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Front Page » June 6, 2002 » Opinion » Change means more than meets the eye
Published 4,519 days ago

Change means more than meets the eye


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Things are always changing around my house. Sometimes those changes are for the better; sometimes the outcome is questionable.

Take this last year for example. I came home one July afternoon for lunch and there stood my wife and my son's girlfriend with sledge hammers in their hands in the middle of what had been a perfectly good kitchen. There were piles of plaster and broken lathe in piles all over the room.

Apparently I had just arrived in time to save the hallway from mass destruction by crazed females with their fingers wrapped around the handles of hammers. On the other hand, if they had really wanted to continue, who would I have been to stand in the way of two individuals holding big sticks with 10 pound pieces of metal on the ends.

People get a look in their eyes when they have a sledge hammer in their hands. True, sometimes it is a a weary look after just a few swings, but a large hammer like that wields potency. In this very uncertain world it gives one a sense of power over things, even if those things are just inanimate objects.

There is also something therapeutic about using a sledge hammer. They can take down and smash the old and the worn out things in life with a few blows, very different from the complicated world we face where road blocks seem to stop up any chance we have of things being simple and easy.

All II came home for was to make myself lunch and I couldn't even find the mayo, and look what I got.

True the kitchen had had it's idiosyncrasies. The cupboards were from the 50's, the counter tops were made of linoleum, the carpet on the floor cried 1975 and we knew when we were standing by the walls in the middle of the winter that there was absolutely no insulation in the spaces between the old plaster that was covered by painted paneling and the siding on the exterior of the house. However to me, a guy who just needs a hamburger cooked on any kind of fire and some chips, it was a perfectly good kitchen.

Anyway they stood there smiling with those large hammers in their hands. My wife had been wanting to take apart that kitchen ever since we moved in and I had promised to start on it many times. But of course I just had never gotten "around to it." She finally did and forced the matter.

"See what we have done," my wife said to me. "Now we can have the remodeling done by Christmas."

As of this week, we are still filling the cracks between wallboard with mud, but the kitchen is now at least functional. That's a far cry from those cold days of January when we had to make dinner in the microwave downstairs within the confines of the family room.

If nothing else the remodel finally made me run the water line to the fridge for the ice maker. We have had the appliance for two years, but I just never ran the line; it was just easier to drive to the store, buy a bag of ice and stick it in the freezer than it was to drill the hole so the little 1/4 inch line could be installed.

Of course, the period that has -ensued since what I have dubbed the "time of destruction" to the present has not always gone smoothly. After the demolition mess was cleaned up it took quite a while before I got started on anything.

I mean it was easy to live without a kitchen. For me anyway. It was summer. We could cook outside on the barbecue. I even hooked up the dishwasher out on the patio so dishes wouldn't have to be washed by hand in the sink in the laundry room (I feared without progress on the room I would be the one to have to do them that way). We ate on the patio and for about three months the kitchen was just a throughfare from the back door to the rest of the house.

Then the cold weather came. We decided not to have our annual Halloween party; although the recently insulated old rafters and walls and ancient linoleum floors looked pretty scary.

With construction at a halt, we moved in some temporary cupboards and the stove and began to live in the kitchen again with just one lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. That is what I call the "transient kitchen period." That's because the refrigerator and half the dishes and most of the food was in the living room, the cooking facilities were in the old kitchen, and since we didn't like plaster and insulation on our plates along with pasta and chicken, we ate in the family room while the microwave kept us company.

Finally late in the winter the wallboard went up, but certainly not without a few wrinkles; literally. I can do some things OK, but hanging wallboard is not one of them. Luckily my sons were there to keep me calm, although I did have one tantrum where a piece of sheet rock went flying out of the back door after five tries at making it fit correctly failed. From then on I was relieved of my duties as a wallboard guy by my family. They were probably afraid I might get out the sledge hammer and we might have to start over again.

Soon the walls were up and the cupboards were put together and hung, the counter tops went on and the sink went in. Then the crowning victory as the refrigerator was moved in and the dishwasher was once again installed inside the house.

As the room gets closer to completion I have to think how much this kitchen remodel, that by the time it is through will have taken more than a year, has paralelled my life. There have been periods where destruction has reigned, sometimes within my control, sometimes out of the bounds of my ability to change it. There have been times of great frustration and great triumph. I have found myself revelling in small victories and other times feeling defeated by the littlest of things. There have been problems to solve that seemed impossible to resolve. But somehow they got fixed.

And in the end, there is still a lot of things I haven't finished, but intend too.

Pretty bad when a kitchen remodeling job is an allegory for the events in a life.

Or is it a metaphor?

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June 6, 2002
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