House secrets are like ghosts. You can’t know a house is haunted until you’ve spent time there. The secrets gradually surface—little noises here, little flickers there. You dismiss things until you’re reading in bed one night and hear a crash another room. Except it’s not a poltergeist, it’s one of the kitchen cabinet doors that broke free from an unsupportive hinge.
“It’s not you,” it said, as it finally jiggled itself free, “It’s me.”
A seller isn’t going to show you the carpet corner on the bottom step that their cat scratched a hole in. They aren’t going to tell you that parts of your dishwasher, around the vent where the hot steam comes out, is colored with black Sharpie to mask the chipped surface. They aren’t going to tell you they haven’t replaced the kitchen sink soap dispenser that broke a year earlier. You’ll discover that when you add an entire container of soap and get excited.
“It holds so much soap,” you shout to your husband, from another room.
Only you realize six minutes later that the dispenser is completely empty and everything under your kitchen sink is now coated with a slimy film of Dawn.
Nothing is scarier than the discovery of anything about your house that needs to be replaced because it’s never just the one thing. It’s always, eventually, a series of things. It’s almost as if the house sees you have replaced something and urgently throws itself in front you like a toddler who wants Goldfish crackers and repeatedly hits you in the leg with the oversized box that’s larger than half their body.
Your house starts with the grout disintegrating around the backsplash behind the sink because it got wet.
After, it floods the dishwasher every time you use it and refuses to drain any standing water, which attracts earwigs.
Over time, it randomly selects five cupboards to fall off their hinges and, for fun, tosses a mouse under the fridge. Not just any mouse though, one that is smarter than you and both of your cats combined.
Then, it moves on to revealing the stove range vents into your garage instead of outside, because who doesn’t love carbon monoxide?
The plumbing starts to leak slowly and silently until the wood floor is bowing under your feet; water is seeping from the under the counters and the island, making it bulge like a bad case of botulism.
Then, your kitchen sink plumbing starts to smell like a port-a-potty.
“It’s a venting issue,” someone says.
Because the stench of rotten eggs permeating your home isn’t a good enough indication.
The house takes away your fridge. You discover that it is the only fridge in the entire metro area that was refurbished using parts that don’t even go into fridges; copper coils better served in an air conditing unit, a suspicious looking “compressor,” and a panel box that I’m pretty sure used to be a modem when AOL was in its prime. All of these things were welded together by a man looking to make a quick $500 who found a sucker in the folks who built your home.
Your two-year-old finally puts the cherry on top of the kitchen cake-wreck when he pulls off a faux drawer with the strength of twelve men and hurls it into the living room narrowly missing the TV and one of his sisters.
He wanted a cookie.
“That’s not the pantry, buddy.”
The pantry has nine shelves that are wide enough and deep enough to hold a baby manatee. There are food items in there that perished before the Eagles Reunited with their Hell Freezes Over tour and we can’t throw them out because they are too far back to reach. We have twenty-five cereal boxes that are empty and not thrown away simply because there is enough space in there to add twelve more. And really, who doesn’t want seven boxes of Cocoa Puffs?
Of course, we knew that we’d have upgrades when we bought the house. There is always some degree of upgrading—some “light” renovation. That’s what happens when you become a homeowner of a house that you did not personally build from the ground up.
You can’t know all of a house’s secrets just by looking at the place. Realtors don’t show you the drawers in the kitchen hit each other if they’re opened at the same time. You’ve never used the kitchen so how can you know that it’s impossible to move around the counter layout when someone opens the fridge and you’re in their way? The realtor doesn’t demonstrate how you can and will accidentally smack each child in the head—at least once—with the fridge door because you had no idea they were shimmying by the world’s most narrow kitchen passageway.
So, here we are. Two years into this house and a kitchen remodel on the very near horizon. An entire remodel—a gutting, cleaning, cleansing, exorcising remodel. Sure, it’ll be worth it in the end. It’ll look nice and I won’t need to continue to collect seeping water from the island with my good towels.
When it’s all done there will be no more secrets in that room and we can rest at night knowing the kitchen is how it should have always been.
All will be right with our house.
At least until the whisper of seeping water starts sometime around midnight on a dark, moonless night. That’s when our house will introduce us to what lies beneath the master bathroom shower and tub.
Sure, for now, that room seems fine. Everything is always fine until it isn’t. And how could we know otherwise?
House secrets are like ghosts.