the way we were

27 03 2010

You know the scene… years after they’d gone their separate ways,  a random encounter on the streets of New York and Hubbell (Robert Redford) realizes that he’s still in love with Katie (Barbra Streisand) but deep in his heart he knows he never could have lived up to her expectations of him.  So they utter bittersweet good-byes and go their separate ways.  Roll credits…

So it is with certain relationships in our lives – some things just don’t work out.  As much as we’d like to make changes – do things another way – be something else…it’s impossible.  I’m wondering if that is the story of my relationship with this house.

A few weeks ago during an insomnious rant as per my m.o., I was wandering around the halls of the interwebs at some ungodly hour of the inky blackness.  I revisited a blog I follow (Holyoke Home) about a couple restoring a row house with lots more energy and resources than I’ll ever have.

In one of her recent posts she talked about the journey of dating her home.  We’ve always known, at least from the mortgage papers we’ve had in our hands, that the house was built in 1905.  But what has fascinated me more was wanting to see what it looked like.  Somehow that night through the magic of getting lost in the webesphere, I emailed the city archivist who got in touch with me hours later to say he had photos from some city assessment in 1936 with pictures.

Thus opened my brand new can of worms.  I sat there screaming at my computer, “I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!”  I knew there was supposed to be a window in the bathroom.  I knew there was a reason there was a flat roof on the front porch.  I knew it looked better without vinyl siding…I knew it…I knew..

So with copies of photos in hand I ran to a few shops around town and got the 411 on where I could go to get some of the details right.  Walking into the warehouse/workshop of RJRaven Architectural Windows and Doors was no less than amazing.  And after a short chat about possibilities, he said I’d be a fool to not try to get the house back looking like it once did.  Oh and by the way, to re-do the attic window and upper porch railing would only set me back some $6000 or so, roughly speaking.  Would it end up being like pearls on a pig if I don’t strip off the siding too to take it back to the clapboard and cedar shakes two-tone?  The Dr. will hear NOTHING of that pipe dream.

But I know what I know.  I will bet good money that the cedar shakes are still on the front and side of the house.  I will bet that under the stupid vinyl wrap just under the roof – the sweet dentil detail that I saw as I did a digital zoom-in, still exists.  And on and on I could go.  But it gets me no where for right now.

Landscaping has to be done this year.  Exterior paint has to be done (another reason I wanted old pictures). Then the pitiful bathroom – next the hunter green kitchen – and all the wood floors that have yet to be refinished.  There will never be enough time or money to do all I have dreamed about doing to this house.

But unlike Katie and Hubbel – I’m going to stick with the relationship – as flawed as it is.  We have gotten things done…little by little.  These are the moments I need to stop and look over the laundry list of “un-sexy” things we’ve accomplished – stripping all the oak woodwork on the first floor, restoring the entry way which meant taking down some walls, a new furnace / air-conditioning unit, a tankless water heater, some re-plumbing and re-wiring, a new roof and gutters, attic windows that work, glass block basement windows, new toilets and buckets and buckets of paint.

That is an incomplete list but it was easier to write than to accomplish.  Life is bigger than this house and takes priority.  Meanwhile, it has served to be a home and haven regardless of all its imperfections.  So back to picking out paint chips for the summer’s project of putting the 80’s teal and mauve (the true gag of the colors don’t ring true on this photo) to rest once and for all.

Barbra…sing us out.

“If we had the chance to do all again – tell me, would we? Could we?…”

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The Social Butterfly

12 03 2010

Shop Girl and I took the “twins” on an outing the other day.  Well, they aren’t exactly twins – they are 992 months apart – but there are some remarkable similarities.  I kept getting wide-eyed looks from Shop Girl that made me laugh…looks that spoke volumes without even having to see her mouth form silent screams and “OMG!”s.

The brick path outlining the five-story tropical garden isn’t long but taking time to see all the gorgeous butterflies that were flitting around our heads was worth enduring the suffocating humidity and 80º microclimate.  Managing that space with a stroller and a senior was the real trip.  Reminders to “Watch where you’re going!” and what NOT to touch rang out as if Donny Diva was a two-year-old even though those comments weren’t directed to him.

One of my biggest struggles is dealing with the Mrs. outside of her normal environment.  If it is me, visiting her on her turf and just the two of us – that I can do.  Take her out of that, reacting to other people, in “normal” conversation, managing unfamiliar territory either geographically or emotionally, and I’m stretched.

I remember feeling this way with Best Boy and Shop Girl even though there are 18 months that separate them. In our own space, the normal routines of them playing together, sometimes fighting but generally being pleasant – I really liked them.  There were situations and certain friends where the chemistry between all the components sent the delicate balance into chaos.  They could be asked questions and I couldn’t control how they’d answer.  I didn’t know how they’d react – what they’d say that would embarrass me.  Over-stimulation of easily taxed brains had consequences long after the actual events were over.  I’d breathe a deep sigh of relief to be back in the surroundings that I could control.

That’s how I felt on my return trip after dropping the Mrs. off at her home last Monday afternoon.  A bridal shower and fortnightly Sunday clan gathering was WAY too much stimulation – too many conversations, too many food choices, too much fun…it was time for a nap.

Social gatherings in her company feel like mine fields to me.  I had to find another punch cup for a niece at the Saturday night soirée because the Mrs. was drinking from the cup on her snack tray AND the one my niece had placed beside her own chair on the floor.  We’d laugh if Donny Diva was doing that but it takes a bizarre twist with the older twin.  When asked to give a word of advice to the soon-to-be-bride, she started a tale that went back to when her mother died when she was only 14…then WWII was thrown in there somewhere and her brothers off to war- till I let it twist and turn just a bit more – and chimed in to get her back on track.  Some 36 hours later when we got out of the car at the butterfly exhibit, I noticed she was still wearing the Mardi Gras beads we’d used for a shower game…they were white and looked like pearls to her.

So what I am really dealing with here is both ends of childhood.  The first part is amusing, cute and entertaining.  The other end makes me feel embarrassed and I don’t like that.  I don’t want to be talking down to her – nagging her – always challenging her.  So as a parent of my very late in life child, I’m having to reach back to my own experience and remember that there is still a fragile ego inside of her.  I need to be as tender and patient with her as I am with Donny Diva.  I have to remember that this caregiving gig isn’t about my comfort – it’s about continuing to give her a quality life experience.

With the exception of regular church gatherings and doctor’s appointments, weddings and funerals are about the only other things that become red-letter days on her calendar any more.  So I will do my best till it is no longer practical or safe to be her driver/chaperone.  I feel a little like Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy but the prejudice I battle is neither racial nor religious.  It is the prejudice I carry inside – the one that used to apply to kidlettes that we wanted seen NOT heard and the “inconvenience” of aging and all the unknowns in that future.

Just like that yearly exhibit that is here one day and seemingly gone the next…I need to keep the perspective that Spring only comes once a year.  I don’t know how many more weddings, funerals, births or birthdays are left on her calendar and the least I can do for her is to make it feel like there are lots of candy dishes to sample right up until the very end.





and the oscar goes to…

7 03 2010

One of the problems with raising kids who work on film sets is that life imitates art.  Parties are just an excuse to do elaborate set decoration at home. Wardrobe is more than just what to throw on at the last minute.  Craft service tables have nice Battenburg lace tablecloths.

“Last looks! Picture is up! Quiet please! Lock it down! Roll sound!  Roll camera…and ACTION!”