Everybody Gets A Trophy

A dresser covered with two dozen trophies from basketball, soccer, rugby, baseball and football. Some personalized, most generic.

Baby Bear was instructed to clear out his room when he was home for the Christmas holidays. It was to prepare for the rehab of the upstairs. He bristled when I mentioned his Tipman A5.

“That’s the one thing I want. Why do you start with threatening that with the dump?”

He had a point. He wasn’t angry. More hurt, I think. While I was attempting to convey my ignorance of the importance of his stuff, he wasn’t feeling the urgency I expected. I went for the jugular. It was my test case. He wanted to keep it.

Honestly, this was not the best way to build momentum for an unwelcome project. Note to self: Need to work on my technique.

My own mother used to annoy me by keeping me solidly preserved in amber as my 18-year-old self. It was as if I were stuck with my permed hair, big belled Levis and a limited palette of Jack and Ginger and french onion soup for a fancy date. Forever. I don’t think that she ever really knew me after I left.

Not that she was trying to force me into a box. Not even that she was indifferent to me. It was more like she was unable to move her point of reference to the present. To where I was now.

Every time I’d see her it was always a slide backwards. Even when I married. Even when I had kids of my own. There was still a part of her that related to me as if I were my high school self. Even when I could no longer remember the references that were, to her, au courant. Over the years it became a dull annoyance, but still.

Baby Bear did a good job clearing out his stuff. He bagged stuff to donate and stuff to toss. He left some things behind with the instruction that the disposal of the remains was up to me. He knew that I would go through the kid and young adult books on the bookshelves. I already said that I couldn’t actually part with the legos.

He emptied out all of his drawers. No oversized cargo shorts, t-shirts with images that were no longer funny or school ties left. There was a pile of random phone and other small electronics chargers on the top of one dresser. On the other was an array of trophies.

There were maybe two or three thousand trophies. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But for many years there were two seasons of soccer and one of basketball, each season ending with a requisite participation trophy. He did that for a bunch of years. Then there were camp trophies. And a science fair ribbon. And the Latin medals. And the football and  baseball markers. I think there was a letter for wrestling and rugby, too.

I looked at that display of accomplishment–because participation is an accomplishment, too–and wondered why they didn’t make it into a bag. Did he think they were important to me? Did he not want to be the one to physically let them go? But he did let them go. He was done with them. He took what he wanted and moved on.

I was using childhood tricks by poking Baby Bear with the one item I knew he wanted to keep. I was stuck in that oppositional place where I con him into an action. Actually, though, he’s beyond that. I looked around at the relatively little he left behind.

He lives seventeen hundred miles away. I think about him taking care of himself. Without my daily admonitions. He’s got this. He’s moved on. Me too.

I am renaming him again in this blog. Starting now, he’s Bear. Just Bear. He’ll always have a place to stay here. We are remodeling his room, which will remain his room. If he wants it.

Both Bear and Doc are on a growth trajectory. I’ll toss the trophies. He has other things to do.

Demo Derby

The demolition plan for the kitchen area.

I asked the team to bring the updated plans. I just had the kitchen elevations in hard copy. Nothing else.

“Elevations” is part of my new vocabulary. See how I just threw that out there, as if it wasn’t a term that I learned three weeks ago? It’s amazing how quickly you can assimilate new language. For those of you not fluent in whale, in this context, elevations are the wall view of the plans, versus the flyover view. The elevations show the relative height of the cabinets, where the tops of the windows line up and how the microwave stacks over the wall oven.

I don’t know the name of the top-down plans. Floor plans? I think that’s right.

I did have some of the drawings electronically. I like them that way because I can pull them up on my phone, tablet and laptop. I can zoom in on specific features. I don’t like the pixelated versions in that I have a hard time getting the overall and relative picture. So I requested the printouts.

The printed plans are oversized. You can run your finger along the outside wall, rather than hiding half of the room behind a stubby digit. You can trace the new door opening while standing in the as-is room and squinting to see the future. You can hold the page an arm’s length away, below where the new wall of windows will be, and still make out the details in the drawing and pretend your other hand is resting on the new kitchen island.

My printer can’t print to that size of paper. The architect’s printer can. They printed out everything that was updated, and there were bonus pages. There were drawings with circles with little points–some with the points exiting one side and some with the points spread around the circle like a compass. The circles were linked together with bowed lines. These were the electrical drawings.

