If the Walls Could Talk

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

My youngest child, Steve, is a 45 year- old single father now. Two years ago, his then wife broke his heart by divorcing him.  They’d just finished building their “forever home” which he’d been designing for years. My thoughts about why this 13-year relationship deteriorated to the point of no return are that he put in 80-hour weeks working, partly on his four businesses and partly on building this masterpiece of a home. He’d come home and just collapse in exhaustion night after night.  It may also have been compromised because of her career as one of Minnesota’s finest actresses in small theater and the Guthrie. Acting was always her greatest passion in life. She wasn’t even sure that she’d want to add motherhood to this lifestyle. At 41, she agreed to have a baby, and another one at 44.

The thing about relationships is that they, too, need to be tended to and worked on. He more or less, in his zeal to create the perfect home for his family, put too much energy and time into it and too little into their relationship. Any relationship can slowly die through neglect, and by the time she finally admitted her unhappiness, it turned out to be too late.

The first year without her was devastating for Steve. At the time, they had a brand new baby girl and a 3-year old son.  He’d yearned to be a daddy for years, and finally was.  The custody arrangement is 50/50, every other week end and 2-3 nights a week.  He loves Charlie and Leo so much that to this day, he weeps at night when they’re not with him.  I personally have never seen a more loving, involved, and devoted father in my life.

He designed this home around making it an adventure for his kids. Wall panels, when pushed, open up to tunnels and secret spaces behind the walls.  Under both staircases, there are hideaways, some with little ladders going up to the second floor with more hidden spaces.  A large book shelf is a hidden door to a kid-sized space, too.

In the second-floor master bedroom, he had a door installed just for a rope swing bridge out to an elaborate tree house. In the backyard, he installed a 100-foot zip line.  His large sun porch has a high brick fireplace.  On the second floor, behind the back side of the fireplace, he built four small bunk beds for sleepovers.  These, too, can only be accessed through hidden doors.

The most special project of all, however, is a 25-foot long spiral slide which goes from the first level down to the lower level. He even put LED lights in it so that the darkness wouldn’t scare the kids.  They come shooting out the bottom of it at fairly high speed.  Many an adult has accepted a dare to try this slide, but usually after having a few drinks first!  It really is scary.

Steve, having only been in this home for a few weeks before he and his wife began living apart, wanted badly to sell it. There were no positive family memories in the new walls and it was far too large for just one guy.  For months, just being in it alone created heartbreak.  He even spent a few months mostly living in a close friend’s cramped apartment to avoid the painful feelings of being in the family dream home he’d built.  None of us wanted him to sell.

Over time, friends and family began to fill the walls with posit

ive, joyful energy. He’s hosted every family gathering in almost two years, and we’ve established a tradition of everyone being involved in making meals together. The kitchen’s so large that a dozen of us can have plenty of room to prepare our own part of the meal.  Even the little kids contribute by mixing things or cutting up veggies. Last fall, after being asked by a neighbor if he’d have the annual neighborhood party, the home was filled with 70 people and had room to spare.  Inch by inch, month by month, this is truly becoming Steve’s home.  When asked if he still plans to sell it, he always says,” I don’t know – we’ll see”.  My hopes that he’ll stay increase with every new project he does for his little ones.  He just got a black lab p

uppy, so that’s also encouraging.  No one more deserves to occupy this grand home than the man who built it.

Note: The Strib was doing a feature about homes which included fun spaces for kids and asked if they could take some photos and do an interview for their Home section. We were all kind of surprised that his creations took up the entire front and back pages. His now 6-year old Leo is standing in the slide’s opening and Steve’s the one at the bottom of it. Another photo captures the clan in the potluck line after preparing our meal together.

How have the walls of your home helped you through life?

28 thoughts on “If the Walls Could Talk”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I loved this article CB. I have to move on and cannot comment much, but I did enjoy this.

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    1. Finally I have a minute to respond at the end of the day. My home and the garden outside of it has been my sanctuary for 20 years now. Just having a home is a great help. This one, in a lovely neighborhood with wonderful neighborhood is full of reconstruction, and family celebrations, and fun. It is the place to come home to after long travels, as well. It is home.

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  2. We have lived in our home for 29 years. It has given us a haven from all the heartache we deal with as mental health professionals, a place to have a garden, a place to rear our children. We will sell in a few years, and I see lots of cosmetic issues that need to be addressed. It will be a lot of work.

    Nice post, Crystal Bay.

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  3. Wow, what an amazing house and an amazing man. I hope he finds the love of his life to go along with his house and kids. I’m not a very sentimental person — especially after losing our house to foreclosure. I indulge in things like expensive flannel sheets and down comforters so my bed is my haven from the world.

