It’s 10:00 on a Tuesday morning and I am hiding off in a side room that will some day be my office trying to concentrate on writing this while a man in a nearby room is working with a power drill. Or a saw. Just know it’s something very loud.
I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes filled with God-only-knows-what at this stage of the game and everything – the boxes, the wall moulding and even the palms of my hands as I type this – is covered in a fine layer dust.
Welcome to Week 7 of my new house renovation — or what I fondly refer to as “hell” — which has spiraled into something way more than I’d anticipated and confirming the assertion I’d made the day I moved out of my old house that I am never –ever — doing any of this again. They are taking me out of here in a bag.
And to be honest with you – TBH to the kids – I can think of worse places to drop dead. When it’s done and all the men and their filthy work boots are no longer stomping through here, my new house will be everything I wanted it to be. It will be a cozy and welcoming place for my children to visit and some day for my grandchildren to come stay with me and learn how to bake and read books together. There’s even room for a new Mr. Amy when he finally makes an appearance.
But it’s been an undertaking. As one of the guys who’s been here sawing and drilling most days said this morning, it’s not like the work has been relegated to just a room or two. My whole house, he observed, was under siege.
As a result, the boxes that an army of mommies helped me cart out of my old house in the days before the movers arrived remain piled throughout the house.
My bed is in a pile of frames and box springs in the middle of my bedroom covered in a plastic tarp along with assorted other pieces of furniture and my kitchen consists of a toaster oven and microwave propped on a former end table in my future office. The upside is that I find myself getting into the shower immediately nowadays so I’m ready for the onslaught of workers each day brings and the downside is that my favored uniform of black and gray garb is no match for all the dust the workers produce each day. I always seemed to be smudged with dirt.
During the first few weeks of construction following the closing on the house, I was able to rent our old house back from my buyers while we packed up 13 years of our lives. But then our buyers needed us out so they could get going on work they had planned on that house so by mid-February we were looking for some place to stay while the new house was in the early stages of construction. The taking apart stage, rather than the putting back together stage. There was no way we could live in the middle of that.
Ultimately, my two boys moved in with their dad for a few weeks and I began my life as a nomad. I stayed at my sister’s for a bit and cat sat for friends over the long Presidents’ Day weekend. I drifted to a couple of other friends’ and back to my sister’s and occasionally took the boys out for a meal. It was like I’d become a divorced dad.
During my two-week odyssey I found myself going to sleep most nights in somebody’s son’s room. I slept on Star Wars sheets surrounded by a room full of Marvel Comics characters and a teen boy’s surfer-inspired platform bed. But my longest stint was back at my sister’s in her 5-month-old baby’s room. With the baby. I went to bed each night nestled under pirate-themed sheets and feeling as if i was about to be engulfed by a giant wave courtesy of the sound machine my sister uses to help the baby fall asleep. I wish I could report my dreams were filled with Pirates of the Caribbean-type adventures with me carousing with Captain Jack – or even better, Orlando Bloom – but instead my nightly musings focused more on backspashes and paint colors.
But last week, my little guy and I slept in the new house for the first time. It was weird that first night, sitting in the office/kitchen on stools from our old house and enjoying what my son refers to as a “freezer dinner” (thank you, Trader Joe’s). As I filled his plastic cup with the milk we keep in the handy basement frig we inherited, I told him I thought it was just like camping.
“It’s really not,” he shot back.
It was quiet without the drone of the nightly news that’s usually accompanying our dinners and after we’d thrown all our plates away we retreated to chairs set up in the future family room and sat side-by-side wearing headphones and watching our laptops. Nothing like bonding with a 13yo boy.
My college daughter arrived home for Spring Break at the end of the week and was aghast at the prospect of a whole week of freezer dinners. She was hoping for more of a “real meal.” So we ordered Chinese food on Friday night. I did, however, buy the girl a power screwdriver after she complained her hands hurt from putting together all the Ikea furniture we bought last week for my son’s bedroom. Never let it be said I don’t take care of my girl.
But despite the boxes and the workers and the never-ending dust, it’s good to be home. I missed my children and being in our own space and believe it or not, I even kind of missed our cat (we shipped her down in Virginia to stay with my daughter and is enjoying spring semester). It’s good to have at least some of us under one roof again. And some day – much like childbirth or previous home renovation projects – this whole period will seem like one big blur. All the trips down to the basement frig to get milk for my coffee and drifting off all those nights to the sounds of crashing waves will begin to fade from my memory, much like the endless rounds of baths and bedtime stories with little ones all those years ago.
Like most everything else, it will be over in a blink.
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