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reno woe #6749

Saturday morning, 9.30 a.m., Jean-Marc and Kevin are already upstairs arguing about the spiral staircase, the open wooden staircase to the third floor which will be a bitch to fix. The central job of this renovation is to improve the small steps and then enclose that staircase, so there’s an actual door to the third floor, to make the attic room more private. But how to do it with an awkward creation dangling in space?

Yesterday’s frustration: my handyman John and I set out with a shopping list, headed to a far-away wood store to buy trim for the baseboards, doors, and windows. But we stopped at Home Depot, only ten minutes away, to get a few things first and while there discovered their trim. Why not buy it here? So after an hour of measuring and looking and stacking, we did and brought it home triumphantly – it’s already primed! saving time and money! – to hear cries of horror from JM. It’s generic, cheesy, horrible, he hates it. What we need is interesting real wood trim, which is only available from the store miles away.

My choice – to say, @#$#@ you, I don’t mind generic trim, or to arrange to take it all back and start again, thereby cancelling a day and spending far more.

Trim. Who notices trim? And yet, if it’s wrong, somehow it registers, I guess. So I guess this time, JM is right. We have to start again.

And once more I ask myself, what was in my mind when I set out on this renovation adventure? A breezy notion of fixing things that had always bothered me in my 32 years in this house. Home improvements – were ever two words more chilling? I now know why people joke about the Money Pit. My thrifty self, buying second hand and re-using everything, now tossing money blithely out the window – here, take some! Help yourself! We must have the artisanal trim!

Once you start, you have to keep going; there is no turning back. Lady Bountiful here is keeping lots of nice men employed through this long hard winter.

When I walk upstairs into the light, the new light from the freshly-liberated skylight that used to be trapped in a closet and now illuminates the entire floor, I sigh with pleasure. And then I look at what remains to be done and my ever-swelling line of credit, and I feel sick.

A quote I copied from the Montaigne book feels very apt here:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves
pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die
in peace, in a house that we build, that shall shelter those who come after us.
The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the
agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a
catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our
house save its blackened foundations.
Rebecca West

I’m dealing with disagreeable, despair, and blackened foundations – plunged into, as my father called it, the human search for beshitment. But … there will, too, be shelter for those who come after me, and it will be full of light. This endless turmoil will be worth it, after all. I’m sure of it.

I think.

PS. Two hours later: proposed solution, partial mock-up. Hooray.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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