Last night Richard came home with some Thai take-out. Here's a snippet of the ensuing conversation:
Richard: Where's the salt?
Prunella: In the office.
R: Red pepper flakes?
P: With the rest of the spices in the Jacuzzi.
R: I can't find a serving spoon.
P: Try that box under the wing chair in the living room.
R: Are we out of paper towels?
P: There's a roll in the kids' old bathroom next to the iced tea maker.
R: Now I need a bowl.
P: I saw some disposable ones by the fireplace. Be careful you don't step on the wine glasses.
R: I just saw Phoebe. She has masking tape stuck to her hind leg.
P: That's the third time today.
R: I need a knife.
P: The knife block is under the kitchen table in the living room, and the cutting boards are shoved under the chair cushion.
When our neighbors gave their house a top-to-bottom renovation last year, they did the smart thing and moved out for four months. We are doing the cheap thing and staying put.
The first order of business is the kitchen. To prepare for this, every last cup, pot, spoon and can of soup were hauled out of their hidey holes and into other parts of the house, mainly the living room. Neither Richard nor I gave a thought to some kind of organization. This oversight means we spend precious minutes scrounging through boxes and under heaps of plastic dropcloths to find a drinking glass or a trash bag. We put the microwave in the office but we can’t operate it when the computer is on or the fuse will blow. With no dishwasher and no kitchen sink, dishes have to be washed in the bathroom. Until the new fridge is hooked up, we have to purchase ice in bags.
I know. First world problems. I keep telling myself it’s an adventure.
Even our menagerie can’t escape. The dog doesn’t know where his food and water bowls will be on any given day. Phoebe has developed a weird affinity for masking tape. Penny, who is homeless since her sofa was bought at the garage sale -- sorry -- estate sale, is having a hard time finding a new place to call home. First, she tried living under the plastic dropcloths next to the Crock Pot. When she got mistaken for the large white bowl we use for popcorn, she tried to shove her bulk under the den sofa, but the space underneath is too narrow. Then there was the closet in the front bedroom. That worked until the painter, or perhaps the paint fumes, scared her away. She was last seen lurking behind a guest room toilet, not the most hygienic place to set up housekeeping, but when your food bowl is next to the litter box, I suppose it’s just a matter of degree.
We spent three-and-a-half months picking out all the new doo-dads for the most important room in the house. Remember playing Crack the Whip when you were a kid? Poor Richard was (and still is) the hapless kid at the end of the line getting yanked hither and yon every time the leader (read moi) changed direction. I changed my mind so much, it's like I had no mind at all, just a sieve with giant holes incapable of holding onto a decision for more than a day or two. Richard learned very quickly that "I love it! That's what I want!" didn't mean squat. You wouldn't believe the hand-wringing that went into deciding between two different shades of grey. Once the grey we had so agitated over went up on the walls, we discovered it was more blue than grey, necessitating another round of needless drama. Thankfully, our second choice turned out to be perfect.
There is so much out there it is overwhelming. Couple that with no color or design sense and we were on a collision course with bad taste. Making it worse was the fact that we wanted to go in an entirely different direction. Our old kitchen could pass for country French in dim light with eyes crossed. We wanted something modern and minimalist. Modern in the hopes it won't look too dated before we are called to Glory (or the kids stick us in a home, whichever comes first). Minimalist because we are both "getting up there" and the less stuff to bother with, the better. Paige swears she had a dream that when it was all over but the shouting, our new kitchen looked exactly like the old one.
Whoever said the devil is in the details was probably three weeks into a reno. You get so wrapped up in the big stuff that no thought is given to the little things until the contractor asks a question that you are totally and awkwardly unprepared for. For example, our fridge is moving several feet west. It never occurred to us that the new placement would block the light switch until the electrician pointed it out. It’s amazing how quickly I can make a decision — and stick to it — when a contractor is standing there frowning at me. We never knew how yellowed-with-age our electrical sockets and light switches were until the bright white subway tile for the backsplash went in. There were forty different grout colors to choose from. Forty! My mother’s generation has no idea how easy they had it.
Another tick mark in the column labeled “Stuff We Didn’t Think of and Should’ve” was the impact four-plus weeks of dining out and take-out were going to have on our waistlines. I never need an excuse to eat out; as I tell everyone who asks, my favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook or prepare, but this is getting ridiculous. Richard and I have sworn that as soon as the kitchen is functional again, we are both going on diets.
As restrictive as life as been lately, it’s also been freeing. Messes that used to be cause for a meltdown don’t bother me anymore. Spill liquid on the floor? Nobody cares. The floor’s going to get ripped up eventually. Cat hacked up a hairball on the carpet? Ditto. Queso on the couch? The couch will soon be history; until then, turn the cushion over. (I wish I could blame my husband for that last bit.)
In the meantime, it's fun (and a little scary) watching what has only ever existed in my head take shape in reality.
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