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The remodel?

We are badly out of date and terribly unhip. Not only is our home a monument to a bygone era in its kitchen and furnishings but also our home is a monument to a lower-end bygone era.Our kitchen cabinets are plain blond maple. Our countertops are “Waterfall Edge” Formica. Having raised our children here, the wear is plain to see on cheaper surfaces that don’t wear as well as some. Our pine trestle dining table and coffee table were made by me out of shelf lumber, furring strips and glue back when we were young with a new baby and another on the way. My signature and “October 24th, 1986″ can be found scrawled in pencil on the undersides of these fine pieces.We had never thought much about upgrading, having developed the kind of blindness one gets from living with your stuff every day. One day, a friend stopped by. This friend is planning a home similar to ours, although on a grander scale. He commented on changes he’d make to our way of doing things.”We’ll have granite countertops, of course, and solid oak cabinets up to the ceiling,” he told Ilene. “We won’t do it on the cheap like you and Tom.”Real friends are entitled to put their foot in their mouths like that. Shows that they are relaxed in our home and don’t have to consider their words carefully. Our friend removed his foot so that he could catch his breath and insert the other one: “Of course, we won’t have these lower-end hollow colonial doors. Ours will be solid wood!”When I got home that evening, Ilene told me she’d stood around and listened to our home being insulted for an hour. Oh, I told her that’s just the way he can be. I remembered something learned from a very old cowboy. “Castles in the air are always fancier than what’s real,” I told her. Having built our home by myself, I knew where the money was. It was in the walls, the hull of the ship – not in the trimmings. Heavy wiring and 8-inch thick insulation are proving the wisdom of their use in these days of high energy costs. Not insulted at all, I was amused; and being amused I remembered the old cowboy’s home.Joe’s place was made of adobe with Indian grinding stones set into the wall around the fireplace “so people won’t walk off with them,” he said. I remembered Joe’s kitchen and how 1940s it was. It was a big kitchen, not just for feeding a family but for ranch hands as well. The cabinets were white steel, with the paint worn off around the chrome handles. His countertops were white Formica with gold starbursts. The starbursts were worn off where lots of meals had been prepared. Everything was edged in aluminum. Pretty uncool in 1981. But everything was clean and well organized. The kitchen invited me to relax with its life-worn informal atmosphere. In relaxing there over eggs and biscuits (“Put some of them biscuits in your pocket, Tom, you might git hungry later!”) I was able to slow down and take in the evidence of the lives lived in that kitchen.Talking with Ilene after our friend’s visit, the idea of a remodel came up. We could have new counter tops, I suppose, and cabinets can be refaced these days. But why is the sleek, sterile-as-an-operating-room modern kitchen so preferred? Do things work any better in such sterility? Why is the show kitchen of folks who live at their jobs and not in their homes the cool kitchen to have?We’ve grown attached to our dinked and gouged pine trestle table, and visitors just know that they can put their feet up on the matching pine coffee table with no worries. When the kids come home to visit, I want them to be home. Yes, our counters show where a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were made and where dishes and jars have clattered and slid for many years. I don’t think we’d trade one scratch. This is home.One day, if our luck holds, grandchildren will stand on their tiptoes to reach the special peanut butter sandwich made just for them. As they grow, they will be able to see the care-worn countertops of our lives. Perhaps on the drive home they will wonder aloud to their parents: “Grandma and Grandpa’s kitchen sure is old and worn. Are they poor?” I hope that the answer might be – “No child, Grandma and Grandpa are wealthier than you can imagine.”Tom Preblelvranch@att.net719-749-0549

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