I still think of the windows in our house as new.
Granted, they were installed before we moved in, when our first child was 3 months old and several newsworthy events -- the blizzard of '78, the Jonestown massacre, Three Mile Island ... well, all right, a whole bunch of newsworthy events -- hadn't happened yet.
But the windows still are newish, right? It's true my father-in-law installed them and he's been dead for decades, but surely not that much time has passed. I'm not Laura Ingalls Wilder, coming to you from the olden days. I moved here just the other day, with one infant, one car and one brand-new set of windows.
Fine -- I'll concede the windows are no spring chickens. I can't deny it, since most of them require a crane, or at least arms stronger than mine, to open. Their much-lauded modern flip-out-to-wash-both-sides feature is useless when the windows won't budge. So never mind the windows.
The upstairs hallway and stairwell of our extremely old house, however, were finished several years after the windows went in. Surely this work is new and fresh. I'll acknowledge the walls don't look so new. In fact, the wall above the stairwell, way up by the ceiling, looks like it was kicked by a long-legged mule years ago, long before the mule died of old age. But my husband and the friend who did that job are still kicking. How can their work, which required scaffolding, determination and boyish enthusiasm, need to be tackled again already?
OK, forget the wall. Look at these kitchen cabinets. I've heard a few hints recently -- that is, over the last quarter-century -- about how they could stand to be upgraded. I must say, I'm surprised. I finished those cabinets myself, not long before the aforementioned daughter was born.
The three windows of the workroom, which is now my office, offered lots of fresh air and circulation as I sanded and varnished my way from cabinet to cabinet. While it wasn't just last week that the baby and I came home from the hospital and I saw the cabinets installed in our new kitchen, it surely wasn't years and years.
Or let's say it was. Let's say the ancient house we bought when we had the energy to envision turning it into a building fit for human habitation, long ago reached its acme of physical fitness and now is deteriorating for the second time. We've made improvements along the way: We enlarged the living room, which had been the size of a newer house's mudroom; replaced flooring that had replaced flooring; painted and wallpapered.
We replaced trees, too. Of the six huge trees on the property when we moved in, only one remains, and we look at that one the way people look at a baby who's overdue for a diaper blowout: with both love and apprehension. In place of the old trees, which either fell during storms or were removed before they could, we have planted more than a half-dozen new trees. Some of those are still saplings -- teenage trees, slender and lanky, but remarkably resistant to driving winds. Some, I just realized, are trees. I mean full-grown adults, with trunks too thick to span with one's arms and leaves enough to require raking.
One such tree is a free Arbor Day pine that my daughter -- the same one, again -- and a friend planted when they were in middle school. Not to date these former seventh-graders, but this tree is ridiculously tall. It's tall enough to audition as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, though in your ear, it would never make it. Whether the girls were given a crooked tree or they slanted it when they planted it doesn't matter. The fact is, the tree leans. But I'll let you tell that tree it isn't good enough to overlook ice skaters in New York. I never will.
I'll never stop thinking of everything in the house as almost brand new, either. That includes the house's occupants: two grandparents and a dog who definitely is slowing down. Someday we'll no doubt refuse to budge or fall over, like everything else around here.
Meanwhile, I'm no older than I feel, and so far, I feel new. Ish.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.