Recently, I spent a Saturday afternoon at my daughter’s house, helping her paint one of her bedrooms. I’m one of those rare people who actually likes to paint, so I didn’t mind spending a beautiful weekend afternoon up on a ladder, doing the edging. Even better, my mother stopped by and offered to pitch in as well by painting some of the trim. So there we were, three generations of family working together to give a room in my daughter’s house a much-needed sprucing up. For me, it felt like one of those family bonding moments when the older members of the family get to pass along some of their knowledge and experience to the younger members. (Which is an increasingly rare thing in theses days of ever-changing technology where the young are usually the ones who teach the old.)
I remember when my husband and I bought our first house and how hard we struggled to turn a very run down “fixer-upper” into a livable home. We couldn’t have done it without the help of friends and family who loaned us tools (and showed us how to use them), and helped clean up years worth of dirt and grime. We had a good friend who showed my husband how to build walls, while others helped him assemble our own kitchen cabinets. I remember clearly how my mother helped me in our overgrown yard, pointing out that the “weeds” I was about to pull were actually just flowers that needed some pruning. My aunt gave us money to buy kitchen curtains, and my brother-in-law even offered to install a wood-burning stove for us to help with heating costs. All that support made the process seem so much less overwhelming.
And now that my own son and daughter have bought houses of their own, both of which were fixer-uppers (we never buy anything else in our family), it’s our turn to help. I paint, do yard work and clean, my husband brings over his tools and shows them how to use them while he’s working on a project, and in the process, we help teach our kids what they need to know to fix up and properly maintain their houses. Frankly, it feels good to pass along some of the skills, support and knowledge that was given to us.
It’s not that our kids (and their husband and fiancé) couldn’t do it themselves, they most certainly could. They’re young, hard-working and smart, and what they don’t already know, they’ll figure out. But I know our help means that they are learning much more quickly, and I believe that they appreciate the support of their family with this important milestone in their lives. These are the acts that solidify our family bonds, that remind us that we don’t actually have to face every challenge on our own, and that demonstrate the importance of working together to help the people we love.
Sometimes fixing up houses is about so much more than just creating a nice place to live. Sometimes its also about building memories, strengthening family connections and passing on the best of who we are to the next generation. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a paintbrush and a power drill.