The Sunroom

This is not a story about travel. It’s a story about the things that we put off in order to travel and what happens when we focus.

My husband is a builder. He’s one of those people that sees visions of greatness where none currently exist. That’s how he bought his house in the Northland. He chose a home that had been foreclosed on with furry mold and standing water in the basement and a ‘bonus’ room, as they would say on House Hunters, on the back of the house. What was there was a nightmarish mess of hodge-podge add-ons completed over the years by people with no business holding a hammer. What he saw was a sleek, mid-century modern cottage, the blank slate for all of his design ideas.

He bought his home in 2008 and immediately got to work, rearranging staircases, building bathrooms, and vanquishing mold that might have cured cancer. He was focused. He was industrious. In 2009, he met me, a free-spirited, travel-addicted writer. He got distracted.

We got married in 2010. We continued working on the house but worked on our finances as well, paying down debt and then rewarding ourselves with trips to exotic places. He loved to travel and we travel well together. We made memories as a couple that can never be replaced but the years crept on and little was done to the house.

One project in particular was a big goal–the sunroom. The addition on the back of the house was falling off. No foundation had been laid and the ground had settled after it was built, creating a volunteer skylight in one corner. The roof was sagging and the ceiling had partially caved in and it was filled with. . . stuff. There’s no other word for it. But he saw a bright, airy room that would function as a sleeping porch and sunroom, a place where we could relax and enjoy nature without the annoyance of mosquitoes. He said he thought it would cost about $500 to fix since he could reuse most of the materials. I laughed and said, ‘We’ll see”.

Fast forward to last summer. The project began and almost immediately we realized that the structure was in even worse shape than we had imagined. Termite damage. Bad wiring. Nonsensical building materials. Terrible roofing. It was all there. But with the help of his father, my husband took it in stride and tore it down to the ground, poured a proper concrete pad and started raising the structure that would become the sunroom. Spoiler alert–it cost more than $500.

Fast forward almost a year. In the past year, we took trips and made memories but they were more conservative, as we saved money for insulated windows, architectural shingles and what seemed like miles of drywall and planking for the ceiling. We spent weekends working–he on a ladder, me in the kitchen cooking for him and his volunteer crew of our friends and family members (thank you, everyone!). And now, nearly a year has past and I’m sitting, typing away in the bright airy room that houses a set of vintage furniture, a day bed, and a breakfast nook, working in the artificial outside of our room.

What my husband has–vision–is what I lack. And what I have–follow through–is what he lacks. And what we have together is the teamwork to make a $500 project turn into a $10,000 addition to our house that we both adore. We sacrificed our time for a while but his vision was sustained from the first time that he set foot in this house. He didn’t know that I would be in it or that our soon to be born daughter would play on its floor, of course, but we never really know those things. Sometimes visions are incomplete. If we knew exactly what we were waiting for, the payoff wouldn’t be as satisfying. For us, the payoff is not just space, but the experience of working together on a project so immense that it seemed overwhelming at times. Looking back, we can barely remember the disaster that it was. We only know the joy and happiness that will exist in it now. And that’s a pretty great payoff.