My Hovel, My Home: Over the River and Through the Woods

With the onset of the holiday season stress increases with the slow pace of construction.

Over the river and through the woods

To Grandmother's house we go.

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

Through white and drifted snow.


Over the river and through the woods,

Oh, how the wind does blow.

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.


Over the river and through the woods

And straight through the barnyard gate.

It seems that we go so dreadfully slow;

It is so hard to wait.


Over the river and through the woods,

Now Grandma's cap I spy.

Hurrah for fun; the pudding's done;

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie.

I remember learning this song as a child in elementary school and performing with my class at a Thanksgiving show for the parents.   Now, as Thanksgiving looms near, the song has some fitting themes.  The journey through our remodel has felt long and tortuous with the metaphorical biting winds, circuitous trails and painfully long wait before arriving at the much longed- for destination.

With the holidays on the horizon, we begin to fret about the work not being anywhere near finished.  Although we’ll be driving in a car south on Interstate 5 instead of in a sleigh through snowy woods, we are indeed, anticipating spending Thanksgiving with family in Southern California. The thought of leaving and having work cease strikes fear in our hearts.  The thought of leaving and letting the remodel continue without us there to supervise it is equally frightening. Ultimately, it seems to be a more productive choice, however. 

We talk with our contractor the morning we are scheduled to leave.  It is one of the few days throughout the job that he actually arrives before the designated meeting time.  We feel hopeful.  As we go over the list of tasks to be accomplished while we’re gone he seems focused and motivated.  His goal is to have a working kitchen installed by the time we return home.  We tell ourselves not to hope for it, but it does feel like it is within the realm of possibility.

Throughout the Thanksgiving visit, my husband’s family asks about the remodel, wanting to know about every detail of the progress.  They devour the pictures we’ve brought and are thrilled to see things taking shape.  More than once I’m asked:  “Are you excited to see what they’ll accomplish while you’re gone?”  Internally, I wrestle with this question- not wanting to squelch their enthusiasm for us but also not wanting to get my hopes up.  I answer honestly: “It’s hard to get excited about what we hope will happen.  It’s too emotionally exhausting to be disappointed when the project isn’t as far along as we anticipated.”  I can tell they are disconcerted to hear my cynicism.  I don’t mean to sound jaded, but it’s truly how I feel.

We return home the Saturday after Thanksgiving to a house that is only a bit further along in the process than when we left.  The tile backsplash is almost done, a few more trim pieces have been installed and painted, a wall outside is partially covered with a final coat of stucco- and that’s about it.   The “working kitchen” we were anticipating is nowhere near complete.  “Well, I’m glad we didn’t get our hopes up” I say glumly to my husband.  Neither one of us even has the energy to be disappointed.

Our usual default mode when work hasn’t progressed is to find some aspect of the project we can tackle.  We regularly take matters into our own hands as a means of working out our frustration in a productive way.  A few months ago we painted inside our garage when no one was showing up to work. A few weeks ago we spent the weekend cleaning and sealing our granite, wiping down the new cabinets and cleaning the worksite that will eventually be our family room.  This time, we decide to spend Sunday moving all of our belongings back into our home office, which is complete except for a bit of electrical work and the flooring.   I work feverishly all day unpacking boxes of books and office supplies while my husband tackles trying to install the microwave and stove.  It’s satisfying to see progress even if is at the expense of our own sweat and free time.

Normally with the end of Thanksgiving Break, we’d be looking toward the Christmas season anticipating buying a tree and decorating the house.  Now, my stomach churns as I envision the impending holidays with our half finished kitchen.  Our old refrigerator now sits in its permanent home in the new laundry room, which means I have to walk through the construction site every time I need food from it.  Meals are still being prepared on a card table in the living room, so this new arrangement is even less convenient.  I continue to cart laundry to my mom’s house several times a week.   Our main living space is still the “hovel” and with this rate of progress Christmas is going to look significantly different for us than it has in the past. 

The path over the river and through the woods seems to be getting longer and the wait isn’t getting any easier.   We’re ready to shout “hurrah” at the end of the journey, but the home stretch continues to seem farther and farther away.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Catherine October 18, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Holidays are a difficult time to remodel because they are filled with sentimental traditions.


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