To my mind, there are two types of people in this world: 1. Those who can’t move into an apartment or house until they repaint all the walls (whether they need it or not), because a particular shade of beige offends them; and 2. Those who can. John and I both happen to fall into the latter camp. In fact, aside from asking my landlord to do something about the brown-and-orange textured wallpaper in my Morning Street kitchen (I did have to eat there, after all), I don’t ever recall noticing the walls in any of the apartments I lived in. Hang enough crap on them, I say, and who’s going to notice? (This philosophy of mine extended to floor covering, as well, although that had more to do with the strewing of dirty laundry than a decorating choice.)
So, when it came to compiling the list of things we absolutely had to accomplish in the one week before we were to move into our house, I had a little trouble prioritizing. My brothers and their mates were coming to give us a day (otherwise known in our oxymoronic Peavey/Yankee vernacular as a “work party”), and I wanted to make sure we used the help wisely. Some things were obvious: clean the disgusto refrigerator (a.k.a.: the Cootie Box), so we had a place to park the beer; dynamite the disgusto oven (a.k.a.: Cootie Box, Jr.); and cart the disgusto portable dishwasher (a.k.a.: Cootie Box, III) to the garage, where we were housing the Cootie Family until Big Trash Day in the spring, which would not come a moment too soon.
Also on “La List” was the removal of the cutlery lodged in the kitchen drain, which we could actually see by peering in – an act that had all the appeal of looking down into an old rummy’s gullet. I was hoping for someone to do something about the surface of the countertops in the pantry, where the sink was located. They were covered with a substance akin to asbestos flooring – a kind of rubbery, cracked, chipping, flaking stuff that looked as though it had been forged below the earth’s surface from primordial ooze. Whatever it was and wherever it came from, I did not want bits of it floating in my already miserable lentil soup. It had to go.
Speaking of such, there was, finally, the matter of That Bathroom. Sure, I had sufficiently disinfected the laundry toilet in the basement so I didn’t have to drive back to the Hill every time I needed to void, but the upstairs bathroom – the house’s real bathroom – had to be dealt with (3 a.m. trips to the basement were not going to cut it). Besides, this was our house we were talking about. The place we were going to live. You can’t just pretend a room isn’t there, when you’ve only got a handful of them – especially such a critical one. Someone was going to have to tame that tiger, and so long as we had help, it sure as hell wasn’t going to be me.
The family arrived early Saturday morning, and the day went into a blur of rubber gloves and chemicals, of scrubbing and scouring, pounding and scraping. It took my two brothers, armed with hammers and chisels, the better part of the morning to, chip by chip, remove the countertops. John then went to work on the drain, and I fled the room before the last turn of the monkey wrench (just like I used to do when my parents got their first microwave in the ‘70s; I swore I could see radioactive particles flowing out of the vent). He extracted a nickel-plated knife and fork, and had the decency to clean them up before showing me, but then demanded, “Who drops a knife and fork down the drain and just leaves them there?” – as though I had some insight into the matter. (Although I could imagine the former woman of the house doing dishes at that sink for 40 years and then, one day, just as she was almost finished, saying “Enough,” plopping the last two items down the drain before drying her hands on her apron, going out for a pop, and never coming back.)
A pop. That sounded nice. The only problem is, you can’t sneak off when your family is exposing themselves to all sorts of pathogens on your behalf. Besides, after about three cans of EASY-OFF, I was just beginning to see surface on the interior of the oven. Quitting now would be the equivalent of leaving an archeological dig at the first sign of a post hole. I was determined to prove this site was at one time capable of sustaining life. Plus, I had such a killer EASY-OFF buzz going that a nice nap with my head propped on the blackened oven door seemed more appealing.
Toward the end of the day, Judy and Mary appeared from upstairs and announced the bathroom was officially opened for business. The two of them – bless their Clorox-singed lungs – had done the cleaning equivalent of taking the room down to its studs. Mary had even gone one steps further: She had run out and bought a replacement toilet seat for me, so I might reconsider my pronouncement that I “would never sit on that thing.” Somehow, putting a new, factory-sealed seat between me and it made the prospect seem more manageable – a gift from the Toilet Fairy that will never be forgotten.
Two years hence, there are still things on that “urgent” Saturday list we have not gotten to. Putting up a gutter over the porch. Caulking and painting the front door. And why I thought I couldn’t bear to move in until someone painted out the interior of our built-in china cupboard is beyond me. Besides, I’ve kind of grown to like the Pepto-Bismol pink. Put enough crap in there, and you hardly see it at all.
Elizabeth Peavey has a chip on her shoulder. An ecru/parchment/linen/taupe one, and it’s driving her crazy.