Between putting in the offer and closing on May 19th, we only had 2 months to make a plan. It wasn’t buyer’s remorse that Ben and I were feeling, but there was definitely some palpable anxiety about how we would juggle our busy work and family schedules while taking on a mammoth full-home renovation. “The Plan” (in very scary quotes) was pretty simple: no kitchen meant a lot of grilling and takeout; no laundry meant using the laundromat; and one working bathroom for a family of 6 could mean only one thing – no privacy for anyone, whatsoever, for the foreseeable future – no complaints! A simple plan is a genius plan, and this one seemed simple enough.
Strangely, not everyone in the family was as ecstatic about what lay ahead. The teenage folk, sulky and unexcited about the idea of moving, were going to need lots more convincing. But we didn’t have time for coddling the youth! So while doing our best to avoid the doom and gloom death stares from those not paying any bills, we also made moves on the practical plans that would bring our new home back to life and functional once again. We enlisted local cabinetmaker, Joe Guinta to build a custom kitchen and Frank Imperial, a general contractor who has been renovating homes for over 30 years. With Frank came Ivan, a seasoned roofer who has also been in the business for decades. The pre-stages of our pretty insane strategy were starting to shape up beautifully.
Besides planning the actual move and dealing with the selling and buying of our homes, I whiled away many hours of my spare time on Houzz – the perfect place to dream of your future self, living a magazine staged lifestyle, surrounded by the right combinations of throw cushions, light fixtures and calming hues of grey. In other words, I had buried my head completely in the sand and was enjoying myself thoroughly. I see it now, almost a year later, that this was exactly the right mindset to have in order to build up the vast energy reserves for what lay ahead.
When the long awaited move in date finally arrived, that beautiful spring day was a perfect compliment to our spirits – bright, warm and alit with blossoms. We dragged our mattresses and some select boxes out of the PODS into the front two living rooms, forming the family dormitory. This arrangement was really going to make the teenagers happy! We knew we had one evening of peace before the onslaught of contractor white vans would arrive with chaos and sawdust in their wake. This was our time to take it all in and enjoy the moment.
Ben took me for a walk down our new garden to one of the Exton Park paths that begins just off our property. He wanted to show me the stone ruins of the springhouse that he found that used to serve the residence. It is located about 300 yards from the main house, down an incline and past a stand of trees; some mature enough to have witnessed those who made this same trip when the house was first occupied. Once we arrived at the springhouse, I stood still for a while, taking in what remains and trying to imagine what it must have looked like when in use. The spring still runs under the ruins, but the floorboards and roof are long gone.
After spending months worrying about how I would make meals for my family, here stood the home’s original refrigerator. How did they do it? To keep your food stored, safe from animals and rot, and all the while making sure you had enough to support the household, season in and season out. My mind boggled. For me, a hot meal was a quick drive or phone call away, with barely a second thought.
If I was on board with “The Plan” before, it was nowhere near the commitment I felt at that moment. This incredible place, timeless and in so many ways still untouched by the centuries, was now our home – passed safely into our hands from those who had come before us, it was our turn to make our life here.