Grinning from ear to ear, I stepped over the threshold of our new house. Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply. Mmmm…I didn’t smell sawdust, I didn’t smell paint. I just smelled newness.
“Better move it,” barked Neil, my husband, “Or I’m gonna run right over you.”
Jolted out of my reverie, I obediently moved. Arms full of boxes, he led the way into the other room.It was moving day. I had waited for this day for nearly all our marriage, all thirty-two years of it. It wasn’t our first house, but it would be our last -- if I had anything to say about it.
I floated into the kitchen, admiring the new appliances and marveled at the pretty, non-chipped ceramic floor. There was trim around the entire window and even a curtain rod, just waiting to be decorated. Peeking into the living room, I saw smooth walls, with not a single spot that was bare drywall needing to be mudded. I had finally arrived!
I couldn’t help giggling in delight. I had waited a long time for this day. If my calculations were correct, this was house number five. And it was the only house not referred to by our realtor as a “handyman special."
Thirty years ago we had bought our first home. It’s hard to believe I was almost as excited then as I was now. Ahh…youth. Naiveté. We spent five years in that house, ripping out carpet, taking out walls, and breathing in pounds of drywall dust. But we were young and it didn’t seem like that much work. Then, we found out we were soon to have more children than we did bedrooms. So, we ended up selling that house and actually made some money.
That’s all it took. From then on, Neil was on a mission. We lived in a succession of cheap homes that we spent hours renovating. Once, I spent an entire year brushing my teeth in the bathtub because we didn’t have the sink hooked up to the plumbing. I can’t tell you the number of Christmas pictures we have where the backdrop to the tree is unfinished drywall. I was afraid to invite the kids’ friends over lest one of them fall through a hole in a floor that we were currently re-building. And there was the time that Neil had ripped out a bathroom wall, --or was it a kitchen one?-- and threw the boards by the back step. One of our boys thought he’d play superhero and tried jumping over the pile. Instead, he ended up with a nail through his foot and we had an unplanned trip to the ER.
Neil says it wasn’t that bad, but he wasn’t the one having to search for pots to cook supper in because somebody took down all the kitchen cupboards! He wasn’t the one driving to the mall to use the bathroom because someone had shut off the water so the glue on the PVC pipes could dry. It was that bad.
But now, a new era was upon us. Neil would come home from work and wouldn’t immediately pick up his hammer. Maybe he’d sit down with the paper. Maybe, he’d talk to me. Or maybe we’d go out, like other normal people, holding hands as we leisurely strolled along, rather than inevitably ending up, as we usually did, at the home improvement store, hunting through bins of electrical fittings and debating the merits of linoleum vs. tile.
It was a new beginning, the end for which I longed through years of saws at midnight, planks positioned over holes in the floor, and maneuvering around bathroom fixtures temporarily sitting in my living room. It was the rest of my wonderful life!
“Hey, Sue--” Neil came around the corner, having dumped the final box in the corner, “I want to show you something.”He pointed to the dining area of the kitchen, “I was thinking if we took out that wall there, then moved that south wall by about four feet, we could totally enlarge this kitchen--”
I bit my tongue hard, because what it wanted to do and what it should do were two different things. And it suddenly occurred to me that, indeed, a new era was in the offing. But rather than it being a time of realizing my own home dreams, perhaps it was a time of finally accepting my husband for who he was made to be-- tools and all.