Squirrel's NOT Gone
My husband doesn't need a wild animal skittering through our house causing disasters like in the movie, “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.” Joe alone wreaks havoc. But I'm the squirrely one, agreeing to live in another Handyman's Special; skunked again.
Our single dwelling stood out amongst neighbors' properties: no gutters, crumbling front steps and muddy driveway. But we were two poor city kids, grown, and had made it out of the neighborhood, and into the suburbs.
If you buy a not-quite-perfect house to live in with your children, you likely can't afford a new roof. Investigate for past water damage under the lid of your house. One absolute with a fix-me-upper is that even if the roof doesn't leak when you move in, that's where its incontinence will resume. So what you do is pray. Not that it won't leak, that's a miracle the most devout laugh at. But that when it does, your kids don't need braces on their teeth. Three of our four children needed to be wired, with accessories. Braces and a leaky roof just go together.
The gutters, driveway, steps and, yes, roof have been replaced, along with the heating system. Paneling ripped down and siding put up. Gallons of applied joint compound and paint have aged and need revitalizing. Wall-to-wall carpeting disappeared, revealing hard wood flooring ready to be refinished. And, besides a new roof, an old house requires an updated electrical system...
Our granddaughter ran through our empty living room on the gouged, paint-splotched wood floors. Although I had cleaned, it appeared she visited a third world home. Her petite stamping and voice resounded off exposed beams overhead where the ceiling used to hang.
On the second story, a gap in the bathroom floor limited privacy from below. Split boards exposed someone in the front bedroom when the bedroom light was on. But because of this, we did have decent visibility at night in the living room when the electric was off on the first floor.
Joe's eternal efforts to revamp our needy home single-handed, made some days inconvenient. I sat at my vanity one morning and the lights blinked off. Without blinking myself, I picked up a hand mirror and finished my toilet in light coming through the bedroom window. Mostly bind without my glasses anyway, I'm used to farding with help from the Force for cosmetic accuracy.
Once downstairs, breakfast had its quirks too. Lifting a loaf of bread from the open bread basket, I found pieces of the kitchen ceiling. I thought the white and off-white chunks of various size were large crumbs of stale bread that had fallen out of the bread bag. But the weight of them, as I picked them out of the basket, tipped me off to what they really were. Then I became a bird in Hansel and Gretel picking up ceiling rubble that marked the path of Joe's progress with the electrical work.
After the kitchen demolition, our cat puzzled me with an odd stare while standing at his food bowl. “You have food,” I said to him. His answered look of, “Hell-oo” caused me to inspect his meal more closely. I fingered the altered colored pieces of kibble. Ceiling debris lay amongst the remnants of food at the bottom of his bowl.
“I hung up a drop cloth,” Joe replied when I relayed the cat's complaint. “Some must've fallen out of it when I took it down.”
Then our granddaughter frolicked into the kitchen. She froze in the middle of the room, gazing upwards. Not yet two-years-old, her curly head moved as if in wonder at a rainbow. A colorless strip in the ceiling with wires licking through it ran from wall to wall. Starting in the middle of the room, her upturned face rotated in slow motion to the left, to the right, then back to the middle where a light and fan hung last time she visited. After repeating her inspection, she faced me and asked, “Fan?”
On her next visit, she toddled to the kitchen and tilted her face upwards, observing the replaced light and fan. She nodded and said, “Light” then went about her business of scampering through the echoing house.
My neighbor admired our seashore-blue dining room. She looked concerned when I told her about the walls now also disappearing throughout the house. My only solace to her was: “Joe hasn't started the dining room yet. So far he only disabled the electricity.”
Later, he worked in the basement feeding an exploring wire throughout the house. On my way into the dining room, the wire snake struck at me from between a remaining wall and its molding. It caught on my blouse and, as more slithered out from the wall, I fumble to stop it from entwining me. For two seconds I was the fourth stooge wrestling with a fish.
I chuckled, then retrieved my new book and blew dust from it. Residue from a fresh hole in the dining room ceiling, where a light had hung before lunchtime, blanketed the few objects around me. Nothing in the classic I held could be more novel than life with a wild, do-it-yourselfer.