CatchUp

Guy packing a box in front of empty bookcases.

So, like these last couple of weeks have been full of whack. We were backed up against an immutable deadline–demolition. So we moved a generation’s worth of life out of the space it had occupied.

I fully recognize that I’m making a big deal of what others just manage without comment. But, I’m here to say those folks are just withholding. They might be outwardly strong, but this shit is real.

It’s not like packing up all of your worldly possessions accrued over a middle-aged lifetime is insignificant. But you’re correct in your impulse to say, “Doc, shut up. It’s just life. And you’re getting what you want, you ingrate.”

Okay. Thanks for the reminder and for your chastisement. I earned it.

But now here I am with so much that I haven’t told you. Not for lack of thinking about you. Not for lack of sentences that I strung together in my head without any tether. It’s that I’ve lacked the mental space to write. Since I’m a bit behind, I’m just gonna share some pictures. And some captions. Just to catch you up.

Above is a sampling of old crappy furniture that you can’t even give away. Except that there are always takers. I might have had to post online more than once, and there may still be some crappy junk furniture yet to find it’s forever home, but I can always put it out on the curb and send an alert to the listserve. Crossing fingers that someone doesn’t try and have me cited for illegal dumping. If all else fails, there’s a dumpster on the way.

Warning sign that there is an impending dumpster. And there's some wild marigolds.

There was the day that I came home to find a pair of candy corn cones marking the spot that the dumpster will sit. It says that we have the permit until mid-November. That coincides with the hopeful move in date of, “before Thanksgiving.” Also, check out those wild marigolds that are growing from a crack in the street. I hope they survive the ordeal.

IMG_0541

Truly a ridiculous amount of boxes. At one point I just started throwing items in and marking the boxes rando.

green yellow and orange dot stickers

Now this, this was a piece of my genius. There were some items to go to our interim abode, some things–mostly furniture–to be stored in the garage, and others to go in the basement. I color coded everything. It was brilliant. The movers thought it was brilliant. I had to mark some of the crappy furniture with duct-tape and a handwritten “NO,” to keep the flow going. That helped kill the questions that slowed things down. I paid the guys by the hour, not the pound.

The moving truck, in front of my house.

This is the moving truck. That is all.

The emptied wall.

We painted the dining room walls this amazing terra cotta twenty-some years ago. I wanted to capture the color, and the nail that steadied the sconce for four candles. You can see where the sconce hit the wall. I saved the sconce. I don’t know if it will go back there.

Two red mugs and a coffee setup.

We left the coffee rig at the house when we moved. It was the last thing to pack. We moved the bed, and that meant no coffee. Since the interim abode is only one and a half blocks away, I figured I’d walk over there and make coffee.  But guess what? The Spouse went and got it. So I woke up to fresh coffee. This was the best morning.  I married well.

Yellow tomatoes, parsley, bread and cava.

There was much eating out around the move. This was the first dinner I made in the interim abode. It was rice with minted peas and sweet, salty and sour chicken thighs. Oh, and, obvs, some bubbles. Celebratory and what not.

The Beast, chilling.

The Beast was a little worse for the wear during the move. But he found a chill spot on the floor at the interim abode. He kept an eye on everything because even though the movers came last Wednesday, we didn’t actually finish moving out until yesterday. Yes, a full week later.

It was at a point–or perhaps a few points that I may have made in a borderline hysterical tone–that I didn’t think we’d ever finish. But that’s what happens when you move. You lose your mind over the fact that you seemed to be almost done and then you weren’t. And you cycle through that again and again until you realize that the contractors are coming tomorrow. And then, it’s done. And there are things on the porch that will be picked up by Purple Heart and stuff that the person from the next neighborhood over claims to want and then the stuff that the city will take. I love the city for that.

The front door with all the signs of construction.

And today, the front door was adorned with the signs of construction. Warning labels. EPA certifications–required in a house as old as ours–permits, and the posting of the nuisance fee that we pay the city because…dumpster. Just for the record, my neighbors don’t get any of that nuisance fee.

As I walked through the empty, echoing rooms, I didn’t know what to feel. I thought that I should feel a big emotion, yet I barely even registered relief.

So I found a random pink ribbon during my clean out and decided it would look perfect next to the random green ribbon that has been hanging from our door knocker for more than a year. The house is still ours. I’m feeling good.

A First Dark Day

Note the contrasting flooring. The stairs are original and the landing is new. This was from my recon trip yesterday.

The report from the trades on trades day was fine. Of course, we found yet another thing that needed to be done that was outside of the initial scope.

There’s no question that we need a new front door. The report included an option to use the entire width of the door opening. The original door was a big one and it would be so sexy to power-up to the authentic entryway.

The Spouse was providing the report, since he was there.

They had discussions about electrical boxes and radiant heat underneath the tiled spaces. There was some confusion over my second story cork floor requirement. Somebody got a crazed idea that I wanted carpet upstairs. Nope. Nope. Nope. I truly hate carpeting. I liked cork for the warmth and soundproofing of carpet in a renewable and easy-to-sweep-dog-hair-out-of-corners form.

The floor guy was less sanguine about the main floor wood. The beat up planks that mean a lot to me. The ones that I love. The Spouse’s report included words about a lack of sub flooring, about the grooves getting untongued or something, noise about exposed nailheads and a few holes that were shortcuts to the basement. The Spouse also noted that our project manager was very worried about how I would react, since the floors needed to be replaced and he remembered my resolve that that wasn’t going to happen.

And I’m like, “Nope. Not happening. I am keeping the floor.” This was not a great part of the report. Nobody [that would be The Spouse since it was only the two of us in this discussion] said I was being stubborn or ridiculous, but I felt that those concepts were just barely stopped at the back of someone’s tongue.

