My Beautiful Wickedness

Home repair
June 30, 2007, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking a lot about home repair lately. I came to handiness belatedly and for that I can blame two competent parents.

My father was not particularly speedy about getting things done (there is something true about the joke about being able to tell the building trades guy’s house because it’s the one that was falling down), but he could do almost anything. His repairs didn’t look great, but damn, he’d never have to do that repair again. His fixes were ugly forever. My father’s temper was explosive. No one wanted to be around him when he was doing a job and whenever I had to be the person handing tools, I’d cower and cry until he sent me away in disgust. I didn’t learn anything about fixing things from observing him, though I did learn how to make people leave.

My mom — being equal to any task and an intelligent farm woman — did most of everything that needed to be done in a timely fashion. She painted, papered, nailed, sawed, drilled, did wiring and plumbing, all efficiently and neatly. (She’s one of those people who could paint a ceiling in a three-piece suit.) Mom had a variety of reasons to keep me out from underfoot. She believed that I should have as much of a childhood as possible and not have to tote and fetch to supply for my father’s deficiencies in home maintenance. She also believed that I should read as much as possible so that I would never have to do manual labor. And finally, she instructed me that I should pretend not to know how to do any “man’s job” because she assumed (cynically, maybe, but in her experience with good reason) that if a woman demonstrated that she could do any job, it would automatically become hers to do for the rest of the marriage. She took pride in her accomplishments and independence and I’m happy for her model, but I didn’t really learn much about taking care of things until I left home.

So I arrived at adulthood not knowing how to stick my finger in my ass with both hands, domestically speaking. I couldn’t fix a flat or change the oil in my own car. I couldn’t fix the hinges on a door. I could barely cook for myself. I lived in apartments and left a lot to chance and wasted a lot of money replacing things that in retrospect, with a little gumption, I could have simply taken apart and fixed and put back together. How did all that change?

Well, it didn’t…or at least, it’s still changing, slowly. I’m still not extremely confident, though I can do so much more now than I could then. Living with my husband for the last fourteen years (and the inevitable getting sensible that getting older brings) has really helped. His grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades and passed along his “yeah, I can do that” to his grandson. Together, we’ve sanded wood floors, done plumbing, rewired part of the house, plastered, painted, stained, refinished, the whole homeowning shooting match. He never made me his parts-runner; what we don’t know, we figure out together and we do the job together. One of the things that a good spouse can do is give you confidence in your own judgment. I now am willing to tackle things that I wouldn’t have tried before because I think I can. And if I make a mistake, no big deal. He’s there to help me set things right without shaming me for making the effort. But with our work life being very involved and the money situation being tight, we have had to wait on a lot of things that have needed attention. This morning, we decided to make July a push month for getting some of these jobs finished with as little expense as possible. That will require some ingenuity, perspiration, and paint, but I think we can do it.

Today, we did some much-needed temp roof repairs (you could see daylight on the attic floor) which will last while we save up for a reroof of the house. We also measured and priced for a new fence that we’ll install next week, painted half the downstairs bathroom walls (it’s a small bathroom), and prepped the ceiling in Kid’s room for tomorrow’s facial. Come tomorrow, we’ll be finishing up the downstairs bathroom walls, finally patching the bathroom ceiling (yay!), and doing the ceiling paint in Kid’s room. We’ll also be filling nail holes in the woodwork in her room in preparation for the early July staining of the natural surfaces.

Ok, so I know the only reason we’re busting our ass on home repair right now is that his parents will show up in a month. Who cares why the wind is in our sails? I am just glad that we’re working together again to make our house nicer. These are some of my happiest times, working as a family on a joint project. As a family. Kid will be doing jobs appropriate to her age and her interests — she will not be driven away by temper-fit parents or made to feel too special and useless to care for her own stuff. So she will have a different experience and hopefully feel more prepared to take care of herself than I ever did. As her ambition is to be an architect, I think she’ll find it interesting to see how things go together.


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Hooboy, could my dad have a temper fit when working on a home/car project with something going wrong.

Interestingly, he never directed his anger at me, the designated holder-hander.

It’s where I learned to curse, though. At inanimate objects. Strange how we don’t even realise we have inherited the strangest of traits from our parents, and don’t know it till much later.

When we first married, if Lintilla did or said something that made me angry, to her surprise I would leave the room and start yelling and cursing at an object, like a toaster. Then, I’d be OK, and we’d move on.

Funny, I didn’t realise till just now where that came from.

Maybe sometime we could trade: I’ll pass along some of my best, sercret recipes for some of your handiness-around-the-house tips. I’m really getting too old to not know how to do this stuff anymore.

Comment by Slartibartfast

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