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For months after the fire my mantra was “I just want to go home.” After a while that grief-weary feeling left and I was a lot more circumspect about wanting to go home. Of course, I still wanted to go home but not in the same painful way. In reality, I never asked to have to leave my home. I liked my home. I wanted to be there. It was the hungry fire sweeping across our valley that gave us the choice or leave our home or die there.

Now, inching forward to the completion of our replacement house and the 2 year anniversary of the Charlotte Mink Creek fire in Idaho June 28, 2012, we are home living in the basement while the house is finished above. Alas, I am feeling selfish because I want my home without other people in it. I am still positive about all that we are doing. I am happy to see people come to work. I like the people who are working here but these final days feel stretched out.

We have reached the point in building this replacement house of ours where it seems like no one wants to keep working on it that much anymore. We are so close to being done that each morning we wake up and think, “I will do this, and this, and this, and then I will be through with that set of tasks and can check them all off my list.”

House being framed, woman in snow on floor holding out a 2 by 4

Me, bundled in winter clothes against the November below zero temperatures, trying to get a visual feeling for how far the lean to kitchen will stick out.

Of course, as the day wears on you can do this and you are not done with that set of tasks. The way things have been going the past week or so you can do half of this and you are really not done with that task.

It is totally predictable that when you are nearly at the end that every little task feels protracted and overwrought. Take for example, paint. We restructured the wall around my bathtub so new dry wall was put in place for a two foot high and 5 feet wide section. My spouse spent early morning hours painting in my bathroom so it would be checked off the list. He was headed up to put the last of three coats on it when I said, “Did you get that area beside my light fixture over the vanity?” He stopped dead in his tracks, “What spot.” Alas, when the dry wall subcontractor was here to fix my bathtub wall area he took the opportunity to patch several other spots that were created by wiring and plumbing and with oops from big tools.

Reaching for that satisfying feeling of having the checks to put on the list and finding that you did not have all the tasks on the list is deflating. My spouse did get both things painted but had to go back a couple of more times before the job was through. Tonight he pointed to two patches on our bedroom wall, right on the other side of the bathroom wall he had worked on and said as if he had somehow missed seeing them before and should have, “I will get up here and sand these down and paint them.” I heard in his voice the need for another check off the list moment. I said, “Don’t worry honey, they are all over the house, we don’t have to deal with it right now.” That led to the realization of how much it made us feel like we were going backwards when we saw all of the painting that had been done and checked off the list landing back on the list even if only for repairs. The point is that they were back on the list. Everything feels like it is playing hide and go seek with the to-do lists.

I spent time upstairs cleaning up tonight and taking out boxes of trash left from putting in plumbing and fixtures. I swept up buckets full of dry and not so dry mud off our paper floor covers. I tried to keep everything in perspective but it is hard. Pushing back the pity party I have to smile at the old “are we there yet” joke. I think the freeway exit for “There Yet” is elusive. I do want to clean my house to get it clean not to clean it so we can move from that mess to intentionally make a new one.

I still imagine that I am helping when I clean making the work area easier to work in for the crew and the subs who work on our house. I don’t know if they care that much but I like the idea that their piles of construction detritus like saw dust or giblets of drywall are all cleaned away from their work area so they can continue the next day in a cleaner place. I don’t clean every night. Some nights there really is not much to clean but I do try to keep ahead of the big piles. It is not a requirement that we do this but both my spouse and I like being able to. We hope that it is a contribution to the house and a sign of respect for the people who are working hard to build this house for us.

As I thought of the blog tonight I thought how like life this house building of ours has been. I don’t mean building any house is like life although it probably is. I mean that building a replacement house for a beloved house that burned is like a true life where there is love, loss, sorrow, pain and the bright rays of light jabbing from the future into the past. This new house of ours brings us forward with anticipation of the time when we are not “recovering from the fire” but when we are finished and our life recovered.

Therein lies the fallacy in this replacement house building project as well as in life. Looking forward to the time when things are finished, when all the tasks are checked off the list, when the end goal is meet is looking forward to something that will never happen. At the same time we are recovering from the fire we are recovered. At the same moment we will finish the items on this checklist they appear on the new check list. The check lists are the same. Each is filled with things we think are important to finish, things that are important to finish and things that are important not to finish. The hungry fire that ate our house could never understand this but we can.