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Mommy Musings: When a Door is More than a Door

September 14, 2018

Eleven years ago this November we bought a foreclosed home in Erie a bit haunted by people 15 months gone.

Since not one cell of me is superstitious about houses or anything else, “haunted” as a word choice is really just an expression — just a way to acknowledge the traces previous owners left behind.

For starters, it took me all day to clean the fridge when we moved because it looked like someone slaughtered a deer in there.

And who twists a red light bulb into a ceiling fixture on the main floor and also decides to paint the entire finished basement battleship grey?

Amsterdam? Meet Naval Station Norfolk.

Though we soon painted the basement a lime green pastel, we still call that space “The Dungeon” because of its initial dreariness. And in a roundabout way the former owners’ fingerprints still stick to the house not only because of what they left behind, but also because of what they took.

For instance, I am finally dealing with the door they never opened or closed at the top of the steps that lead to The Dungeon — a now cheery space that includes my husband’s home office, a small rumpus room for the kids, and a guest bedroom and bathroom.

The previous owners took the original basement door — along with the washing machine and dryer -- with them to wherever.

So we picked up new laundry machines and replaced the door our first winter here to trap heat in the basement for creature comfort, and we hung that door unfinished because we intended to take it down for sanding, priming and painting during our next free moment.

Like maybe after we unpacked our last box.

We were so sure about getting to this final step that we left the protective plastic on the panes.

Fast forward 11 years.

My husband and I finally catch our breath from bringing up three boys in their early years, and guess what?

We were blind to the unpainted door that entire time, but now we see and cringe!

We see the grime around the knob and the original protective plastic wrap covering a dozen glass panes in tatters.

We don’t plan to move now. But I am mindful of the traces we will leave then — even if the place sparkles as we close the door for the last time.

Strange that my brush strokes in white satin finish should imprint something of our family’s life together here — should encapsulate mid September 2018 when my inlaws taped and primed the door, and I sanded and painted it on two sawhorses in the garage in 90-degree heat.

With both bays open for better ventilation, Andy, now 10, kept me company before school. As we drank coffee and listened to the Star Wars soundtrack, I painted and he read aloud from a Star Wars book loaded onto his tablet.

Then, Andy was gone.

Off to school he went and left me to fuss over all my amateurish mistakes, to fuss over mistakes I couldn’t seem to fix without making it worse as the fresh paint turned tacky.

So, I consider this door a kind of Baltic amber — the fossilized resin from ancient forests that hardens into semi-precious gemstones in shades of honey, butterscotch, citrine, green, cherry and cognac.

Ultimately, what remains of the tree’s practical value for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, for offering shade and fuel and construction material for durable goods, such as The Dungeon door, will be overshadowed by what time crystallizes into unlikely beauty.

Here, that is one day in the life.

How will I value this door when Andy leaves home for his awaiting adulthood?

“This is not Pinterest!” my neighbor said when I took a break to vent my frustrations as an amateur painter and process when a door is more than a door.

“We’re just so used to things coming from factories and looking perfect,” she continued. “But what you’re doing is better than what comes from a factory. This is your handiwork, and it doesn’t need to be perfect to be good.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at Mellskog@msn.com or 303-746-0942. For more photos and stories, visit “Mommy Musings” online at mellskog.pmpblogs.com .