Home sweet home has warps, leaks, rattles and thumps all its own

In my house I'm the boss, my wife is just the decision-maker.

-- Woody Allen

When our home was new, flaws were easy to see. Repairs were rapid. Scratches and marks were painted over quickly.

New homes, after all, attract company, and we didn't want them to see anything less than perfection.

But after a few years, minor looks didn't seem so important.

That's when we began to rely more on touch. Sometime after a decade, houses begin to feel "lived in."

You could tell when a closet door struck, or a deck plank warped or the nap of the carpeting had worn and needed to be replaced.

Things began to need tightening -- from the screws on the doorknobs to the leaky faucets.

The curtain rods might sag a bit, but then -- I notice -- so do I.

Lately, however, I have begun to rely on sound.

Old houses -- and ours is almost 20 -- make noises.

I guess I always knew this because my grandmother's house creaked and popped and snapped all the time.

"It's talking to us," she would tell anxious children, in hopes of setting us at ease. This was usually after an older cousin had revealed that something scary lived upstairs and was waiting to grab us.

Well now my house has begun its own conversation.

Plumbing pipes occasionally moan or rattle. Windows will whine when the winter wind gusts across the screens.

And then there are the thumps.

The thumps seem to come from closets and the attic, cupboards and pantries.

The thumps cause me to sit up in bed and wonder what I just heard.

The thumps could be anything.

They could be closet shelves collapsing under the strain of too many hangers.

They could be attic boxes of Christmas ornaments that crumpled when the heat of July dried out the glue and weakened the weld that kept the corners connected.

The thumps could be squirrels, who leaped from a tree, to the eve to the vent to the attic, and then set about building winter nests in boxes of old reporter notebooks.

The thumps cause me to turn down the sound on the ball game and get up to explore cabinets.

The thumps have sent me to both the aforementioned attic looking for bushy-tailed varmints and to the basement looking for possums and out to the garage looking for burglars.

Yes, I'm usually dispatched on thump patrol because my wife is wary of thumps.

She won't admit to being frightened, just efficient.

"Why should I go check it out when you're around?" she responds regally.

"You're not afraid of anything," she'll add, pushing my macho button.

It works every time.

And I work all the time, too. I have to.

A man's home is his hassle.

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