Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hey Baby, I'm Your Handyman.

The first thought was marvelous in its simplicity; Daughter needed bookshelves. No one who had walked into her room and high-stepped over the multiple piles of books could argue with that. Once we all agreed on bookshelves, we added “And also some room for her globe, and her copious small objects, and the sports-equipment which keeps rolling out from under the bed and trying to kill her parents…” and, once again, we were all in agreement. I would find catalogues, we would price bookshelves and we would be people who bought bookshelves. I found a couple of six-foot units which seemed doable.

Then Consort, damn him, had to bring math into the picture. He estimated that with the amount of books alone, not even counting dioramas and soccer-balls, we would need three six-foot bookshelves. Another storage-space would have to be brought in for oddly-shaped objects, thereby giving the effect of living in a Barnes and Noble which catered to soccer fanatics and cat-fetishists. Almost unnoticed, the conversation shifted from “We’ll get bookshelves and things will be better…” to “It might make more sense to install built-in bookshelves, to most efficiently use the space and keep Quinn from tripping over shin-guards. Also, we can rewire the room so there is more than one forty-watt bulb lighting the entire room and add a small desk.”

As a homeowner of some experience, I have learned that the most expensive thing you can say is “Well, as long as we’re ____________, let’s _____________!” We brought in a carpenter/contractor for an estimate of bookshelves, the desk and the wiring. The estimate caused me to rub the bridge of my nose and say tiredly “Is that estimate based on making the shelves out of gold and fetal pandas?” I longed to go back to the halcyon days of two six-foot bookshelves but I couldn’t, because we knew too much. Stupid math.

Consort brought out his woodworking magazines, sketched a few designs. Within a few weeks, we had gone from cheap, ugly and readily available bookshelves to a couture unit specially designed by Daddy. I was charmed, and I was cautious. Consort is great at starting small projects, and keeping this house from sliding into its natural state of entropy and feral aggression towards improvements. Consort is less uniquely gifted at finishing large projects, which is only noticeable when I’m waiting for months for a folding-table in the laundry room to be assembled, but would prove problematic if the work-space in question is Daughter’s bedroom and the length of time is the remainder of her childhood.

We put the plans on the kitchen table (which took him a year to get around to varnishing), and we talked. He had a plan; he would build the bookshelves in sections in the garage. Only when it was done and ready to be installed would he bring the chaos indoors. He would move the wiring, he would install the bookshelves and the desk, he would wear a tool belt and clean up after himself, and it should take no more than two weeks to bring her room into submission.

“Of course,” he said, too calmly, “I’m going to have to check out the water damage”. Silently, we stared at one another. There were two indications of water damage in the outer wall which had existed since I moved in. Remember the money-phrase? This was “As long as we’re screwing bookshelves into load-bearing walls, let’s see if the load-bearing walls aren’t riddled with wood-rot!”

But, he concluded in a soul-strengthening tone, the odds were pretty good that it was nothing more than leftover damage from an ancient and long-sealed leak. Besides, he had a plan; he was finishing a work-project in mid-July and the next project wasn’t really ramping up until mid-August. He’d arrange to have the bookshelves ready to install in that period where he was at loose ends, a man with a plan and a ready jig-saw. He spent the better part of the evenings of early summer standing in our garage, making noise and being a local luminary. He’d wear his tool-belt and his protective glasses and he’d make noise and people would look down our driveway and say in wondering tones “Look! He’s…making something!” Men would wander down to comment on the noise-making thingies and women would say things like “Wow, I wish I could get my husband to make things!”; small boys would linger on their bicycles, gazing longingly at the sharp blades he was wielding. Behind the clouds of sawdust worked Consort, a figure of glamour in a tool-belt.

I thought things like “This isn’t that hard at all…” and “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” and “Maybe, after this, I could talk him into making bookshelves for every single room in the house!” I would go out and watch him and not realize that what I had thought was the sound of evening birds was, in fact, the sound of the Fates, giggling behind their hands.

(Next: It stops being polite and starts getting real.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh-oh. I think I see where this is going! (And it's the same reason my 3000-book library is all stored on cheap, ugly, readily-available bookcases.)

3:11 PM  
Blogger Chatty said...

Oh, my.

You were in my prayers from the second paragraph. I, too, have a Handy Man in the house...

They mean well. They really do.

Lousy math...I KNEW I hated it ever since 8th grade algebra.


3:39 PM  
Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

As a woman married to a white-collar guy, there is nothing more hunky than a guy in a tool belt. Unfortunately, my guy's tool belt is carrying things by which to fix/improve/rev up/modify his Harley Davidson so unfortunately, I get nothing out of this deal.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm first to comment.
This is the first blog entry I've actually read on the same day you've written it. The rest I've been reading from the archives, and I've loved every one of them. You have great talent for this, and I anxiously await your book.

Hope you all survived today's earthquake...and that the bookshelves, should there be any yet, did not collapse in the shaking.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I'm still waiting on the new entertainment center Hubster decided he would build as soon as he got a new dove-tail jig...whatever that is.

I got it for him for his birthday 6 years ago.

He bought the Very Expensive Wood, used the jig, broke the jig, and we remain entertainment center-less.


9:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

One word: IKEA

9:35 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Oh my. I can't wait to read the next installment.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Um, thank you VERY MUCH for getting that James Taylor song stuck in my head, for hours now! You owe me one, Cummings.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Dodi said...

Please tell me this turns out better than the shower it took my husband 6 years to finish tiling? (Yes. I went without a shower in our master bath for 6 years. Now the girls' bathroom needs redone!)

5:17 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:21 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

Maybe Consort and my husband can get together; Ron will help you guys finish your woodworking "ambitions" and Consort can reciprocate at our home. We already have all the tools, the supplies and the plans...just not the desire to start the project!

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The story of my life: "Well, as long as we’re ____________, let’s _____________!"

Ugh! I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear about those old leaks!

6:35 AM  

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