It’s not Home Depot’s fault. Except that they promised that I could manage whatever home related project came to mind. “You can do it”, they said, and like the lemming that I am, I happily dove off the cliff of home repair.*
*Apparently lemmings don’t actually do the cliff diving ascribed to them. Here’s some homegrown heartbreak – Disney faked the lemming suicide scene in 1958’s White Wilderness. I’d like to know who pitched the wholesale tossing of lemmings into the void; there’s a naturalist with a serious lack of respect for lemming migration.
I digress. Home owning handiness. Right.
The first small projects ought to have been instructive; replacing light bulbs and air filters, surely within my reach. And, after a few tries, they were. Bulbs of proper wattage and of proper luminosity are now in place and filters appropriate to the task set them and of the correct size are equally happily placed.
Apparently the “few tries” might have informed more ambitious projects, but they did not.
We had moved into a perfectly fine house, laid out exactly as we had wished, in great shape. But the door knobs in the kitchen differed from those in the living room, which were not the same as those in the bathrooms or bedrooms. Not simply different in size or color, but violently different in what might be called character or tone. Large circular bronze knobs in the kitchen, a semi-Florentine tubular crest opened the front door, and the rest of the doors had a variety of sleek curlicues in mottled beige.
Not acceptable, and equally unacceptable was the thought of hiring a locksmith or other door knob specialist to do what Home Depot assured me I could do myself. I was advised that the contemporary door sports a sleek handle rather than a clunky knob. In addition, I’d been advised that handles were easier for the “older person” to manipulate, particularly in situations in which we had to flee from fire or flood. I always appreciate recommendations directed to the quasi senescent homeowner, but sleek and sensible? I ordered ten sets in brushed nickel.
Were there moments of challenge? To be sure, but my memory is that most were met with serene acceptance and abiding faith that all would be well in the end. I like to think that I displayed unflappable determination throughout; that would be a nice fiction, but other voices were less certain of my eventual success. There may have been a moment in which I let slip an oath of unfortunate volume and specificity, and a screwdriver may have been driven into the laundry room wall in an attempt to convince the do-it-yourself gods that I meant business. I admit to momentary lapses in buoyant good cheer; setbacks are to be expected, properly identified by aforementioned oaths.
Mission roughly accomplished, I then turned toward the maintenance of the lush front lawn. I’d killed my share of plants over the years, but had learned a valuable lesson in the aftermath. Apparently, I kill with kindness, over-watering, constantly fidgeting with pots, soil, fertilizing sticks. This lawn would be different. I would follow instruction to the letter, mowing, raking, fertilizing, and seeding as the experts advised.
This lawn was doomed.
I mowed, raked, fertilized, seeded. Within a month, the lawn was marbled with yellow patches of dead grass and crisp brown rings that may have had something to do with four dogs finding what professionals call “The Squat Spot”. In any case, the meticulously measured lawn food and the artfully spread seed appeared to have had little success in battling fungal grass cholera.
Not to worry. The internet is rife with advice offered by lawn doctors from every region. I knew enough to stick with tips from the Pacific Northwest and just enough to not spring for “Kobi”, the Roomba of Lawn Maintenance, and I’ll pause to suggest that life has already begun to have its way with me as I find myself using the phrase,”Roomba of Lawn Maintenance”. And there’s something just wrong about longing for a lawn robot to do my job, but I would have bought a Kobi in a flash had the cost of Kobisizing not exceeded the value of my car. As I looked across the expanse of mottled , crusted silage that my lawn had become, however, I was tempted to sell the car, buy a Zamboni, flood the yard, freeze the damn thing, and invite the neighbors over for a quick round of snap-the-whip and mugs of hot chocolate.
Except for the global warming thing. So, that was out.
The which is to say I do have moments of quiet desperation as a homeowner, and yet … The doors operate smoothly for the most part, the lawn comes back to life in the spring, the surface of the deck no longer buckles every summer, and the fruit trees actually bear fruit. There are pleasures to be had in holding the place together, and as tasks go, these are relatively rewarding.
There is also some pleasure in recognizing that the nice folks at Home Depot are unlikely to pop in should I decide to rip up the floors and lay down tile. I can watch ambitious handy folk tear down and restore homes from Waco to Vegas in an hour or less without feeling the slightest compunction to grab a crowbar myself. I am free to admire their gumption, invention and resilience without having to do a dang thing other than make more popcorn.
And there’s not much point in taking on a lawn robot when I still get a kick out of mowing a pattern on the thick grass in the pasture. It’s not uniformly green; I skim over the bald spots and double down on the mounds left by the tireless gopher. Still, at dusk it looks ok, and when the leaves start to fall, any imperfections become a tapestry more handsome than any I could design.