I sat down on my hardwood floors at the end of a long day with my bucket of warm, soapy water and an old dish rag. Back and forth across the floor I scrubbed, simultaneously washing away the anxiety of my heart. It had been a day in motherhood. A day full of diapers and snotty noses, tantrums and no naps. But this… this was what I had been waiting for all day. Scrubbing my floors has always been something I looked forward to. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But it does to me because I’m a dreamer. And I’ve dreamed of these floors for so many years. They are one of the most important parts of who I am.
Mama cut out pictures of houses for years,
From ‘Better Homes and Garden’ magazine…
Back when we lived in the big city and started designing our farmhouse, I kept a three-ring notebook and filled it up with torn out magazine pages and articles of what I wanted in our dream house. Sure, I could have used Pinterest, but I wanted something I could hold in my hands and flip through; something I could take with me that would grow and expand as our dreams did. And in every single one of those pictures was the same wooden floors. They were the one thing that I had my heart set on for this house, the part I was looking forward to the most. I could picture our kids in their little bare feet running up and down the halls, having family and friends gather around our table, and hopefully someday our grandkids walking through the front door, running across those hardwood floors and into our arms. It was the beginning of a dream.
Plans were drawn, and concrete poured…
We moved to the farm in January of 2014. The blue prints that we designed came to life as I watched my husband and my father-in-law build our farmhouse; we guessed we would be moved in by Christmas of that year. We broke ground April 1st, just before planting season began. A few weeks later, the guys were in the field planting all day. When it got too dark to plant, they would drive out to our property and build our house into the night. Summer came and they worked out in the hot sun; starting early in the morning, taking a break in the heat of the day, and then beginning again in late afternoon and working into the night. The days were long for me at home with a one year old and pregnant. I would walk across the field with our daughter and my mother-in-law almost every day to see the progress they had made. We helped hold up walls as they nailed them together, picked up scrap lumber, and shuffled tools around. It was a long season in our life, but I kept thinking about seeing our dream become reality... especially those hardwood floors.
They worked hard all summer and experienced some delays, but they knew had to get the roof on and the house enclosed before the cold weather came. Snow and ice on the plywood floors for an entire season would be the worst thing that could happen. As summer ended, they had gotten every window and door installed except for our front door. It was taking longer than anticipated to manufacture, so we used a large piece of plywood to keep out the bad weather.
Nail by nail, and board by board…
I remember one summer day, Eric had just finished laying the very last of the plywood and tar paper on the roof, it had taken him what seemed like weeks to install it. It was the final step before the shingling process could begin, and that was a huge milestone for us. *Just* as he finished, there was a terrible thunderstorm that rolled in, accompanied by high winds. We stood in our little apartment window and watched the winds blow and trees bend, all the while wondering what was happening over at our house. After the storm had passed, we raced over to the farmhouse to find that all of the tar paper had been blown off and was either in the muddy fields or in our pond. It was such a setback and so defeating. I remember him pounding the steering wheel in frustration, only to take a deep breath, get out of the truck, and walk out into the mud to retrieve the torn pieces, trying to salvage what he could. Another month's worth of work gone, another month longer until we would get to install our hardwood floors. When your dream is so close to becoming reality, a month’s worth of physical work can easily become an instant heartbreak.
The roof eventually was completed. Fall came and so did the busyness of harvest and the birth of our second daughter. Even with 18 hour days and a colicky baby, they still managed to find time to go and work on the house, chipping away at this massive project a little bit at a time. Winter came quickly after harvest was done, and so began the work on the interior of the house, especially the floor.
One night we found out that a winter storm was about to blow in. Knowing we might not be able to get out there and work for a few days, Eric and I had gone out to the house to get a few things done. After we were done working, we closed the house up and headed home. Or so we thought. Both of us had forgotten to put the plywood back in front of the door before we left and the snow had drifted into the house, completely covering the the living room and kitchen. Neither of us realized what we had done until it was too late. So out into the snow we trudged, bundled up with shovels in hand. We worked as fast as we could trying to get the snow out of the house and up off of the plywood floors. It took us a couple of days to get it all cleared out but finally it was done. But then the real hard work on the floor began.
For two weeks, we went into the house and sanded the plywood floors down. They had become so swollen from months of being exposed to rain and now the snow. They were almost unrecognizable compared to when they had first laid them. I stood behind my husband holding the sander cord and we slowly went room to room, sanding down every inch of the floors, and then hand sanding around the edges. The sawdust was thick, our eyes were swollen and irritated, and we could barely breathe, but we got it done. It was the final step before we could finally lay the hardwood floors that we had dreamed about for so many years.
Daddy gave life to mama’s dream…
And then the day finally came. Eric and his dad started at one end of the dining room and made their way into the kitchen and down the hallways. Nail by nail, board by board they laid that flooring. You know that feeling when you wake up from an incredible dream and you aren’t quite sure if it was real or not? That was what it felt like to watch them work. And when they finished I grabbed a bucket of water and a rag and gave the floors a good scrubbing. When I was done, I stood back and looked at them; they were everything I had imagined they would be. I remember standing there in the middle of our dining room crying. It looked just like I thought it would. Only better. It looked like home.
I remember as a little girl watching Ma Ingalls walking through the house that Pa had built for them. She was taken aback by the real wood floors, glass windows, and a door that locked. And just like Ma, I couldn't believe that this place was ours. But even more I was humbled that my husband (and father-in-law) would do such a great act of love and sacrifice for our family.
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me…
So this is it. My own little house on the prairie. The farmhouse. And these are my floors that I am so grateful to be able to scrub. I adore the man who put them in. I cherish the little feet that pitter-patter all over them. I saw every single grueling step that got us to putting them in – the dream come to life. And because of that, it's an honor to get to scrub them for the people who I love so much. I'm a builder of dreams. And this is the house that built me.
"Mama cut out pictures of houses for years.
From 'Better Homes and Garden' magazines.
Plans were drawn, and concrete poured,
And nail by nail and board by board
Daddy gave life to mama's dream." Miranda Lambert
Related video from Lauren Eberspacher of From Blacktop to Dirt Road: