This weekend the house that arrived at the ranch in the middle of the coldest part of the winter, the house we’ve put a few tears and sweat droplets into in order to move in earlier this month, came to life.
Sure, the trim wasn’t up and the outlets weren’t covered, the staircase isn’t complete, the basement is full of dirt and I can’t use my stove, but who needs a stove really?
Or a basement?
All we needed was for the much-needed rain to hold off for a few hours so we so we could enjoy our beautiful front yard and celebrate husband’s 30th birthday with friends and family.
I have to tell you I was a little uncertain about the capabilities of hosting 20+ family and friends in an unfinished house we had barely unpacked in the middle of a wild place. I had visions of small children falling down unfinished stairs, guests twisting ankles on one of the thousand dirt clumps that have yet to be leveled and rain that would force us all to cram inside the dirt filled basement. But when I asked Husband what he wanted to do for his big 3-0 he said with confidence that he wanted to have a party.
At our house.
So I took one look around to gauge, on a scale from 1-10, just how far off we were from looking like a page out of “Better Homes and Gardens,” determined that we were about a 0, took a deep breath and made a few lists.
One for groceries.
One for booze.
And one for Husband that looked something like this:
“Happy Birthday my sweet and lovely man. Can you please accomplish the following before Friday:”
-Make a fire pit in the front yard
-Put up the backsplash
-Prune back some wild and dangerous trees in the yard so we don’t ruin anyone’s good hair day
-Put up a railing to the front door so your grandmother doesn’t plummet off the edge and to the ground 15 feet below her
– And while you’re at it, make sure the lock is on the door to the basement, because, if you remember correctly, there are no stairs on the other side.
– Write down instructions on how to cook a 50 pound brisket
– Put the doors on the closets
-Help me figure out why the new fridge smells like fish
-Call Pops so he can help you put up the giant chandelier that has been sitting in the middle of our living room for three days
-Try not to die on that ladder, I want you around past 30…
-Oh, and tell me what you want for your birthday…
Then I wrote my own list. It looked like this:
-Clean as much as humanly possible in the time that you have between now and the arrival of guests
-Channel your inner Lutheran Church Lady and learn to make some Jello Salad already
-Make sure Husband and Pops don’t die putting up the chandelier
-Buy plenty of booze
I put boxes next to each item and prepared to check them off.
I was feeling pretty good about getting after it all on Monday. And then it came and went. The same way Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday flew by and pretty soon it was Friday and all I had was a long list with no check boxes, $300 worth of booze, one giant chandelier sitting in a box in my living room and 20 or so people thinking their might be some noodle salad and a cake the next day.
But Husband didn’t seem worried. He thought it could all get done in a few short hours. First item on his list for party day? Put up the giant chandelier.
Fifteen scenarios of how Husband could potentially die, three mini-heart-attacks, one broken bulb and four hours later, the damn chandelier was in place.
One more hour and up went the railing while my salads chilled in the fridge.
Another thirty minutes and my Little Sister arrived with cake ingredients, I mixed us a bloody mary and Pops grabbed the chain saw to take care of some wild tree branches while the first guests arrived.
Turns out we didn’t get to the backsplash or the doors. We winged the brisket and held our breath when we reached into the fridge.
And nobody opened the basement door to plummet to their death.
In fact, nobody even got so much as a scrape in the chaos and beauty and wild space that is our unfinished backyard. Our guests arrived with proper foot wear, bearing desserts and dips and gifts and then took a seat in the shade or stood around with a nice cold drink on the hot first day in September to celebrate a man who built this little unfinished dream.
And I was overwhelmed. Not with what there was to do, not with the menu or the heat, but with the sudden realization that this is our home.
And these are our neighbors and our family. And their kids are marching toward the big hill to throw sticks in the dam. My nieces are making up names for their favorite spots and pulling at my hand to take them on an adventure hike.
My Pops and his band are singing around our campfire.
My friends’ laughter seems to be lighting up the moon and my husband is dancing with his mother.
In his yard outside a house he built on a place we fall in love with over and over again every day.
See, it had been years since we had played host to that many friends and neighbors. Living in tiny apartments, in houses in renovation and in the small ranch house for the last two years simply did not allow us the space or resources to embrace and welcome our neighborhood into our home all at once.
But on Saturday we celebrated a big birthday and a giant step in our lives as a couple who has made a commitment to a place, to a neighborhood and to ourselves to work and live and love in this spot, and to keep our doors open to anyone who wants to walk through them, to sit down, have a cocktail or a cup of coffee and enjoy the view and the company.
As I washed the dishes and prepared french toast in my kitchen on Sunday morning for the family and friends who spent the night, I smiled while I poured another cup of coffee and listened to the recap of the conversations from the night before.
They weren’t about the outlet covers, the dirt clumps in the yard or the giant chandelier.
They were about the people who came and ate and hugged and talked and laughed and sang and spilled. The stories were about the kids who climbed in the hills, rode our horses and wished my husband a Happy Birthday.
And I couldn’t help but think that our new house, unfinished as it is, has never felt so complete and it has never felt more like a home.
Happy Birthday Husband. Thanks for helping me make this dream come true.