April 8, 2016
By Ekta R. Garg
Sometimes mysteries reveal themselves in the most unexpected times and places.
We broke ground on our new house in September 2015. In these last few months, as the rate of completion has accelerated, we’ve visited the new house often. We’ve become familiar with the chalky smell of drywall and the coolness reflected by concrete flooring, and we’ve watched with excitement as piece by piece all the selections my husband and I made—flooring; paint color; cabinet style—have been installed.
The excitement hasn’t applied to all of us, though. Until recently Seven always expressed reluctance to visit the house. She enjoys watching episodes of Fixer Upper like the rest of us and offering her unfiltered opinions on the choices made by people on other house shows. But whenever we would visit the house as a family, she would drag her feet. Sometimes literally.
I thought at first this might have been because of a somewhat amusing situation. In the late fall and early winter, we went to the house site several times only to have to cut short the visit because Seven had to go to the bathroom. We would joke about it with each other and her. It came to the point where we would always ask Seven, before going to the new neighborhood, whether she needed to make a pit stop.
She took the jibing in stride and even cracked a grin or two, which surprised me and made me feel relieved (no pun intended.) Seven’s high sensitivity to any form of teasing made it harder, when she was younger, to have fun with her. It’s been a long, sometimes arduous, process to make her understand that teasing and criticizing really are two different things.
So I took it as a positive sign that she didn’t mind us reminding her to go to the bathroom. But her reluctance continued. We’d enter the new house, exclaiming over the smallest detail recently added, and within five minutes of arrival Seven would start asking questions.
“When are we going home?”
“In about five minutes,” I’d say, trying to rely on the old tried-and-true excuse. Of course, this excuse works best with children who can’t tell time. Or read clocks or watches.
“Mamma, I’m just saying this, but it’s been more than five minutes,” she’d say after demanding to look at my watch. “When are we leaving?”
We would do everything we could to convince her to stay. We would visit her room, make a bigger deal than necessary about her closet, her bathroom, the fact that she got her own space. She’d express appreciation for the progress, for about three minutes, and then start again.
“I’m bored. When can we go?”
Her attitude didn’t compute in my brain. Whenever I drove by the house or my husband would stop by at the end of the day and one of us would relay details on what had been completed, Seven would get excited. She’d ask questions and would want to know what would happen next. She just didn’t want to visit herself.
Earlier this week I got in the car and pulled out of the neighborhood to start after-school pickups. My husband called and said he was done for the day. He could pick up Nine, he said, and asked for the latest on the house. I told him I’d pick up Seven and meet him there and we could check it out together.
Seven’s school is only a mile from the new house, so she and I got there first. We went in and walked around, taking a few minutes to admire the cabinetry that had arrived earlier that day. I have to admit, I kind of held my breath wondering when Seven would start requesting to go home. But she didn’t say anything like that at all.
With the walls primed and some of them already painted in the color we’ve chosen, some of the cabinets installed, and much of the lighting finished, the house has begun to take shape. We still smell the chalkiness of the drywall, but we can envision spending time in the space. I just didn’t realize until Seven and I made it to the basement how important that mental picture was for her.
“It’s so bright,” she said, looking around. “Now I don’t have to be scared anymore, because it’s looking like a real house.”
For a second I thought I’d heard incorrectly.
“You were scared to come here?” I asked.
“Mm-hmm. It was so dark before.”
She kept walking around the basement, commenting on the trim. I stopped her and knelt so I could come closer to her eye level. I wanted to make sure I really understood what she was saying, even though she’d already confirmed it for me once.
Seven had been scared of visiting the house. She didn’t mind accepting it as an idea, but she didn’t feel comfortable with the organized chaos of the construction zone. Watching the Property Brothers demo a home and remodel it is one thing, but visiting a construction site and trying to embrace it as one’s own is something else entirely. And something clicked in my head. Finally, I had an answer for Seven’s reluctance.
I have to admit, her words surprised me as much for the fact that she’d never shared her apprehension before as for the fact that she actually felt it. Normally, this child shares the minutiae of her day to a degree that makes me want to hide just so I don’t have to hear about every excruciating detail from lunch or the intricate politics on the playground.
But this was different. This was bigger.
I’m glad she did share her anxiety with me. I’m also really glad she feels better about the house. We’ll be all moved in before her birthday this summer, and I want this move and the process of settling in to be exciting and fun.
Just makes me wonder what other mysteries will get unraveled down the line.