Cursed house: the smell of wet insulation

This is the second post in a series of personal stories about how my parents’ house has some really bad luck.

You know how scent is associated with memories? The smell of warm cookies reminds you of visiting your grandparents. A warm, salty breeze takes you back to that family vacation when you were a kid. But are you able to see something and then recall the smell? I can!

The summer after my freshman year of high school, my parents decided it was time to have some work done on the house. The first step was replacing the roof. Their house being old (like “parts of the original log cabin still exist” old), the roof was…rough. It had a rafter construction, so the roofers had to take the entire roof apart.

Before they could put the nice, new trusses in place, they had to make the top plate level. This took some Doing™ apparently, and they made slow progress. When Friday rolled around, it rained. The roofers had put tarps flat across the top of the house, but some water soaked through and damaged the drywall ceiling in a few places. No big deal—that’s easy to fix.

So then Monday rolls around. Both of my parents are at work, so I’m home with my sisters on a warm June day in the Ohio Valley. If you don’t know about warm June days in the Ohio Valley, they sometimes have pretty bad storms. Come the afternoon, several tornado warnings have been issued. Being the eldest child (and also a weather weenie), I keep my eye on the TV coverage. My memory is a little fuzzy on this point, but I seem to recall having to get my sisters to shelter at least once.

But the important part here is that it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Officially, Standiford Field recorded 0.86″ of rain that day. At my parents’ house a dozen miles to the northwest, it rained slightly more than that.

The tarps were still on the not-roof, but they were still flat. This meant that water could not run off and fall to the ground, but instead puddled. Slowly, water began seeping through the tarps. And into the house. Not just in one or two places like it had on Friday, but all over.

The living room. The dining room. My parents’ room. My sisters’ room. The bathroom. Water was coming in everywhere. (My bedroom and the kitchen were an addition and had a separate roof, which spared them). For the next few hours, we became a bucket brigade.

Everything we could find, we put to use catching the water falling from the ceiling. Trash cans. Buckets. Our sleds. The water became a steady stream in some places, filling up the small trash cans almost as soon as we could empty them. Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms still threatened.

Eventually the rain stopped and my parents came home from work. It was clear that staying in the house that night was not an option. Everything was wet and the ceiling was falling in the living room. We stayed in a hotel that night, and for the rest of the week. Then we spent three weeks in the basement of some friends. After six months in a rental house, we were able to return to our home.

All of the interior walls and ceilings had to be replaced. The floor (including the floor joists) in two rooms were also replaced. We threw out many of our possessions: books, toys, furniture, clothing. So much had been soaked through. High temperatures were in the 90s the rest of the week, making it oppressively humid in the house.

The smell of wet insulation and drywall is something else. It sticks with you. For years, if I saw a picture of damage, I could smell the insulation as if I were standing there in the middle of the aggressively moist house.

We fired the roofers. Our insurance company sued their insurance company. Life went on. But we never did the addition that we had planned.

Cursed house: The Monkees

This is the first post in a series of personal stories about how my parents’ house has some really bad luck.

I’ve been a fan of The Monkees for nearly as long as I can remember. Davy Jones signed the liner notes for my copy of their greatest hits CD. I not only have watched “Head”, but I own it, and I like it. As a kid, I recall frequently asking my mom if a song on the radio was by The Monkees. Almost every time it turned out to be the Beatles, but that’s neither here nor there.

My lifelong fandom is undoubtedly due to the hours I spent watching the TV show in a hotel room when I was three years old. You see, my family lived in a hotel while we rebuilt our house.

It wasn’t a planned rebuild, mind you. The project was thrust upon us when the house caught fire.

I’m not entirely clear on the details, but somehow the fire happened when the house was in limbo. My parents were stuck with it, but the previous owner got the insurance payment? I don’t know; I was three. At any rate, it turns out that the previous owner had similar circumstances befall them at least one other time. Not suspicious at allllll.

But if the house is cursed, my parents were lucky in one regard: they had the carpets cleaned that night. The dampness slowed the fire long enough for the volunteer fire department to arrive. This kept the house from being a total loss.

It also gave me one hell of a headache. I ran through the house, being a three year old, and immediately fell when my wet shoes hit the vinyl floor in the kitchen. I still remember sitting on the back porch crying. My grandpa was there with us and he let me come spend the night to help me feel better.

I have a vague recollection of my parents showing up at his house later that night or the next morning. I assume they talked about the fire. I don’t remember if I had any reaction to the news or not. Ah, to be young again!

But this post is about The Monkees. So there we are, living in a hotel. My parents, my infant sister, and me. There’s not a lot for a kid to do in a hotel, especially when dad is at work (or working on making the house livable again) and mom is caring for a baby. So I spent what was probably a good deal of time watching TV.

This was around the time that The Monkees were having a resurgence in popularity, and so the show was on TV. I don’t remember specifics, but I know I liked the show. While the jokes went faaarrr over my head, the silliness is evident even to a three year old.

The Monkees got me through what was probably an incredibly stressful winter for my parents. I’ve been a fan ever since.