First Christmas in the Rose Cottage: Post 1 of 9 – Inspection

Mary DugganBy Mary Duggan

When I purchased my enchanted little cottage seven years ago, I could never have imagined the direction my life would take. Or that this simple 110 year old, 1200 square foot cottage would become home to my 2 sisters as well and headquarters for our shared business. When people ask me why in the world we called our deodorant product lifestinks I give a quick and true answer. But the richer and truer answer is life stinks is a deeply layered metaphor for the lives my sisters and I have endured, enjoyed and conjoined. One layer of the stink begins with our home and headquarters on the South Side of Chicago.

Nest inside our Rose Cottage

Just inside the front door – a gift from my sisters.

Having owned a design firm for years, I had knocked so many homes and offices into beauty and order so efficiently that I could not wait to finally have my own place to transform. It took one week to realize it was not to be. My precious and hard-earned nest egg and the bank’s approval of my mortgage were not going to be enough. It took one week. The week the stink began.

I got an inspection. I am, after all, the daughter of a realtor. I recall the day like it was yesterday. My darling real estate agent was sitting on the couch talking with my mother and her caregiver, Lucy. My Mom had come to be a part of the inspection process, to lay her eyes on my dream house first-hand and I was thrilled about this. I was so happy that I had finally managed to buy my first home while my mother, the realtor of 35 years, was still alive to enjoy the moment with me.

prospect house

The Duggan family home on Prospect Avenue.

To top it off I was buying a home on the same block where she had raised all eleven of us. She had owned the big old farm house on the corner. I was buying the tiny little cottage mid-block and she was thrilled. As my mother walked in the door, I was shocked. In the light of my soon to be own home I could see more clearly how quickly she was failing. She was paper white, trembling and extremely weak. She never got beyond the living room. Seeing her out of context, that being her mauve velveteen electric-lift recliner in her own sunny living room, made it painfully clear to me that she was receding quickly from my life. I tried to concentrate on the inspection; but I couldn’t.

I followed the inspector around, with the wretched caregiver snorting and  snooting around as well; frowning as she critically inspected the house I wanted my mother to see, not her. This heating system will have to be replaced, she said, kicking the radiator in the dining room. Tree outside needs to come down, she said, looking at the one raggedy growth on a double wide lot filled with extraordinarily beautiful evergreen and juniper. My Mom detested her too, believing that she had come here from Poland just to ruin the final days of Mom’s life. Mom tried valiantly to defend my house from Lucy’s sneers. She looked terribly sick; but she was smiling widely as she sat on the one piece of furniture left in the house from the soon-to-be previous owners – a big leather couch that was swallowing up my mother.

I tried to listen as the inspector guided  me through my future home, pointing out completely inconsequential changes and repairs I would have to make. That light switch lacks a cover, he said, while he failed to note that the entire electrical system was in chaos due to an amateur installation and that within weeks of moving in I would lose electricity in 50% of my home. I kept challenging him on why the house seemed to have such a funky smell. The realtor and my Mom and Lucy and I were all in agreement on that one. Oh yeah, said Lucy, this house stinks – like garbage. His explanation was to dismiss my concerns and explain that the garbage disposal had been improperly installed and that a $25 redo would heal the situation completely and the smell would be gone.

I tried to concentrate. I should have challenged him. I should have known and done better. But all I could think, all I could see, all I could feel was my Mom and she was not doing well at all. I failed completely to see that he was an idiot, the referral to use him had been horrible and he would end up costing me boatloads. He missed everything that mattered. But all I could think about was the only thing that mattered – my Mom. His ineptitude cost me tens of thousands of dollars and crushed my vision for my first home.

My Mom was never to return to my home. She never came to dinner or took the place of honor at a party or relaxed in a chaise in the back yard while I gardened. She cycled through a series of caregivers, some wonderful, most not and completed her hospice journey the following year. She made a few carefully chosen forays out into the world in the months to come; but never accepted my repeated requests to please come back to my house. Her energy dwindled and then waned completely. The day with the idiot inspector would have to suffice. Mary bought a home on the old block, I could hear her say, with real joy in her voice. But it stinks, I could hear as well, as Lucy the caregiver got her piece said too. And Lucy was right.


To continue to part 2, click here.

Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters.

The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks. And that was just the beginning. We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.

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