There was a color-coded set with red numbers and green numbers that corresponded to the color of the kitchen cabinets. There was a framing plan that was unfathomable to me. These documents made me very happy that I hired someone who understands them.

There were also two pages that had the current floor plan. This was awesome because they lined up with the to-be plans so I could get a better relative idea the changes.

On closer inspection, it dawned on me that the as-is plans are not there for my comparative pleasure. I saw shaded areas that, according to the legend, are areas marked for demolition. Whoa! Demolition. That’s a serious word.

The shady spots are along a few walls where doors or closets are moving. There’s a few spots where the floor is coming up and being replaced by tile. And there’s the back three-quarters of the house marked for wrecking. The kitchen, the pantry and the bathroom, and the wall that encases the stairway–all with X’s marking the spots where they will be razed and remade.

And reused and recycled, too. There are a bunch of notes in the margin instructing the contractors to carefully remove and replace boards and trim.

I like that demolition and destruction are on the same page as care and reclamation. I like the contradiction and the compliment, the yin yang of it all. I’m finding meaning in everything.


The Midnight Train Goin’ Anywhere

a confusing array of kitchen cabinet knobs and pulls. Who could decide? They are all fine.

Kitchens. Baths. Mudrooms. Decks. Master suites. Remodels. Some people are all about the process of remaking a home into theirs: the discovery, the design, the development. Me? I’m about the Done.

The thought of picking out knobs for cabinets, looking for the perfect granite vein, comparing backsplash options, selecting faucet and matching vanity lights? Shoot me now, in the head.

It’s not that I don’t care. I want a good remodel. I want to respect the bones of our great old house. I definitely have an aesthetic, but extreme nuance is uninteresting and somewhat unfathomable to me. Shades of taupe? Notched or twisted pull? I really don’t care. Does it work? Is it sturdy? Does it look okay? Great! Done and done.

I’m simple. My goal is to be able to cook a good dinner and for my guests to be able to turn on the light in the bathroom. Right now it’s a trick. The switch is on the outside wall. Inside would be a huge win. Another criteria is that nobody gets electrocuted. If someone gives me a reasonable fixture option, I’ll say yes. I care about completion and operation.

A friend was talking about a partner who wants to completely understand the process. He’s researching the natural light from multiple sources and how they will blend and create a perfect reading spot. He explores design with the fervor of a securities attorney unraveling the complex law–in this case laws of nature, laws of composition, and even, perhaps, those of humanity. The journey is made of hundreds, if not thousands, of turns that will determine the future of their lives.

Me, I’ll take the average of those options and plot a way forward. I’m not so deep.

I’m not being flip. Okay a little flip, but I don’t think he’s wrong. I’ll stipulate that there can be meaning in all those options. I personally can’t care about most of them. It’s why I only drove back to Detroit twice in decades. I can’t stand to drive eleven hours–twenty-two round trip–when I can fly in seventy minutes. I care about being there not getting there.

“Wait, Doc!” you say. “Look out the window will you?”

And to you I say, “have you ever driven on the Ohio Turnpike? Nothing to see here. Move along.” Yes, I have patience issues. I want to be there more than get there.

People have their things. People really enjoy the art and craft of serial-remodeling, either the same house or flipping houses. People like to shop shop shop for the best antique or best bargain or best find. People tinker with their cars inside and out, sometimes spending more time on the detailing than on driving.

I’m not immune. I would rather start a meal from scratch–selecting, washing, cutting and roasting or sautéeing vegetables; whisking the mustard into the oil and lemon juice for a vinaigrette; flipping a steak continuously in a red hot cast iron skillet and basting it with butter. Some call me crazed to perform cooking feats at the end of a workday. But this journey, from kitchen to table, is as important to me as the destination, from fork to lips.

I don’t know why some journeys have meaning to some and not to others. Why the selection of a pecan over a walnut floor stain defines peace for one person and elicits indifference in another? Why having flowers in my house is important to me, but arranging them is not?

When I was thinking about being a destination person and not a journey person, I realized that I was wrong. We are all on our own meta-journey that is made up of mini-journeys and side destinations along the way.  This greatest journey has a destination, too. The destination none of us will avoid, but most of us are not anxious to see.

I’m working on enjoying my overall journey on my own path until it’s natural end. There’s nothing else.