I’m back online after spending the second of two weekends on home improvements, and the gods have not punished me yet.
Until recently, our back porch was literally rotting away. This really bugged me – the steps became slimy in the rain and a couple of weekends ago, I pulled a patch of moss off the steps only to realize the moss had been covering a damp hole in the wood.
The fact that I could stick two fingers through my back step raised my ire to new levels. I decided that my husband wasn’t getting to our redneck-looking back porch fast enough, and so I took things into my own hands.
Except really, I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve never spearheaded a home improvement before – I never really had a home to improve. And when I was growing up, my family – usually very democratic in the delegation of chores – never assigned me any home improvement-type chores. Maybe my parents didn’t trust me to do a good job (That would be justified; I was a notorious daydreamer.) Maybe my fastidious father would rather do it himself, quickly and correctly. I certainly didn’t volunteer.
I was kind of a chauvinist about chores as a kid. I remember being annoyed with my mom for mowing the lawn when I was about nine. Dad hadn’t gotten around to mowing and the grass must have been driving Mom crazy. So she put on old clothes and tied a scarf around her head and headed out.
I told her, with supreme scorn, that mothers don’t mow the lawn and she teased me and called me a chauvinist pig. I told her that I couldn’t be a girl and a chauvinist pig at the same time. I don’t remember if she dignified this with a response. What I do remember is sitting in the house in a huff while she mowed. I was irritated with Mom for mowing the lawn, angry in the same way I used to be when the moon appeared during the day. And I had this aboriginal belief that her mowing would upset the lawn gods and we would be punished.
And then there was this terrible noise.
It sounded like a wood chipper. My mother started making noise. I ran to the kitchen counter and hoisted myself up to the window. There she was, trying to maneuver the mower out of a small field of splintered wood. She’d run over the cardinal lawn ornament my dad made her for her birthday the year before. It was completely destroyed. She was too flustered to turn the lawnmower off, so she just kept moving around, making smaller and smaller splinters and more horrible noises. Dad ran over and shut off the lawnmower.There, I thought. The gods had punished us, and my little world returned to normal. I think the splinters from the wooden cardinal are probably still in my parents’ garage – my father never throws anything out. As far as I know, Mom never volunteered to mow the yard again.
I’ve left my preconceived notions about the division of labor behind, but I still had no idea what I was doing when I picked up the paintbrush last week. I’ve had some help from the husband (we planed the slimy step) but for the most part it was me who ripped out rotting boards, reinforced bits of porch primed and painted. That was kind of cool, even if I am really tired.
There have been been some bumps in the road. I got blue paint all over the place and almost fell off a ladder. The manly slate gray we picked out for the porch floor actually turned out to be a delicate shade of lavender, but since it was an expensive paint, we used it anyhow.
As it turned out, the back porch was the least of our problems. Last weekend, I took a break from painting the back porch and came out to the front to discuss my progress with my husband. We looked up at the front porch and realized that hey, wait a minute, the porch ceiling was further away than it ought to be. We looked under the porch to find that all the support beams had rotted away. The only thing holding us up had been 100 years of habit. And also, the heater didn’t pump hot water up to our second floor this morning. And the second floor bathroom is leaking water.
It’s probably a good thing I’m no longer shy about home improvements.