I was always embarrassed about the house I lived in as a child.

The house where I grew up is now gone. Thank GOD.

I hated that house. Well, not as much the house as the whole neighborhood. My mother purchased it around 1979 for a VERY SMALL amount of money. It needed an incredible amount of work, and probably an alarm system, or a squad of body guards for its inhabitants. Scott Street, the one right behind us, had regular shootings reported on the news (and heard from our home). It was a very, very unsafe neighborhood full of poverty, however it was a home, and that is what we all really wanted.

We had been living in subsidized apartments for a quite a few years, and I wanted more than anything to live in a house. Or someplace that wasn’t known as “where the poor kids lived.” We had tried living in a “household” with another family from our church, but that was a huge disaster, worthy of its own story.

I remember seeing the house for the first time. It was a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad mess. It had been a Notre Dame rental home and was in the worst shape I have yet to this day seen. We purchased the furniture along with the house, and moved right in. Everything was old, broken, and needed to either be fixed or replaced. It was steps away from unlivable.

We moved in with the very few things my mom had kept (piano, her bedroom set, a china cabinet and a dining room table), and began working on the house. Keep in mind that I was around 11 and my brother was 14. We were YOUNG, and yet we were in charge of stripping wallpaper (some rooms had up to 7 layers of this awful stuff), painting, cleaning. We gutted the kitchen and added cabinets, a sink, a refrigerator, dishwasher, stove. I personally knocked down two walls to remove a huge closet in the living room, in order to make room for… well, living I guess.

We spent a few years just getting the house livable if my memory is correct. And we lived there the whole time. My mom helped as much as she could, but was having trouble with her shoulder (which we later found out was cancer eating her body) and couldn’t do as much as she wanted. It was never NICE, but it was much better after we completed all of the improvements. We still had very very old and abused furniture, but it was in better shape after all of our hard work. This made it only slightly less of an embarrassment.

I wonder if I would have dated more, been more outgoing, been a different person if I had not been so wrapped up in what I didn’t have? I know I would have been different if I had grown up as wealthy as the other kids in my school (we were bussed to the ‘rich’ part of town). But I am not sure it would have been for the better.

All of these years later I am sure that the experience gained working on that house has served me well. I am not afraid to undertake a task that appears insurmountable. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty, to do things for myself. I enjoy working on our house when I have the time and I have my past to thank for that I guess.