A journey to finish remodeling a home filled with a life time of memories it created.
What would you say a home is really worth?
I think I know about what my house is worth, but how can you put a value on a home full of memories of children growing up, pets that come and go too quickly, and time spent with the ones you love?
There are so many memories of working on a house to make it a home that reflects our personality and taste in art and beauty.
My wife, Lynn and I have lived here since 1990. We looked for six months to find this little diamond in the rough. It wasn't much to look at back then, but, as a carpenter, I saw huge potential. The ½ acre double lot in the middle of a cute suburb on a lake was covered in tall trees and used to be part of the Sears Estate.
The streets wind through the rolling landscape and around the lake as designed by an under study of Frank Lloyd Wright. We walk our dogs to the park by the lake, where the old Sears house burned down long ago, just about every day.
The Cape Cod style house was built in 1957, the year I was born, and had good strong bones. Just like me. Ha.
I remember how hard it was to buy this house.
We didn't have the best established credit, but we paid our bills and qualified for the loan. But, like many young home buyers, we only had so much to put down on the house and pay for all the expenses of moving. Our accountant told us to be careful, we were biting off more than we could afford.
But, I didn't listen and instead, I looked for ways to make this dream possible.
I sold my my jeep, a motorcycle, and I worked long hours and weekends for extra cash but we still couldn't come up with enough for the down payment. After coming out and seeing the house, my father in law, Jim Newman said he wanted to help us out and loaned us enough to buy our first home.
“We” did it!
Jim was very successful in business as the vice president of American Can Co. He had a personality and a sense of humor that made you smile and feel welcome. More importantly, he could listen to you and say the right things without a judgmental tone. He was a mentor to me and a wonderful family man.
I always wanted more conversation with him (advice) but he told me enough and didn't need to tell me things I already knew. I just had to pay attention, act like a man, and do the right thing. I never had this with my father.
They raised their two sons and a daughter in Lake Forest IL. and taught them about conservative family values, saving and investing, and the importance of a good education. I knew little about money.
My family was torn apart by religion, and my cult controlled education was formed around the belief that Armageddon was coming in 1975, the year I barely graduated High school.
Like dancing on sand.
Jim and I came from different worlds. He was a well educated, white collar professional socialite; I was a blue collar, dusty carpenter without a clue. He came from good Christian stock and had many friends. Lynn is a Daughter of the American Revolution and I’m sure he dreamed of the day his daughter would marry a Lake Forest Lawyer or successful business man with credentials.
Not a long haired kid from California in street roller skates.
But, he must have seen a diamond in the rough in me.
We had breakfast every Sunday together at The Egg Harbor in Lake Forest and spent most of our vacations with them. He would bring out things to look at like an old Silver dollar or gold coin from his collection, or his dad’s old receipt pad from his electrical business with a phone number # 18 on it, or a 1930s pad lock his grandfather used on a tool box full of electrical tools he remembered playing with as a boy.
Thanks to Jim, I learned to love history through the feel of an old coin, the stories of times past, and the dynamic of being included in a wonderful family, full of memories, unlike mine. I tried my best to live up to the dream every father has for the little girl they raised.
He passed away two years ago and I think of him every day. I know he was proud of me as if I were his own son. I miss him so much…
As time passed, he would hand write a little note about the items and give them to me as birthday gifts or... just because. We shared a common interest in coins so I bought silver dollars whenever I could from a little coin shop in downtown Kenilworth.
I even befriended the nice old man that owned the cluttered, little Old World Coin Shop. I wonder if he's still there?
They were 3 to 5 dollars apiece back then, and I would buy eight at a time, just about every week. No particular reason other than eight coins fit in my hand perfectly. The weight was impressive and the sound when they slid together reminded me of a good night of poker. As I studied them, they shined brightly and revealed the incredible art of Lady Liberty and the American Eagle.
The price of the silver was irrelevant.
After 20 years of remodeling every inch of this house, I can look back at all the time spent together as a family, discussing the latest changes or future plans like paint colors over breakfast and coffee. The house became common ground to share and teach us about money, not overbuilding (epic fail), and living within our means.
I loved it when Jim would come and visit to see the progress and smile at me, like he knew already, I would succeed. In many ways, this home is a big part of him. It would not have blossomed and effected every house and neighbor around it, if it not for him and my incredible wife, Lynn.
I am paying it forward.
We scrimped and saved and made the best with recycled materials like windows, beams, oak flooring, and trim. We never borrowed money to rebuild, hence the reason it took 20 years.
If you could see our Arts and crafts style house, The yard is full of Japanese maples and evergreens, lots of flowers in the gardens, and the koi fish fight for attention at your feet as you sit on the arched bridge over the ponds.
You would come in and notice the old recycled quarter sawn, oak floors with a large, geometric, Frank Loyd Wright style pattern, made of walnut, Birdseye maple, bamboo, ebony, and cherry under the dining room table and in the living room. Above, the ceiling is vaulted with skylights reflecting light between the reclaimed timber frame beams.
To me, Recycling is like, something old has become new again but now, it has a story to tell.
Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, there are several hidden compartments in the floor pattern that hold the silver coins from my father in law. They belong to the house and bring me more pleasure knowing they are safe buried in my home, rather than sitting in a bank. The silver coins will go up and down in value, but to me, they represent something much more valuable than any manipulated commodity.
It was never about investing or making money.
It was about a journey to finish a home that's filled with a lifetime of memories it created.
Besides, you couldn't buy a home with all the silver in the world.
By Mark Reed
In Loving memory of my Father in law, Jim Newman,
My Mother in law, Shirlee who just recently passed away,
My ol’ Golden retriever, Kasey who lived to 15 1/2 yrs old,
and my other Golden lab, Abbey girl, who died suddenly at nine years old from kidney failure.
It’s been a rough year.