And as soon as I wrote the previous sentence and started a new paragraph, it all escaped my mind. What did I have to tell? All right. The family who lived here before us didn’t leave the house in a happy moment, as it happens many times. They couldn’t afford to keep the place anymore. The father had died a few years back, the son had moved out, the mother and daughter were not getting along, and the mother also had health problems. Sad to the bone. The story was that they had to leave the place so that the mother goes somewhere south, to treat a heart condition. The reality we found from mail that kept coming to us for a while – they were threatened by foreclosure in a matter of weeks. The knowledge didn’t come easy to me. I wanted to live in a happy place, marked by good energy. Well, I painted all over the walls, did space clearing in Hindu tradition (the Christian one is still on the waiting list) and got over it.
Along with the stressful energy, the former owners left us with a lot of work. The house needs to be painted, a new roof, a new driveway, new deck and front patio and stairs. We did the roof last year and now we did the deck and part of the front stairs.
I am pretty sure that the new roof is a nasty affair. At the time I didn’t realize that I need to do research on all the things that we change, because the conventional wisdom is not something I want to rely upon if I want to keep my family out of the hospitals as much as possible. I know the roof is not clay shingles or metal sheets, as we have in Romania, where things are still just a step or two away from their natural state. Whatever we have on this house is a mystery, pompously called “architectural shingles”, I believe. Some cheap, tar-based sheets put one on top of the other. At that time I realize how cheaply-made are the houses here in US, or at least in this part of the country, where we live. In my part of the world, we have brick construction that manages to stay intact through centuries, without much upkeep. We enjoy clay shingles and consider the metal roofs a cheaper although just as solid replacement. Tar? I’m sorry, what? We are not gypsies! I don’t want to demean the gypsies here, but they wouldn’t build long lasting houses, because of their tendency to take the road ever so often. In Romania, we were using hard wood and real tile on our floors even in the ’80. Sure, we heard of linoleum, but come on, that dirty, peeling, scorching thing on our floors? What are we, country post office? Recently Romanians are also getting excited with the ease and cheapness of laminate floors, but that is only for city – Ikea minded people. Serious builders have to have real wood. On a side note, Romanians have also visited Spain one too many times and they came from there with the most striking color palette for their outside walls. You will see the crazy colors from the yellow – orange – red family in far too many places. Here is an example, and here, and here. And here. Oh, here too. And a last one. I know you got the idea long back, but I am having fun, so bear with me. Yeah, Romanians go crazy with the colors. Hey, I never said we are perfect.
My point was – I come from a country that is supposed to be much poorer than the US, but people have higher standards for their homes there. Why is that? Over here, where I call it home now, people put vinyl siding on the houses, to make them longer lasting (the wood siding need to be painted every few years). Really, plastic? This is what we can come up with? It doesn’t occur to any of us to use brick? Or cement? Are brick and cement so expensive for americans? What’s going on? It is just local tradition? Is it something more? I can just wonder.
The next task at hand, after the roof, was the deck. The old one was putrid and shaky. We took it down. The first contractor that came told us he recommends pressure treated wood for the new construction, nails and not screws, the railing at 3.5 inches… hey, hey, back up… wood treated how? So I learned that the vast majority of decks in this region at least are made of this probably pine or some other kind of soft wood, improper for construction in natural state, that is treated under pressure with some chemicals to make it stronger than the strongest. What? I know. Why do we have to go through all this processes that alienate us even more from out environment? Just to make it cheaper? Just to infuse it with more “human ingenuity”? Up to what end? Chromate-copper-arsenate, or CCA treated wood was deemed dangerous after decades of use in most backyards and parks of America in 2003, and its use was restricted by the Environmental Protection Agency, because it was proved the arsenic was leaching from the wood. You can imagine the health risks with children touching the wood every day, vegetable gardens in its vicinity and whatnot. That did not stop the use of treated wood. Oh, no. They only changed the formula into something called alkaline copper quat – something which we are still supposed to keep kids away from, not breathe in as saw dust, not burn. Then why on Earth do we still use it? Maybe because most of us don’t have the time or inclination to do any research on it. Or maybe because that is all there is available in the big chain stores?
Oh, I’m sorry. In the big stores they also have the option of composite – another freak, born out of the loveless-arranged marriage of wood and plastic. And that is sometimes more expensive than wood. Can you believe that? People really have lost any sense of real value? It’s like when we were buying rugs for the house and we noticed that many wool rugs were priced similarly to many expensive plastic ones. People just don’t know how to look for quality anymore. Maybe they think if it’s expensive, it must be exceptional. Let the corporations tell us what is worth and what not. Really?
I have seen houses almost entirely made of plastic, here in New England. Like plastic doll houses – plastic siding, plastic window frames, plastic flooring, plastic doors. What is left? Plastic human beings, I’m sure. Hey, with all the transplants, bypasses and replacement surgeries, with all the chemo-therapies, who says we are not already there? It’s leaching into our systems already.
Our backyard deck ended up being made of mahogany. It is natural and beautiful. Cedar was just impossible to find. Mahogany is not the most ecological choice, imported wood, but at least it is healthier for my family. At least that.