Gut Job

Spring brings a warm, fresh beginning to everything outside while inside it echoes an inspiration to clean up, open windows, and grow new life in the wet dirt.  Fresh leaves bring new beginnings as students graduate and young couples start new lives together.

This week I had the honor of going back to my hometown to present an award at my high school.   My childhood experience was of a small town that is barely recognizable now.  Over the last 35 years, the town burst out of its one-stop-light size to a sprawling suburban destination.  The current graduating class has tripled the size of the group that moved onto adulthood with me.   Nostalgia smacks me in the face every time I return.  This time, I arrived early enough that I had time to drive by my childhood home.  Driving in my neighborhood I recalled streets by the houses named for people that no longer live there.  When I turn the corner to the simple mid-century ranch I called home, I’m shocked at what I see.

My childhood home has become a renovation project.

The yard my father painstakingly took care of was littered with dandelions and all the shrubs ripped from their beds.  The house was completely devoid of any curtains and the windows covered in dust.   White declarations of “No Trespassing” and “Legal Permit” were nailed to the familiar blue door.  The sight of it all was too hard to comprehend with a casual drive by the property.  I pulled into the driveway to investigate further and confirm that the first place I called home was indeed a complete gut job.


Definition:  gut job (noun) gət jőb  1. Radical alteration to building; the restoration or repair of a building that includes the removal and rebuilding of the interior.


Once I realized that the construction workers had gone home for the day, curiosity got the best of me and I got out of the car and walked around the house peering into any window that was clean enough to see through.  The parquet flooring my parents decided to cover up with wall to wall carpet was replaced in the living room with beautiful hard wood.  A stark contrast against the 1950s fireplace we hung our Christmas stockings on which was still intact and covered with plastic.  I speculated if the fireplace was next on the demolition list.  The kitchen was a shell of chalky white walls pickled with wires and pipes; a room devoid of the overhead cabinet that my brother always knocked his head on.  I ran to the back yard to see if I could peek into my old bedroom.   The new design had moved my closet and put a door directly into the adjacent bathroom.  I found myself admiring the ingenuity of a renovation that would have made my teenage years a dream.  Wow, my own bathroom!  I daydreamed about who one day would use the room where I dreamed about teen idols, played records I checked out of the library and arranged my stuffed animals.

As we drove away I found myself saying out loud several times “Wow, I can’t believe someone’s gutting my house!”.   Part of me longed to see the familiar blue curtains in the big picture windows and the ornamental cherry tree blossoms tower over the house from the back yard.  But they were all gone.  Someone, rightly so, decided it was time for an update.

Hours later, when the awards ceremony finished and I started to head home, all I could think of was the house.  I was excited someone wanted to bring it into the modern age.  I was struck by how significantly things can transform in 35 years and how much I have changed.  I felt a pang of loss remembering experiences that would no longer be “firsts” and people that I knew that are now long-gone.

Sentimentality aside, I also felt at peace and happy as I realized that over those years I have been guided through my own restoration.  Like my former home, the outside shell is a little weathered, but inside a lot of improvements have been made.  I have purposefully cleared out old ideas that no longer ring true for me, I removed the dated and unhealthy dependence on others and rearranged my priorities so my spirit was filled.  The process didn’t remove any of the wonderful memories and has made me grateful for those challenges that brought me to the person I am today.

Radical alterations do not always require power tools.

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One Response to Gut Job

  1. Mom says:

    Lovely article. I especially liked the last long paragraph. I loved you then and I love the person you have become. (You might, however, want to change the references to 35 years to 25 years. :-D)

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