"I suspect we’ll never know."

Boxes stacked nearly to the basement ceiling. Cupboards emptied leaving the barest shell of our familiar kitchen. The refrigerator’s already moved into the dining room for the duration. The whole back end of the house now poised to revisit The Great Depression as the demolition begins. Those rooms, the small bath and expansive kitchen with the hallway we’d always imagined would become a butler’s pantry though we never planned to hire any butler, suffered for decades from some former owner’s mid-seventies design sense. Like a Mod permanently stuck in a Sears and Roebuck interpretation of “updated” sixties Carnaby Street fashion. Narrow lapels, thin trim, too-wide bell-bottomed cabinets, misfitting doors and windows, vaguely psychedelic lighting scheme.

True to every project I’ve ever engaged with, this one’s different.
My relative inexperience only amplifies my beginner’s mind. I can see that everyone’s on the same train with me. None of us really know what comes next. The Muse wonders what lurks above that dropped ceiling. She fusses endlessly over lighting diagrams and switch placements that I cannot quite envision. I know she’s asking more for validation than agreement. I’m tempted to agree even though I do not quite understand. Casual placation could well determine the long-term acceptability of finished result. Even the more confident and experienced ones poke their sticks into the dark from here. We clearly begin without really sharing the same page. Uncomfortable conversations seem sure to follow. Innocent assumptions, absolutely certain to rule.

Also true to every project I’ve ever engaged with, the context seems somehow especially configured to complicate everything that will follow. The Home Despot’s clear across town, perhaps eight miles from the place, with no shortcut secret passage between. I do know from my half-vast experience or perhaps just from my over-active imagination, that required emergency trips to the Despot are exponentially proportional to the distance driving there. The closer the supply, the fewer trips will be required. I expect to be on first name basis with every hardware clerk in a seventy mile radius by the time we call this effort complete. We will call it complete, out of exhaustion and disgust, before it’s 100% done.

I keep reminding myself that it’s just a damned kitchen remodel and not a House and Garden TV kitchen remodel where the purpose is to flip the damned house before the paint dries. We bought the old place understanding that we accepted stewardship more than ownership, that the stewardship would certainly pass on from us eventually. We hoped that our legacy might improve upon that previous owner’s, who had fallen under Carnaby Street’s thrall. Other old places in the neighborhood have been split up into apartments over the decades, and we intended to sort of restore this place to a similar splendor the original owners intended when they built the place in 1907. Of course they never had to suffer through endless considerations of light switch placements because electricity was not yet available. Much of the work we’ve completed so far has been undoing incongruities and I understand that we’re unavoidably fixing to install some future steward’s incongruities, too.

The Muse insists that this effort will strain our relationships. It already has. This experience, too, like every prior project, seems inevitable. Each of us intending to contribute to the effort carry questions we have not even thought to ask yet. We pray that we might become aware of all the unanswered questions before they become unresolvable permanent wide-whale, bell-bottomed corduroy in an intended more classic result. There will be much whining, anger, teeth gnashing, even tears while we pursue the delightful result we’ve so very long desired. The whole exercise will, like every former project, become an extended dedication test cruelly assessing just how much we really wanted to make the back end of this central point of our lives different than we found it.

Every leg bone is connected to the rest of the damned skeleton. Try to turn off the small bathroom faucet, replacement gaskets long unavailable, and the water continues to trickle because the main shutoff also needs repacking. The main sits behind a complicated pile of detritus the step son renter had intended to dispose of before it got in the way, but it’s too late for that now. What would it take to make that main shutoff seal tightly again? That’s not on the master plan. Not in the budget. About half of what we’ll encounter won’t have been on the master plan or in the original budget. The Muse explains that every change will cost either five hundred or a thousand dollars, and never save either time or budget. We’re guided by fiction. Whether this fiction will prove useful or self-destructive will depend upon the choices we make without fully understanding the ramifications of our decisions, and the choices that default to something nobody ever intended when considering the plan. We are, of course, delusional to even begin.

Last night, I suggested that we could still back out and further delay the start of demolition until a more convenient time, though I understood that there will never be a more or a less convenient time. She said she’d already sunk considerable as a deposit on the new cabinetry and that we’d formally committed to the contractor, who is family. Cornered, then, acceptance unsuccessfully tried to settle in. After a night’s sleep, acceptance seems unquestionable. I’m either waking up or falling further under a thrall. Ask whomever receives stewardship of this place fifty years from now which path we’re taking. I suspect we’ll never know.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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