I was feeling like The Spouse was always taking the side of the mens. Some kind of he-man club. That I was being patted on my little emotional head and was out of my element. Even though I am the logical one in our equation. I’m the one who pushes emotions aside to solve an issue. And this is an issue that I am sure can be resolved with engineering and tools and ingenuity.

That said, it’s true that maintaining the soul of the house, respecting and honoring the bones of this structure is my top requirement for this remodel. Number one. I wrote it down first, before new kitchen or second bathroom.

It was why I was [secretly] putting off this project. I’ve been worried that I might not make the right calls for the house. The house has embraced us and our madness. It’s known families before ours, too. It’s been the keeper of our secrets. The holder of our joys. The witness to our sorrows.  Our protector. We owe it our fealty. We need to protect it back, like the special vessel it is.

After a bit of tension, the report was finished with the decision hanging in the air like the smell of Elizabeth, N.J.  Next day I hit up the Google to arm myself with knowledge. I typed in searches like

  • replace or refinish old floors
  • salvaging heart pine flooring
  • stain or varnish

The links I clicked were things like Restoring Old Wood Floors to Their Former Glory or Can I Save My Hardwood Floor? or Refinish or Replace Wood Floor from Bob Vila’s Blog.

My research turned up the same types of challenges that the Spouse described–exposed nails, separated planks and balancing the volume of floor that needs to be replaced. I read time and time again, in article after post after discussion forum that old floors can last 100 years.

Gulp. Mine are 100 years old. While floors that have been well cared for could certainly last longer, it seemed that 100 years was a good run.

I was on my knees, with my hands running along the floor boards. I looked right inside those crumb filled gaps. I felt the nail heads with my fingertips. I laid my cheek on the rough floor. A surprising liquid welled in my eyes and dropped to wet the ancient surface.

Where the hell did that come from? I stood up and pushed my hair back behind my ears. I strode into the bathroom to wash my hands and found myself oddly agitated, pacing along a four foot path. What was I doing? If the floors have to go, maybe I shouldn’t even do this project.

I sat down at my 1917 built mahogany table that desperately needs to be refinished and pushed my coffee cup back and forth in front of me. I flipped the newspaper away from me and a sob escaped my throat. In the split of a second, The Beast bounded from his perch on the couch and I found his paws supporting his 85 pound body in my lap. He put his snout next to mine and lapped up the wet salt streaking my face. He wasn’t going to stop until I stopped. He really hates it when I’m sad.

I looked for solace from the floors in dining room. They hate it when I’m sad, too.

 

The Blob

Our front yard started with a big honking For Sale sign (which I had The Spouse rip out of the ground as soon as we closed on the house because I didn’t want to give that idiot realtor even one second of advertisement) and a little bit of landscaping. There were two or three hostas, a few mounds of Sweet William and a small boxwood. The shrubbery was about two feet square and maybe eighteen inches tall.

Over the years the boxwood grew. The Spouse had a dull set of clippers he’d use to keep it in shape, but the plant was sneaky. It would always grow a little more than he trimmed. Slowly, it crowded out the hostas. It grew tall and wide, deep green and bushy. Grew being the key word.

I’m not sure when I started calling it The Blob. Maybe it was when I noticed that the hostas had been swallowed up.  The porch might have been next. But The Spouse was confident that he could control the creature. I was less certain. I didn’t like it. No, I did not like it one bit.

The Blob soon engulfed the entire front yard. There was a very narrow path, less than a little trail’s worth, around it. The Blob grew taller than me. Eventually it became impossible to reach to trim the middle of the monster. It overtook the view from the picture window in the toy room. Porch sitters were hidden from sidewalk strollers. Feral cats, raccoons, oppossums and flesh eating spiders (I’m less sure about this last one) lurked in and around it.

My dislike for this thing, this Blob, grew along with it.

Last winter–when we had a real winter with cold weather and snow–the Beast went mad when we stepped off of the porch. There was a few inches of snow on the ground. He furiously sniffed near the Blob and suddenly bolted. There was something loitering behind that stupid Blob. I was on the ground and he dragged me  to the back of the Blob. I was screaming “STOP,” punctuated by short, guttural words that rhymed with truck.

The Blob didn’t eat me, but it could have. I was about ready to sacrifice the Beast to the monster. Instead the Beast, surprised to see me on the ground and in the snow, thought it was a game. I did not find it entertaining. No, not one bit.

Once, in the Spring, I saw a trio of little sparrows that were being chased by the neighborhood hawk fly into the sanctuary of its boughs. And then there were the nests and little eggs that sheltered in the arms of its nursery.

Still, it had to go. Since it was beautiful and healthy, someone said that it was valuable. I tried to give it away. There were a few window shoppers. They looked underneath its branches and were shocked to see that it grew from a one root, a single specimen.  Unfortunately, nobody could figure out how to get it out.  Well, one guy said he’d need a crane. No takers.

So today, Julio and his crew came by. In less than thirty minutes, it was gone. Twenty-five years of growth disappeared in less time than a lunch break. Bye Blob. It was you or the yard. I really won’t miss you, but I am still sad to see you go. Funny how you can have both of those feelings at once.

The spot is readied for a birch tree, with that beautiful smooth gray-white bark. The tree will contribute to the replenishment of the city’s tree canopy. It’s native and helps with the water table. It’ll shade the front of the house, host some nests and allow space for ground greenery.

I’m thinking hostas. Maybe some Sweet William. Nothing invasive though. We know where that leads.

Simple 

The Beast had a Merry Christmas. Somone brought him a rawhide. This was not me. 

I’m not against rawhides, mind you. It’s just that I didn’t gift it. It was anothet human friend. 

So if Christmas means that your dreams may come true, The Beast is squarely on the dream to reality train. 

It is good to have simple wants that can be achieved. This is success. And, that is all.