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  4. I find it difficult to analyze how houses shape the people who grow up in them. As with many things related to human development, you can create theories but it is almost impossible to confirm or refute them.

    Several baboons got to know the only home my daughter ever knew. She would argue that she was shaped by those walls. Our home was charming, with loads of character and old fashioned comfort. We had wonderful fires in our unusual old fireplace, especially around Christmas. My daughter grew up in a safe, intimate, welcoming neighborhood. We enjoyed and spent time with our neighbors. We almost never locked our doors unless we would not be at home for several days.

    The little girl who grew up in that pink bungalow became a positive, confident, loving person who has a great ability to mix comfortably with other people. She would tell you that there was something positive about our home that allowed her to blossom.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Our house-and-yard in Robbinsdale was the perfect place for us, especially after we added the screen porch. I recognize that although our current house fits us well and has much of the same charm, the postage stamp lot needs a lot of… something… to make it feel like it’s ours. I have no doubt that if we are here for long enough, it will gradually change to become something more comfortable. I learned from the first house that it’s the experiences and the little things we do that make it home.

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      1. This past Saturday. The Strib likes to run stories about homes in the Saturday editions because they carry a lot of real estate ads. Remarkably, the Strib this year has run a feature story about CB’s cottage as well as a feature based a lot on her son’s home.

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      2. He just started dating a few months ago, but no “home run” yet. Regardless of how his marriage wound up, the intense feelings he’s
        felt for all of those years remain alive and, in a sense, raised the bar for anyone new. She was adored and loved by everyone who knew her. My daughter, my best friend, and I have all had just one such relationship in our lives which didn’t end well, but raised the bar so high that no one new could reach it.

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        1. Steve, my nephew, builds child-friendly homes. But it is a lucky kid who grows up with Steve, no matter what secret attractions are built into the house. He has an incredibly playful, childlike mind.

          I remember a Christmas gathering when Steve was fooling around with a rubber glove. On impulse, he pulled it over his head and down over his nose. By breathing in his mouth and out the nose, he gradually inflated the glove until he looked like a rooster with a five-fingered comb. Everyone–adults and kids alike–laughed until it hurt.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. i was in china
      sorry to miss it.
      i love the daring that the putting major commitment to the walls requires to be done. your son has doen this. many people are afraid to put a nsil hole in the wall. i think goingf for it is a huge valid premise and walls are as good a place ans any to start.

      \my houses have always been left with time capsule contributions to the next owner.
      certainly they can and wood change the reflection i left that was meaningful to me.
      go for it.
      current landlord couldny believe all the nail holes i put in her walls. ha ha ha

      i live here i need stuff on the walls and in the middle of the room

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  6. Hi CB —

    That’s a great story: thanks for sharing it.
    (It’s not the divorce that makes it great of course, it’s the sense of positive energy gaining on the house that makes it a great story.) And well written.

    I am just trying to get through the next week of college activities. Commencement is Thursday.
    Concert tonight which is why I have time to read and comment. Wish I was out in a tractor…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. can we have a farm field trip that would make sense? in late may or june? or in july i guess. i have a little bit of july left open

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  7. Hey CB, That was a great story you did. I find it very interesting. I just was booked at work all day, and did not have much time. Do not take it personally.

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  8. I have been so tied up today, too. I wonder how well the shared parenting time worked for your grandchildren. I have trouble figuring out what works best for that. I wish that the children could stay in one house and the parents live separately and move back and forth during their parenting time.

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    1. I know one family who were able to do that till the kids were out of school. The kids stayed in the family home, and they each took turns living in an apartment they rented nearby. Minimum upheaval for the kids, at least.

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  9. Evening all. Sorry I’m late – I had NINE meetings today – no time! Thanks for a great story, CB. I love that Steve could use his talents to make a great home for himself and his kids.

    I moved around a lot when I was a kid. A LOT. So I don’t feel that I have walls that shaped my early life, but I do feel that lack of walls did! While I don’t usually want to change my history because I don’t want my current life to be different, the constant moving was something I wish I could have change. I was determined that I wouldn’t do that my child, so she has lived her whole life in our current house.

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  10. Perhaps we all share a stories we would personally resonate to – for instance, had another person written about “walls”, I know I could go on for pages in all sorts of different directions. I appreciate the comments about liking the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. why dont you go in different directions, thats how a lot of these blogs take form. we start talking about walls and somehow 43 posts on banana bread get plugged in out of nowhere. the trail is an amazing place

      Liked by 1 person

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