One big happy... letter from this old house
Photo: Michael Lewis
June 2011

I had just kissed my wife good-bye to leave for the office and was trying, while on my way out the door, to make a plan to meet her for dinner later that night.

I said, "So, I'll see you after your doctor's appointment, right?"

"No, no, she can't do that," he said. "She's got yoga after the doctor on Tuesday."

I don't know what was more of a surprise: that our electrician, Guido, was on a ladder in our bedroom or that he knew my wife's schedule better than I did.

Truth be told, though Guido startled me, the loss of privacy, so many years into our remodel, isn't that much of a surprise. The lines, dear reader, have blurred.

We've had one contractor try to sell us a time-share in Costa Rica; another store his kids' birthday presents in our laundry room; a third name his daughter after my wife; a fourth decide he'd spend his time teaching my visiting mother Spanish; and a fifth at some point years ago start to feel guilty and stop charging us for his work, which is fine, I guess, because he's never managed to finish anything.

Yup, somewhere along the way my home became more like a halfway house. Actually, sometimes it feels more like a prison—with me as an inmate. Is that obvious to you? To me, the signs are everywhere. Just look—even in the picture here, I'm behind bars.

I guess that's why I greet this time of year with relief. The warmer weather and longer days give me a chance to put the more complicated, more contractor-driven work of the interior remodel aside for the simpler pleasures of the backyard.

Or in my particular case, for finishing a deck project I started five years ago and which is finally receiving its appropriate railing, salvaged from an old building, as I write this. Yes, that glacial progress—and the safety concerns of not having a railing for so long—tend to cramp one's ability to entertain, but then we've never been big on entertaining.

I mean, there was the time we had Christmas Eve dinner with our first contractor's crew. Or the other time, when our HVAC guy dropped by and decided to stay for pizza and a couple of episodes of Law & Order. Hmmm…law and order. I could use some of that around my place.

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