This Old Jerry-Rigged House

blueprints and tools

We live in a house where after you hear the downstairs bathroom door slam for the third time, you will also hear family (and some friends) yell from all corners and floors of the house, in unison, “LIFT THE HANDLE!”

The downstairs bathroom door, it’s tricky.

This old house

I don’t care how carefully you renovate and how often you maintain, when you live in a 112-year-old house, you accept that things are . . . quirky. After this much time, things don’t always work like they used to. Perhaps they never did? The kitchen drawers all require a hip check when extended. If you fail to hold them up, they WILL tip forward and slide out dumping themselves and their contents all over the floor.


I don’t even notice that I brace ALL drawers with my hip, until I go somewhere fancy (Read: anywhere but here) and people comment on my insistence in leaning into all the drawers. Even in places where I know the drawers will stay upright and installed without assistance, I have trust issues and brace them anyway. This is where I generally feel compelled to defend the craftsman of old.

In most cases the original parts of our home are all rock solid and performing admirably. Anything installed in the last two decades or so is what seems to give us fits.


Our brand new c. 2013 bathroom? The bathtub cracked. I will leave you to re-read that.

Surely you misunderstood. Nope. I said it. The bathtub cracked. How does that even happen? I grew up in a house with clawfoot tubs over 100 years old, and THOSE never cracked. I haven’t checked lately, but I bet those tubs are still going strong.

Meanwhile, a brand new bathtub from less than three years ago has a hairline crack along the curve of the back? That, my friends, does not hold water.

The mudroom

Before we noticed the tiny crack that pushed the bathroom higher up on the priority list, I thought it might be time to renovate our mudroom, yet again.

The mudroom gets an awful lot of attention for being a wholly utilitarian room off the back of the kitchen. If, however, you live in a house with closets no larger than notebooks, you appreciate a place to put coats and boots as the true luxury it is.

The former porch

In our case, the space was claimed by enclosing a back porch so the room has the added bonus of a gently sloped floor and being always cold.

There is also an old cistern hidden under the floor. It’s creepy as heck actually. I pretend it’s not there. The day we decided, on a whim, to tear apart the mudroom to make more room for coats and boots since apparently the midwest is firmly wedded to that four season thing.

After school find

Boywonder came home from school to find construction debris and sawdust everywhere.  Without missing a beat, he deftly hop-skipped around the kitchen from stool to bench to counter — never touching the floor. He scored himself and his guest a snack from the jar above the sink. He then reversed the process, all without a break in an unrelated conversation.

Honestly, it was an impressive display of grace, cunning and sheer unflappable lack of curiosity as to what it was we were doing. Frankly, I would like to see a kid raised in a new home manage that. I bet children raised in brand new houses rarely come home to find the floor missing. Poor things.


Meanwhile, I took a quiz on Facebook today (and you know those never lie). I answered a series of highly random questions and with all the science behind those thirty seconds of answers, the quiz decreed that in three years I would be living in Florida.

The thing is I don’t know if I can learn the tips and tricks of another house this late in life.

I suspect that even brand new homes have their quirks. I’ve learned all the tips, tricks and maneuvers that make this old house — and sometimes my blood pressure — tick.


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.



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