walls were always unpapered, just bare drywall for years. Some rooms got remodeled years down the road while others remained unfinished from the start.

In 2003, after I was graduated college, married, and soon to be expecting my daughter, my parents announced they were moving.

In order to sell the house, it had to be finished. So the last months they lived there were spent finishing all the projects, closing all the unfinished holes and exposed insides that we had just overlooked for years.

Some rooms even got a complete makeover.

The kitchen was redone with blue Corian countertops and stainless steel appliances. A contractor even built a nice island with a new built in range oven.

It was nicer than it had ever been when any of us lived there.

The staircase had never had railings the entire time the house existed, until right before my parents sold it. The pantry never had a door. Half the doorframes never had trim.

None of us ever got to live in the house the way it was supposed to be. The house was in our family from 1987 to 2004, almost 20 years, and it was only completed so it could be sold for the best selling price.

“man and woman holding hands” by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Now, I live in another town in another state with my own family. My relationship with my parents is quite different, and I wonder sometimes if that unfinished house was a preview, a peek into what was going to happen to us.

We just all failed to see the train wreck at the time.

We got so good at overlooking things other people would notice: exposed wire coming from the outlets, unfinished walls, doorways that never had doors. We also overlooked our own resentments, failures, and mutual hurts.

The only difference was, by the time our family collapsed, it was too late for a renovation. We couldn’t put up new wall coverings, change the floors and get new appliances to repair our broken relationships.

No amount of spackle could fix our broken hearts.

Years of misunderstandings, resentments built up within us just like years of wear and tear on our unfinished house made it necessary to redo and renovate what should have been complete from the start.

That house still stands, solid, livable. I drove by it on vacation a year ago, and I was struck by how familiar it all looked. I remembered when it was home.

It’s my family that took the wrecking ball.