Paper House

paper house

I enjoy doing home renovations. I’ve done plumbing fixtures, lighting and fans, wood floors, laminate, vinyl, exterior trim repair, wall repair, drywall, painting, tile, shower pans… really, I’m game for anything. My husband is a trooper, encouraging my efforts and helping.

We have (we had) french style doors from the master bedroom to the master bath, which  disintegrated and fell apart, which I have never experienced before (a hollow door that pops its face off so it has to open in layers) and I don’t know how this happened, except to say that the previous owners of the house were not so good with home maintenance, so there has been a lot to repair in this house. We’ve been there for two years now and have spent probably an additional third of the house’s value replacing and/or fixing things (and we live in a pretty fancy neighborhood; this was not an inexpensive home). I think the previous owner just stopped using things that broke, like: “oh, we don’t need hot water on that side of the house” or “we just won’t use the pool spa or lights” or “we don’t need to repair or replace the gutters; we’ll just pull them off the house;” “who needs sprinklers in Texas anyway” That’s a gripe for another day. However, I also have to mention that said previous owners had three chihuahuas. I personally am a cat person, but I recognize that all pets do a lot of damage. Small dogs pee on things, so many of the doorways have …let’s call it water damage. This wouldn’t be a big issue except for previously mentioned lack of maintenance.

The point is that I removed the french doors to replace them with a barn door. To avoid having hinge pockets in the trim and to take care of the problem of swollen edges at the bottom of the doorways, I decided to pull out that part of the trim and replace it. When I began to pry it out, I found that it is a composite engineered wood, which is fine when it is new and well-maintained; not so good when it has gotten wet and swelled. When you remove it, it just chunks into paper strips. I might hope that my house is made of something more solid than paper, but it is another good reminder of how much of the house is, in fact, just cosmetic. These door trim boards hold no weight and have no purpose other than to cover up the place where layers of wallboard meet. In other words: their function is merely covering the unsightly.

How much of my life is also spent worrying about covering the unsightly? How much of me do I hide from my friends and family hoping they won’t see my perceived ugliness?  I would hope that my internal house is made of something more substantial than paper. There is strong framing under it all, hidden away under layers of plaster, wood and paint. I wouldn’t want that to hang out all over, but it does need to be well-kept and strong for the trim to even serve a purpose. Perhaps it is a metaphor for private life and public life. I’ve heard quotes from people saying things like “don’t compare your daily life to someone else’s highlight reel.” (i.e. don’t compare my framing to someone else’s trim). Either way I interpret that, I still come to the conclusion that I don’t want my trim to be a cheap, flimsy illusion instead of authentic quality.

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