Monday, March 10, 2008

Great Wall

Depending on who you ask, one of the great benefits (ask my wife) or drawbacks (ask me) of home ownership is the opportunity for improvement. I suspect that my occasional reluctance to fully devote myself to home upgrades and renovations stems from unpleasant childhood experiences.

My earliest memory of hammer and nails involves my father nailing something to something else. The identities of the something and something else are not important. They could have been anything: baseboard to a wall, mailbox to a post, hardwood plank to the floor, ninety-five theses to a church door...

I was not in the same room with my dad, but the sounds he created clearly betrayed his advanced degree of home-improvement know-how. As I tinkered with my Muppet Babies Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy Happy Meal toys in my bedroom, I could hear Dear Old Dad's frustration level rising.

BANG! BANG! "Ouch."




His cycle of pounding and pain continued for some time.

A moment's silence was followed by Dad shouting in my general direction, "Yajeev, can you come hold this nail for me?"

I do not remember what happened next. Likely, one of two scenarios unfolded. First, with no one to save me, I might have actually agreed to hold his nail and endure the finger bruising he had just self-inflicted. The trauma may have been severe enough to wipe the events from my awareness, to be forever secured in some cognitive lock box with a cadre of other repressed gems from my childhood (most of which probably involve failed attempts to elude JR, the bully in my second grade class who, according to legend, beat up eighth graders for the challenge that his second grade classmates just couldn't provide).

The second possibility is that my mother, overhearing my father's painful experience and subsequent entreaties for me to assist him in his home-improving task, swooped in to the rescue of my delicate phalanges. I suspect that this is in fact what actually occurred, given the relatively normal present-day morphology of nine of my ten digits (the general misshapenness of my left thumb has historically been attributed to it having been vigorously sucked for so long and/or being slammed and pinned by a heavy car door).

On another occasion, my mother had asked my father to install a pair of louvered doors in front of the washing machine and dryer that had been tucked away in a closet-shaped space with nothing to hide the eyesore they presented.

My dad (who thrives on creativity) decided that he had a better idea than louvered doors. Everyone had louvered doors--they were too commonplace, he thought. He would conceal the washer and dryer with something totally unique: a wall. Somehow, in place of actual doors, Pops managed to create a piece of wall that matched that of the rest of the room. And, instead of swinging open like a secret door, it was built with a pulley system and track and could be raised and lowered like a garage door. The opener had simply to pull rope to lift the wall above the laundry machines.

The major problem with having a piece of wall for a door is the fact that a wall is a wall and not a door. Doors are typically lightweight and designed to swing open and shut with little resistance. Not so for walls. Walls are often quite heavy, and, as a general rule, are not designed for facile movement. Dad's faux wall was no exception. The wallness of his creation was undeniable both in its heft and unwieldiness. In addition to its significant weight, Dad had failed to include some mechanism to keep the wall in the elevated, open position. One needed to continuously hold the rope down to hold the wall-door up.

For my mother, doing laundry now required a monumental team effort. Each time she wanted to put a new load into the washer or move clothing from the washer or dryer, she had to go outside and solicit help from neighbors. It would often require a team of two or three helpers to hoist the door and hold it open (grasping the rope tightly and leaning back with all of their weight) while my mother hurriedly combined sullied clothing, detergent, and fabric softener. She would have to call them back each time a load had to be added to or removed from either machine.

My mother's goal was to have the laundry machines hidden from plain sight. My dad succeeded at that. Visiting neighbors would have no idea that hidden behind this one particular patch of wood-paneled wall were a couple of Maytags (unless, of course, the visiting neighbors had earlier been conscripted into the army of laundry assistants).

The machines were hidden so well that they might as well not have even been there at all. After several weeks of hard laundering, my mother realized that less effort would be required to load the car, drive the family's dirty clothes to the laundromat, wash, dry, and fold clothing there, pack the car again, drive home, and put away the clean garments than to participate in the team sport of behind-the-wall laundry.

These specters of home improvement past still haunt me and may explain my periodic aversion to do-it-yourself projects and involuntary assumption of the fetal position in response to my wife's mention of new house projects.


Russ Parker said...

This entry contains one of my favorite sentences (of yours {Yajeev's}).

the wife said...

Sorry to prompt the resurfacing of the suppressed memories. Updatedness and attractiveness are what I long for, what I need.

Some home improvement projects, however, are outside my masterminded plans. You didn't receive a picture of a waterfall flowing from our ceiling out our front door in your inbox...did you?

watchwhathappens said...

yay! the faux wall story!

Anonymous said...

ahhh...your blogs are like story time in the morning. just the pick me up i need seeing as i've given up coffee for lent.... :-) haha

yajeev said...

i'm still trying to figure out which one it is you {russ} liked. i'm guessing that it was one of the sentences containing word[s] with the suffix "ness".

dear, sweet wife...
if it's updatedness and attractiveness you long for, then it's me you're after, not a house.

this faux wall story is faux real. family lore at its best.

i'm glad i can provide a pick-me-up. if you start feeling jittery or experience a rapid heartbeat, it may be time to cut back your yajeev blog consumption.

Russ Parker said...

Warmer, warmer.

yajeev said...

i'm going to hazard a guess that it was the one about the wallness of the door.

Russ Parker said...


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