For her fourteenth birthday, Zoe wanted her bedroom redone, as in repainted with a new comforter, throw pillows, curtains and a complete living room ensemble. And I told her seeing as how I’d like to have cellulite genetically banned from human life, we were both setting ourselves up for bitter disappointment so how about she start with new paint, comforter and curtains and I’ll start off with a couple of sit ups and we’ll call it a day? This suited her fine and she busied herself choosing paint samples and last night, she presented Nate with her final choice of paint color and asked how soon he could get started.
And Nate answered with his typical “Sure, just add it on to my list and as soon as I grow six more pairs of hands and find 15 more hours of free time every day to finish the other ten projects I’ve got going on, I’ll get right on it.” This is usually accompanied by a tremulous sigh and dramatic heave of his shoulders in an attempt to look aggrieved, forlorn and just plain worn out from the constant daily struggle that is his life. I’ve learned to ignore this type of behavior because I’m on to Nate. I’ve got his number. I know perfectly well that he lives for projects, he thrives on projects, he seeks them out, takes them on, takes them down and won’t stop until he has beaten the sheer life out of them at which time he will pound his chest and grunt in victory. And during this whole ordeal, he maintains an air of beleaguered resignation, lest we think he’s enjoying himself for even one minute.
Nate doesn’t do anything small time. He has told me on more than one occasion that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing BIG and I have told him on more than one occasion that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing within a budget because I am too high strung to live in the gutter eating rats after we claim bankruptcy.
Nate is all about the vision of the project. I am all about paying for the project. Rarely do we ever fall on the same page. Most of the time, we’re not even in the same book because there is no such thing as a small project in Nate’s world, only small ideas that haven’t reached their potential yet. Small ideas inevitably become mammoth projects that take on a life of their own, entailing massive amounts of online research, countless trips to Home Depot and Lowes, numerous deliveries by UPS and a line of credit longer than my intestines until the day comes when you wake up and discover that your simple suggestion to change the paint in the upstairs bathroom has somehow morphed into ripped up linoleum, new ceramic tiling and seven coats of Ralph Lauren River Rock on the walls.
Your request to get from “here” to “there” without dirty feet has evolved into a monstrous two tier wrap around deck surrounding the pool, complete with a little “mini me” deck for grilling, a set of stairs coming off each side, all surrounded by 5,891 tons of stone, mulch and plantings.
Your wish for a little more space for toys has snowballed into a sprawling downstairs family room complete with a TV and computer alcove, and two access doors to the storage areas so that you don’t have to walk around the entire room to get to boxes labeled CHRISTMAS STUFF and ZOE’S WORNOUT CLOTHES THAT I CAN’T BEAR TO THROW OUT YET BECAUSE I AM MIDDLE AGED WOMAN WHOSE UTERUS IS OLD AND DECREPIT.
After a series of these types of projects, we got our first house exactly the way we had always envisioned it for the five years we lived there and aside from a ginormous ulcer eating away at my insides, I managed to survive the financial stress and that’s mainly because Nate really does beautiful work. Our house was gorgeous and we took the time to soak it all in for all of one day before we sold it and bought another house that was structurally sound but putridly ugly on the inside. Nate took one look at those innards and practically foamed at the mouth with anticipation, all the while trying to maintain a weary facade for the benefit of the rest of us. One of these days I’m going to break it to him that he really needs to work on the martyr routine in order to earn the respect of a master.
Our second house has been a literal gold mine of projects as every single room has had to be redone. And then one day at dinner, the girls asked simultaneously “can we get a pool?” Nate’s shoulders sunk to his knees, he bowed his head and managed to gasp “I suppose so” as if his teeth had been yanked out with a set of barbecue tongs and nobody but me saw his eyes glaze over with hope. I was adamant in my no no no no no, we are not getting a pool, we are not getting a pool, OVER MY DEAD BODY ARE WE GETTING A POOL whereupon they left my dead body to decay in the middle of the kitchen floor and we are now the proud owners of a pool, patio, deck, gazebo, fencing and landscaping surrounding the entire thing and if anybody happens to notice an extra lung hanging around, let me know because I think I hacked it up when I checked our bank account. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that the entire reason we have the pool in the first place is so that Nate has an ongoing project needing his attention during the summer. He doesn’t swim in the pool so much as float on a noodle and come up with new ideas for new projects to give him a sense of purpose.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, Nate is not happy unless he’s got a project going on and his happiness is directly proportionate to the size and scope of the project. He’s renovating our master bath at the moment and with all the gutting, demolition, plumbing, electrical, concrete and tile work going on up there, Nate is in orgasmic mode 24/7. Never have I felt so unnecessary.
I think Nate’s need for a project has something to do with his obsessive compulsion to ascertain, analyze, diagnose and solve problems. This is what he does at work all day and he carries his work home with him. Nate is all about logic. Solving problems is in his blood. Isn’t it ironic that he happens to be married to a real, live enigma, a walking and breathing conundrum who defies all logical explanation and rejects any and all efforts at being solved or fixed? That must drive him insane so his penchant for home projects is really just a manifestation of the transference of his obsession to problem solve. Or not. I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is that I now eat my cereal out of a bowl that comes from new cupboard that sits above our new countertop in our newly renovated kitchen. If that’s how psychology works, I’m all for it. Just don’t show me the bill unless you want an internal organ splashed on your feet.
A great inspiration for projects comes from our region’s yearly Homarama event in which 7-10 brand new houses are built and listed for sale. These homes are supposed to offer the latest and greatest in home building and decor. We enjoy going to this event every year because we’re masochists and love to taunt ourselves and salivate over houses with rooms and appliances and extras that we’ll never be able to afford if we don’t hurry up and win that stupid lottery already.
This year, Homarama was on a smaller scale, probably because of the housing market being in its current CAN IT POSSIBLY SUCK ANYMORE state and we actually weren’t too impressed with anything we saw, especially one house called The Nelly that had children’s bedrooms with no closets because the closets were located on the opposite side of the hall. As in, not in the same room that houses all the crap that needs to go inside the closet, as in WHOA NELLY, WHAT ASSHOLE THOUGHT UP SOMETHING THIS STUPID?
We did see one beautiful family room with built-in bookshelves and I dropped to my knees in worship. Since we moved into our house I have wanted built-ins in our living room and so far, Nate has managed to avoid this particular project in favor of every single other project, including the deforestation of our back yard. I’m not sure why this is because in the whole scheme of things, a built-in seems so much easier than wrestling pricker bushes and chainsawing dead trees and being deluged by bugs. Is there something inherently awful about built-ins that I’m not aware of?
So last night as we were watching TV I casually mentioned the Homarama house with the built-ins again and this time, Nate cringed as if I had asked him whether my pants made me look fat. Then he rolled his eyes to the back of his head and assumed a pained, haggard expression and his whole body sunk so far into the couch as to almost disappear.
I’m thinking that built-ins are in my immediate future and if I can get him to actually whimper, we might even have a bay window to go along with them.
Wish me luck.