How A 10-Year Old Plans To Renovate A House

“Dad, can we please go get some paint today?” I asked for the 43rd time since I hatched my renovation plans.  I knew I was whining, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I was tired of trying to reason with him.  Why was it so hard for him to understand that a 10-year old has dreams, big dreams, and it was his job to support them?

Dad adjusted his baseball cap and gave me the answer I dreaded most, “We’ll see.” Translation: No.

He didn’t get it.  I thought about my upcoming babysitting gigs and calculated the money.  I’d earn about $7.00 per night, and I had three gigs lined up.  Was $21.00 enough to score 4 gallons of paint?

Very similar to the "$200 house" (Image credit:

Very similar to the “$200 house” (Image credit:

What Dad– and no one else– could see was the picture in my mind.  I had a clear vision– I was going to transform the rotten shack behind my Grandma’s farmhouse into a cottage.  Dubbed the $200 house by everyone in my family for its apparent value, it had become my obsession.    All they could see were rusty nails, rotten boards, and rat turds.  I saw freshly painted walls, repaired windows, and a newly shingled roof.

I would do it myself.  I had a multi-step plan and the first step was paint.  I’d hit several roadblocks, namely my dad and my inability to ride my bike as far as the nearest Benjamin Moore store.

I decided to move on to step 2.


I was going to make curtains for those windows that had been blown out by the Texas prairie winds.  Because my father didn’t care about my future in design I approached my mom.

“Mom, can you take me to a fabric store to get material for curtains?” I acted nonchalant, because mom wasn’t a huge fan of me hanging out where the likelihood that I would end up needing emergency tetanus shots was almost guaranteed.

“What for?” she asked.

Screw her.  She was already giving me the third degree about my window treatments.  She was a dead-end just like Dad. My Grandma could get me some material but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by rejecting her country kitchen patterns. I wanted something fancy.  Something from Dallas.

I took matters into my own hand and pedaled to TG&Y to get some material.  All I could find was plastic tablecloths, which I decided would be good.  It’s only temporary until I’m allowed to bike all the way to a real curtain store.

Eventually, my dad agreed to get me some paint.  I spent hours slathering coats of pale blue paint on top of the half-papered walls.  The picture in my mind grew more vivid as I refused to accept that the $200 house was never going to look like a cottage.  I was never going to have sleepovers there.  It was a shack and that’s all it ever would be.

Grandma joked, “Save your energy. The only thing that old house needs is a match.”

No! I wouldn’t give up.  Maybe a rug? Maybe some air freshener?

I grew despondent.  “Dad, how come I can’t make the $200 house look beautiful? I can see it in my mind!”

“Sweetie, maybe your mind is more beautiful than the world knows how to be.”


62 thoughts on “How A 10-Year Old Plans To Renovate A House

  1. Yes, I have that with paintings too. It never looks as good as it does in my head – but striving for that is what keeps me going forward. Glad you still have a beautiful mind.

  2. I totally had dreams of opening a restaurant in my next door neighbor’s two story tree house. No one else caught this vision. They kept saying things like “health inspector” and “safety violations.” Whatever, adults. I hope I remember this and let my kids figure a little of this out without me being the dream killer. Of course, sometimes it’s nicer when you have someone to blame than when your dream just…goes flat.

    • You’re right! I don’t want to be the dream smusher, but maybe the best role I can play is the axe man. Come to think of it I told Sadie she would never have the super power of turning food into chocolate by blinking her eyes, so maybe I’m already the dream killer. Damn!

    • I wish. I am not sure what combination of hallucinogens and moonshine it would take to make that house look like my imagination, but it’s best I never found out!

    • I lived for the TG&Y. The one at Preston Forrest. Now it’s a Whole Foods maybe. I got play money there and little plasticy bullshit that made my life worth living. I miss it like crazy.

      Sometimes as I scroll really quickly through my FB feed I catch snippets of pictures of people from Dallas and those from my other homes, like CHicago and DC…I can spot a Dallasite from a mile away– even if the picture is blurry and the scroll is fast. Dallas is fancy in my mind and it always will be. And it’s why I moved far far away.

      On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 10:06 AM, Outlaw Mama

  3. love this. love your grandmother’s and father’s comments – true or made up in your beautiful mind. wouldn’t it be something if the world and people could live up to our best vision of it..

    • It sure would. And I guess the flip side is when the world exceeds my every imagining– that’s when my mind is fucking blown.

      On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 11:01 AM, Outlaw Mama

      • it’s true, i’m never surprised when people disappoint, but i’m always truly amazed when they exceed my extremely realistic expectations. but i’m wearing rose colored glasses today – it’s all beautiful. 🙂

      • Atta girl!!! I love those glasses. I have half of one lens in the roses, the rest is all too real.

        On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 11:07 AM, Outlaw Mama

  4. awwww i LOVE the ending. your dad is so awesome. 🙂
    this “Screw her. She was already giving me the third degree about my window treatments. She was a dead-end just like Dad. My Grandma could get me some material but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by rejecting her country kitchen patterns. I wanted something fancy. Something from Dallas.” had me rolling though.

  5. I recall being your summer help on the $200 house project. I had the passion to help you make your dream house a reality, but 2 weeks wasn’t nearly enough time. What good memories. Remember the outhouse?

    • I’m not sure you were simply “help”!! And we needed more than 2 weeks. Who could forget that outhouse????? I’m always emotional on days I write about the past. Sending you love!

    • I am pretty sure my Grandma kept it for many years after that. Eventually I think it was torn down. I’m going to call my dad and ask him. I’d give anything to play in there again!

  6. Your last line is perfection, and I miss TG&Y like crazy. I remember using my allowance to buy some Cover Girl blue eyeshadow there while my mom was in another part of the store, and she busted me & made me take it back. And remember the Halloween costumes in boxes that consisted of a mask and a weird vinyl pancho thing that went over your clothes? Good times.

    • I remember stealing a piece of heart-shaped chocolate candy from there. Then, I wanted to eat it in front of my mother. SHe asked me where I got it and I told her a robber snuck into our house and left it behind. That was the end of my theft career.

  7. Oh, goodness, the dreams of childhood. My childhood scheme was always the lemonade stand my mother never let us have. I didn’t get it at the time, but know now that there cars flew down our street and it would have been hella stupid to hang out near the street…

  8. This might be a little gross, but one time when our middle son was quite a bit younger, he and his buddy asked if they could have the hide from a beef we had butchered. I found out later they had used it to carpet the dirt floor of a shed my sons friend had at their place. Luckily, I think a coyote dug under the wall and drug their carpet away before the thing got to stinking. So much for grand plans?

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