The kindest description for the house where we raised our nine children, would be quaint. Picture a sprawling, two-storey house built in 1886, with all sorts of quirks. Three sets of steps converge on the upstairs landing as the result of creative home renovations. A window became a doorway to a hundred-year old addition which then needed its own set of three steps before anyone could get through this new doorway. Someone with an odd sense of humour cut a 4 ft 10 inch high doorway to the babyroom, squeezing it under the slanted roof. (When I walked into this room in the pitch dark, I banged my forehead against that door frame every night for the first month after we moved in). That doorway needs another set of three steps off the landing to reach the threshold of the bedroom. Logically, the two shortest people in the family shared this bedroom.The most absurd design feature, though, is the fact that there are six doorways leading out of the formal dining room and another six to the outdoors.
The bathroom, added in 1949 when a local farmer installed electricity, is so tiny that the tub is not even 4 ft. long. I must have a sadistic streak because the times I have laughed the hardest concern my husband and this bathtub. Once I stumbled upon him wedged in the tub with his knees drawn up, trying to keep water off the floor as he rinsed his hair with a princess shower head. I laughed so hard that I ended up on the floor. My husband did not even smile.
Laughter is usually my weapon of choice against the irritations life throws at me but is difficult to laugh at our shallow well which dries up continuously, forcing us to get a truck load of water from the neighbouring farmer. The toilet water pump is in the barn, surrounded by hay bales but still manages to freeze in the winter. We employ ingenious methods to thaw that pump but when it doesn't work we pail in water from an old fashioned pump ourside.
I simply must whine about one more irritation. If you plug two appliances in at the same time in the kitchen, the power shuts off and I resort to sending a kid running down to the cellar to turn the power back on. (I do mean a cellar, with huge oak beams and 2 ft, thick stone walls). That cellar is home to three freezers stocked with our home raised meat and vegetables are kept in the cold storage room. The kitchen pantry is tucked in under the stairs with shelves and old-fashioned hooks to hang aprons and cloth bags of flour, rice and sugar.
The decorating theme of this unusual house is Early Childhood Art and it is everywhere, on the fridge, on cupboards and walls. Too many plants add to the sense of colour the eclectic combination of furniture is at least comfortable. Generations of former owner, who were all full-time farmers, believed in 4 inch spikes for building barns as well as hanging pictures, So those 4 inch spikes dictate where mirrors and pictures hang because they refused to come out of the old plaster.
The list of quirks is even longer long but it all adds up either to frustration or comedy and we choose to laugh. Yet we also love this quirky house with its thick, pine plank floors, wide wood wainscotting, original door knobs and engraved hinges and stained-glass window.
Now into this absurd house, picture eleven people living in five bedrooms with bunk beds, 13 dressers and huge trunks because half the bedrooms have old-fashioned hooks on the wall but no closets and there is no linen closet. Organizing the clothes and belongings of eleven people is not an easy task without proper storage. I should not have to explain further except to remark that I once lost a grade one reading book for three months in a dress-up bin. You can surely picture the chaos as I madly flung socks about in a 3 foot high wicker basket full of unpaired socks, trying to find a pair or two to throw over the banister to a child rushing to pull a coat and backpack on before running down our long lane to catch the schoolbus.
This is the scene for all sorts of mix-ups, and mayhem, many of them cause by the house itself. I reacted the only way possible,I laughed. Our laughing transformed that house into a very, very fine house with two cats in the most comfortable chair, a dog that tripped visitors by the door, goldfish on the counter and a guinea pig that squeaked for food every time the fridge opened.