By: Gracie K. Harold
Trigger Word Warning: cold drinks, $#*!, expletive.
I have very vivid memories of home improvement projects throughout my childhood. One of my favorite photos shows me at age 2 holding a hammer and beaming proudly as my father builds me a toy box. I was always that girl…you know, the one who could check her own oil, change her blinker bulb, and of course, unclog a toilet!
Growing up in our clan meant that if there was a deck to be built, uncles and aunts and cousins were sure to be on hand with their tools, cold drinks and a crockpot full of barbeque. Over the years, though, our projects did not always go according to plan. The home that I grew up in had a half wall, complete with wooden spindles. That wall lasted maybe 2 years tops after we moved in.
First, the spindles were removed. Then, my parents decided to remove the half wall and open up the doorway. Since they reasoned that this would be a “simple” project, only one uncle was called over to help. The men started first thing in the morning that fateful Saturday. My brother and I stood at a respectful distance as my father began to saw through the half wall. The electric buzz resonated melodically through the air for the first few seconds, until the unmistakable zing of metal on saw blade was heard. My father jerked the saw out of the wall, and a hasty demolition of the drywall ensued (by hand).
Apparently, the home builders had been possessed when they ran the water pipes from the upstairs bathroom down to the basement. Instead of simply utilizing a straight line; they had installed a pair of 45˚ angled pipes, snaking right into the half wall before angling down to the basement. So, my father, uncle and mother set to work hand demolishing the rest of the wall. A plan was drawn up; and the work commenced.
Obviously, the water was turned off for most of the day while they re-routed the pipes. Late that afternoon, the adults were celebrating their accomplishments when I went upstairs to use the bathroom. I expected the bathroom to be very cold as it was wintertime. I walked in, opened the toilet lid, and was greeted with a cloud of steam. I attempted to wash my hands, but discovered only cold water in the sink. Realization dawned, and I hurried downstairs to my parents.
“Guess what?” I asked with the triumph of one who has an important announcement. “There’s HOT water in the toilet and COLD water in the sink!” The adults fell silent as their celebration stopped. “Gracie, that’s not funny.” “It’s true! I opened the toilet lid and steam came out!” I heard the pounding of my dad’s footsteps up the stairs, followed by a muttered, “Aww…$#*!”
The wall was torn back apart, the pipes were uncrossed; the wall was deemed to be “good enough” for now; and the sun was long set when I decided to get one more snack before heading to bed. My father, in his fatigue; had left the power drill plugged into the freshly moved electrical outlet. I opened the fridge at the same moment that my brother noticed the power drill unattended.
“Hey, Jay, look! The refrigerator light won’t turn on!” At that moment, he had picked up the drill like a tool aficionado and pulled the trigger. The drill bit spun, and the fridge light came on. We looked at each other and started giggling. He let go of the trigger, and the fridge went black again. We were outright laughing as my mom turned the corner into the kitchen and asked what was so funny. We demonstrated our discovery, and she exclaimed, “Oh, no! Oh, $#*!” My Father took one look at our new trick and silently went downstairs.
We sat there, stupidly running the drill in order to keep the fridge running. Dad returned with a cardboard box and electrical tape. He removed the drill bit, taped the trigger down so it would stay on all night; and placed the drill into the box. I don’t remember which one of us snickered first, but I do remember the stomachache from all the laughter. I know we slept the blessed sleep of the exhausted that night.
The next day, my uncle dutifully returned, the wires were uncrossed and the wall was refinished. The doorway was enlarged; and we had gained yet another funny story to share about our adventure as a family. We wore our home improvement mishap as if it were a badge of honor.
Recently, when James and my brother-in-law set out to teach me how to change the brake pads on our car; I remembered the hot water in the toilet and I shared it as a means of encouragement. I have quite a knack for pep talks, huh?
We actually did quite well. Granted, we had to drive out a ways to gather all of the tools that we had forgotten; but I decided that helped us get into the brake-changing mindset. Really, there was only one comic mishap that occurred when my brother-in-law was loosening the lug nuts with the 4way. Apparently when we bought the tires, they were put on with a LOT of torque! Well, he leaned into the 4way; put all of his weight into it…and promptly snapped it in two pieces! He stood there wide-eyed in astonishment, opening and closing his mouth…completely speechless.
I tried to suppress my giggles, but I couldn’t. James was working on the other tire until he heard my laughter and noticed that his usually talkative brother had absolutely nothing to say. He saw the newly renovated 4way, and we all chuckled.
All in all, it was a fun afternoon. We worked hard, but we had all had a good time simply enjoying one another’s company. It means so much to me that James respects me enough to gently teach me how to participate in the projects that he takes on. In our marriage, we have been intentionally focusing on establishing the “we” first.
Since we each brought three into the marriage, this means that we have six little people who all think that they should be the first priority in our lives. The last months have consisted of us gently yet firmly teaching and showing the children that the following are our priorities: 1st, our faith and love for God. 2nd, we the parents are a team; and we will function in unity and love. 3rd, we love our children so much that we will teach them that their choices have consequences. 4th, we want to love others around us as we have been loved.
Adjustments aren’t always easy and repairs don’t always go as planned. We have hit some snags along the way, and we have our moments when we lose our cool, and maybe even *gasp* we’ve muttered an expletive or two…or five. (Not in a way that demeans each other or attacks each other or insults, but as a means of describing a crappy situation.) Overall, my hope is that someday, we can giggle together over our mishaps and eventually wear them as a “badge of honor”.