There is a clause in some real estate documents, one that reads something to the effect of: "Many, many people had a hand in this house over the years. Hundreds of contractors and suppliers, an architect or two, and the whims of time have effected change on this structure, all of which I have no control over. So don't sue me if I don't notice something in this god awful mess that you are buying."
This makes sense. Our house was built in 1962. At the time, it was at the height of new houseness, having an intercom, an internal vacuum system, and some very strange garbage contraption that is still out in the side yard. It was (and in a way still is) an Eichler/Japanesey kind of house with vaulted ceilings, lots of windows, and a Zen feel to it. Yes, it was constructed with a very de riguer lava rock fireplace, which it still has. Somehow, I'm getting used to it.
Midway through its life, one owner or two made some big changes. Swoosh, the kitchen was remodeled as was the master bedroom and bath. Painted out were some of the redwood walls and a lot of the orange paneling--some of which remains in one cabinet in the garage, a testament to the ugliness of much of the 60's. Some wacky nut did a lambada with the electrical system, a warren of wires, a rat's nest of intricate electrical design that we have had to unfurl. Decks were pulled down and rebuilt and rebuilt again. At one point, I know there was a fountain in the back, a gazebo, a labyrinth. Now, all of that is gone, though the traces of that touch still remain.
We came in and gutted the 1990's kitchen and first floor, putting down a whole bunch of our own systems. We re-landscaped the back yard and built stairs and patios. Another layer of new systems here as well.
So when my second floor started to reverberate, I was a but unclear which system had gone nutty. I sat on the couch, listening, feeling as though I were in a submarine, floating to nowhere fast.
Hum, the sound hummed.
I started listening to walls, my ear pressed to the sheet-rock and wood paneling. I tried not to breathe. I followed the path of the hum under the house to a strange little box that clung to the wall, residing next to the water heater and grinding away enough to rattle the house.
"What the hell is that?" I asked Michael.
Turns out, it was a recirculating pump, circa 1960 something, a piece of machinery made in Clovis, Calif, so old Calif was Calif instead of CA and Clovis actually had production facilities (the biggest employers there now are the school district and Target) and before the whole kit and caboodle was shipped over to Bangalore or wherever.
Turns out, a recirculating pump keeps the hot water flowing and easily available. Turn on the hot water, and it's hot. In a three story house, turn on the top floor hot water and you could dance a few songs and have a glass of punch before the hot water flows. Not so with the pump. But now, ours was giving up the ghost, longing to go the way of the orange paneling.
So our contractor fixed it (a little blip of putting it in upside down, but all is well now). When I put my ear to the wall, I hear nothing but wall. It's a reassuring sign, one that will be temporary. I'm sure one day soon, the unused internal vacuum system will go off, start vacuuming all by itself in a last gasp of life.
After all, with home ownership, it's only a matter of time.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org