It’s the age-old story of residence against man as the author builds his dream house.
Though not a structural engineer like his father, Akron Beacon Journal columnist (and former Beavis and Butt-Head writer) Giffels was seriously into the form of obsession known as do-it-yourself. The decaying old manse on North Portage Path in Akron, Ohio, was composed largely of rot, rust and mold, along with a bit of residual brick. It had all the structural integrity of a house of cards, but it boasted a billiard room. “We knew,” writes the author, implicating his understanding spouse, whose second pregnancy made the move to larger quarters more urgent. “We belonged here.” Of course, funny stuff ensued as ancient lath and plaster gave way to wallboard, rust yielded to pipe, openings in the roof were shingled and the shambles became a home. Giffel’s untethered expectations met human limitations. It was an epic, resolute campaign against ancient wood, copper, mortar and linoleum, against soil, grout and glue, against mice, raccoons and squirrels. Walls spoke secrets, joists told tales and the rafters enclosed stories as well as resident woodland creatures. The author found a cache of antique cash and lost his favorite hammer. Reconstructing that grand old dwelling was a life-changing event and, perforce, a fount of comedy. As he doggedly stripped accretions of paint from door hinges, Giffels uncovered layers of heartfelt meaning. At last report, nearing its centenary, the place on North Portage Path is not finished. The Giffels family is in it, quite happy. The house remains, like the greater world, a place of mortality and of vitality. Life goes on.
An entertaining, sometimes affecting memoir of making a home.