This (Scary?) Old House

21 Feb

Last Halloween I bought a new (old) house in Richmond, VA. By row house standards, it’s small (3 BR, 2BA, around 2000sf) but since I’m coming from 20+ years of condo-living in DC, it feels huge for one person. It might technically only be one bedroom larger than what I left, but it’s more than twice the square footage. It’s also a bit intimidating to move from a low maintenance condo to a 110 year old house that still has the original coal-burning fireplaces and a dirt crawlspace in the basement. But I’m adjusting.

Because it’s so old, what should be small projects end up turning into Projects with a capital P that take twice as long as they should, due to unforeseen complications. We had a string of unseasonably warm days (we’re talking 70s in February!) so I decided it was time to get the screens out of the basement and pop them into the windows so I could get some fresh air in here. Simple, right?

Wrong.

First, the screens needed to be washed because they had cobwebs and old leaves stuck to them (presumably from when they were taken down last fall). I dragged them into my backyard (yes! I have outdoor space now, which was one of my big reasons for wanting to move!) to hose them down. I lined them up against the fence, stretched out the hose, and turned on the spigot – and NOTHING. Nary a drop of water.

I checked the valve in the basement where I had turned off the water during a cold snap to keep my pipes from freezing: it was open, and yet, there was no water flowing. Head scratcher. (I’ve since googled it and it sounds like maybe I need the aerator replaced inside the faucet?) Who knows? I guess my plumber will be able to afford his vacation after all!

I didn’t feel like wasting time, so I grabbed the screens and dragged them into my downstairs shower. (A side note: in this house, all the bedrooms are upstairs, along with a full bath. On the main level, I have a kitchen, living room, dining room and a bathroom with a shower. I couldn’t think of any situation in which a main level shower made sense – except as a back-up – until I needed to hose down these screens.)

Once the screens were cleaned, the next task was matching them to the correct windows. No two windows in this house are the same size, although most of them look like they would be. It felt like one of those toddler games where you have to push a specific shape through the matching hole. Except I was running around my house with 16 rectangular screens.

By this point, I hope you’re starting to understand the “complications” I mentioned earlier. Nothing is straight-forward.

Now for the actual POINT of this story. (I know, sorry it took so long to get here…)

For some reason, there was a ton of dirt caked on the sill just outside each window. It would’ve technically been inside the screen/my house if I didn’t clean it, so each time I installed a screen, I would first open the window (from inside) and wash out the frame.

When I was installing one of the screens in my upstairs office window, in addition to the regular dirt, there were also leaves stuck to the top edge of the frame, connected by a few cobwebs. I took my rag and went to wipe them out – and ended up in a horror film.

Apparently a spider and her very fruitful egg sac were lurking underneath one of those leaves, because as soon as I dislodged it, there was an explosion of spider babies every where – blowing in through the window, scurrying across the windowsill, dropping to the sidewalk below. Reader, I screamed. Spiders freak me out. I’ve gotten to a place where I usually try to relocate them rather than kill them – but that’s when I’m faced with ONE spider, and that’s assuming he’s not a fast-moving spider.

In this case (and I’m not proud of myself), I just started smacking as fast as I could, playing whack-a-mole to kill as many spiders as possible so they wouldn’t run straight into my house. Fortunately, I was wearing gardening gloves, which gave me a bit more bravery than I would’ve had bare-handed.

My assault on those poor spiders was probably the equivalent of an Air Arachnid flight going down in terms of body count. But even more disturbing (at least to me) were those that I missed. How many spiders were there? For the rest of the night I kept scratching at my head, convinced that stray baby spiders had found their way into my hair.

I’m beginning to think that buying a house on Halloween might have been an omen. Oops.

6 Responses to “This (Scary?) Old House”

  1. Lung February 21, 2023 at 4:35 pm #

    She’s back!!!

  2. sprite February 22, 2023 at 3:21 am #

    Honestly, I feel for everyone involved in this story — you, the baby spiders, Mama Arachnid…

    • Alison February 22, 2023 at 5:38 am #

      Me too – I felt bad turning into a killing machine, but if I had that many spiders running around in my house, I would’ve had to move!

  3. joyburnout February 22, 2023 at 11:36 pm #

    oh. my. GOD. reads a bit like an impromptu Mayfly festival I found myself trapped in on Lake Erie. But much, much grosser. And, I had not purchased the state park as home-sweet-home. Pithy’s back — welcome =)

    • Alison February 23, 2023 at 6:43 am #

      Ugh – mayflies! That’s the fifth season at the Great Lakes: Fly Season. I like the idea of calling a State Park home!

      • joyburnout February 24, 2023 at 8:56 pm #

        😆👍. And, me too

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