A toilet has taken up residence in our guest room for the last three weeks. The steps and second floor carpet are covered with plastic which the cat loves to prowl around on at night–crinkle, crinkle at 4 AM. Cardboard boxes filled with bottles of shower gel and shampoo, along with pictures and stacks of towels are piled on various beds. Our windows have been stripped of their curtains and wall switches stand naked without face plates awaiting the application of a new coat of paint.
We are remodeling our master bathroom, repainting rooms, and installing new carpet on most of our second floor. I know just the word “remodel” is enough to strike fear in the hearts of many. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Weeks of cooking in a microwave perched on a coffee table. Faucets that don’t fit the new sinks. Needed items delayed because of a dock-workers strike somewhere in the world. A new countertop just a centimeter too short. Supporting walls that don’t support. But this hasn’t been horrible. A little inconvenient, yes, but surprisingly painless. We’re not quite finished yet, so I hope I’m not tempting fate.
We built our home twenty years ago, and for the most part, it has served us well. Unlike some of our friends who are starting to use the “D” word, down-sizing, we’re not there yet. Good Lord willing, we plan to stay here for a while and have discovered that things which were all the rage when we built the house are maybe not so practical in the long run. Like the giant corner spa tub that we’ve used once in the last five years. (Not to mention having to stand on top of said tub to open the bathroom windows.)
So, we decided to lose the tub and splurge on a bigger tiled shower. Of course, once you start a project, Pandora’s box opens and beguiles you with “Well, maybe you should replace the carpet while you’re doing this and since the painter’s here, let him do the guest bathroom, too.” I will own these words, reinforcing the notion that I taught my husband how to spend money.
Every morning, at 7 AM, the foreman and his crew arrive at our door, work steadily without so much as a lunch break, and leave at 5 PM. They are efficient, professional, and utterly amazing. I have no mechanical skills whatsoever. None. I can tell the difference between a Phillips-head and a regular screwdriver and I know righty-tighty, lefty-loosey and that’s about as far as it goes. What these gentlemen can do, almost effortlessly, boggles my mind.
No one scratches their head and says, “Uh, I don’t know. Let me call someone and see if they can figure out what to do about this.” I doubt there are any remodeling problems that the foreman has not seen or does not know how to address. The man who laid the shower tile was truly an artist. The electrician said the original lights we picked wouldn’t work but he had some we liked just as much that would. The carpenter had to do some tricky finagling of the cabinetry, because the walls weren’t quite plumb, and it took some shims here and sanding there.
It is a privilege to be around people who model excellence and take pride in what they do. While it seems like we’re always complaining about being ripped off or being on the receiving end of shoddy workmanship and granted, much of that complaining is legitimate, it gives me hope to see that not everyone is on that page. That there are still folks who believe in an honest day’s work and in treating clients with respect and consideration. That impeccable craftsmanship is still alive and well. That it’s not always about money and greed and how much I can make with as little effort as possible.
I am humbled and grateful to have had these workmen in my home to create a new space for us to enjoy. I have nothing but the highest respect for those who plaster walls and painstakingly arrange tiles and figure out a way for the towel racks to fit beside the mirrors. We’re thrilled with what these talented individuals have accomplished in a relatively short time. They, like the millions who bring their skills to the construction trade or the hospital or the restaurant kitchen, don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.
But I will be glad when this is all finished, so I don’t have to rummage through boxes to find shampoo and aspirin. I will be glad to say good riddance to that trampled down 20-year-old builders’ grade carpet that has sustained the abuse of four dogs and two cats. I can’t wait to use my fancy new bathroom and not be stepping on cat litter scattered on the floor in the middle of the night. It will be great to see the lovely Sherwin Williams’ “Oyster Bay” covering the denim blue and taupe walls I’ve woken up to for the last 15 years. And it will be wonderful to have the toilet back where it belongs.