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Home Improvement

Jackie Quillen

(March 2010)  Oakfield Lane has been my home since I was four years old. There has been talk of moving and my mother spends a lot of time looking at houses for sale online, bigger houses, but we never actually move. Usually when families need more or less space they move to a more accommodating house, but not my family.

We know how to make our little house accommodate whatever needs we may have. When Mom mentioned how nice it would be to have a bigger kitchen, Dad got to work right away sketching out all the possible ways to expand the kitchen. Sure enough, within a week our kitchen was bigger and the dining room was smaller. The dividing wall between the two rooms was annihilated but Dad built a new one, no biggie.

My parents have been remodeling our home both inside and out since the day we moved in seventeen years ago. I love remodeling projects - there is something so satisfying about destroying a room that I once considered perfect and putting it back together with a fresh new look. When we are in the middle of remodeling something I put off all other responsibilities and get to work right next to my father.

As I grew older and stronger I started rearranging my room many times a year. It's amazing how many different ways I could arrange all the furniture in a perfectly square and shockingly small room. I do this kind of "rearranging" in all aspects of my life, and no matter how much of a mess I create, I always get everything in the right place. If it's not in the right place then I'm not in the right place mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don't start homework until I've done some type of organizing in my room, which is not always a good habit.

My home has survived seventeen years of my fastidious, handyman father and my mother, an indecisive decorator who gets bored with scenery very quickly. Needless to say, my house has changed drastically both inside and out since the time we moved in. It feels like I have moved to new houses, just with the same address and on the same street as my old one. It's a more convenient move.

My older sister, Christina, has moved out and back in a few times, each time into a different room. After the second time she moved out, my parents promoted Sarah, the youngest, to Christina's old room so that Sarah's original room could be an office. Recently, Christina moved back home again and occupied my room because I wasn't living at home and she was only planning on staying for a short time.

While she was staying in my room I felt like a guest going home to my own house because I didn't have a bed to sleep in. Christina's stay is becoming more long-term than expected so the office is changing back to a bedroom for Christina so that I have a place to stay when I'm home from school. So the oldest was demoted to the smallest room and the youngest was promoted to the largest. Sometimes being the middle child has its perks!

Every room of the house was put together with careful consideration and much debating. I never knew how many different shades of green there are and how the wrong one, which looks almost identical to the right one, has the potential to completely ruin the whole mood of the room, and possibly the entire house. I always stayed out of the color-choosing process because I started thinking I might be colorblind, or at least "shade-blind."

My bedroom walls evolved from baby pink to puke yellow and then to the most vibrant turquoise color. At one point I liked the yellow walls but somehow one of the brightest colors became shady and dull. When it was time to cover up the yellow my best friend Sharon and I got all the necessary supplies and went to work.

This remodeling project was particularly special to me because I designed and produced it. My father was quick to point out the spots of blue paint that accidentally made it to the ceiling, but I like the spots where they are. Seeing the mistakes on the ceiling reminds me that I painted that room myself!

Every year I leave for college my parents do something different to the house, and I feel lost when I first walk in during Fall Break. This year it was the family room. Nothing too extreme, just a new couch and new curtains, but my mother praises those new curtains as if she made them herself. She "just can't get over" how much they make a difference in the room! Dad likes the curtains but they don't change his life in any way. He gets more excited about building things and working outside. The lawn is his masterpiece.

My dad owns a lawn and landscaping company called Grass Roots, and he is very proud for having the greenest grass on our block. Whenever my friends' parents brought me home from a play date they always commented on just how green and beautiful the grass looks. Even the bus driver told me how nice it looks.

One day a plumber came to the house only to deliver the most disappointing news of my father's life - there was a problem with our plumbing that could only be fixed at the source underground, under the luscious green blanket covering the front yard. There is still that small patch of grass that stands out from the rest of the yard - the blades are different, the angle is off, and there is a clear scar-like outline of where the "surgery" took place.

I bet no one else besides my family notices it. Lawns may not have any significance to other people, but I spent most of my childhood on that grass, running around barefoot even in the dark until my mother called me inside. I also learned how to ride a bicycle on the front lawn with my Dad. That was the only time bikes were allowed on the lawn!

The neighbors were not very fond of us when we moved in because my father built a shed that blocked the sunlight from their gardens. This is no ordinary shed. It is a house sporting the same vinyl siding as the main house, equipped with attic storage, two windows, kitchen cabinets, electricity, and all our toys. This is Dad's "pad."

For a while there was a star-shaped object hanging from the roof that spun with the wind and made different shapes. Dad loved it, but Mom thought it was the most pointless and unattractive device she had ever seen. Eventually it "disappeared."

Dad was always finding little things like that to add character to the yard. Before he got around to building the whole shed, Dad built a platform that we used for dance routines and performances at family parties. I didn't want him to the build the shed because I liked the platform better.

My backyard holds so much character that defines my household.

I moved to Oakfield Lane after my mom and adoptive father were married seventeen years ago. With some love and remodeling we became a family, and our house became a home.

The pool in my backyard was moved from my dad's old house, and the tent that covers a picnic table was moved from my old house. These two families joined together to create a loving home.

I love every aspect of it.

I even love the concrete steps that used to lead inside through a back door, but now just remain connected to the back of the house and lead to nothing.

Those steps are a reminder of how my home has developed since we became the Quillen family.

Jackie Quillen is a Senior at the Mount majoring in English and Communications

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