About 20 years ago, Mother embarked on a total remodel of the kitchen at the house on Walnut Street. I can remember weeks of walking around the stacked boxes of pots, pans and cooking utensils in the dining room as the kitchen was torn out and rebuilt. At the same time, the floor in the master bath was threatening to give way, so the second big project was to take the bathroom down to the studs and rebuild it.
At least I had a fair idea what I was getting myself into when I decided that the time had come to get some needed repairs and updates done. I did not panic when the exterior doors were replaced and several hours went by when there were gaping holes in the house. I did not obsess over how long it was going to take to get the pile of old doors removed from the side yard.
I just gulped once when I saw the open wall in the upstairs bath that had to wait for the plumber to install new fittings before the new wall and tile could be installed. I just shut the door to keep the cats from doing any additional destruction. (I could picture shredded insulation blanketing the room.)
I cringed a few times as I listened to the old kitchen counter tops being ripped off. I knew they knew what they were doing, but it sounded like the cabinets under the counter tops were splintering into a million pieces.
It occurred to me that not only did it help to have had the previous experience of living through Mother's remodel, but my reactions also have to do with all the stress of the past year relating to the fires. I realized that for a week I had lived with the very real prospect of going back to a burned out shell of a home and that having a home in any shape is a thing to be thankful for. Who cares if there are stacks and piles everywhere while I wait for the next stage to be completed? I have a roof over my head and areas in the house where I can relax and forget about the mess in the next room. One of these days everything will be done and life will go back to normal. All is well.
My nerves are in fair shape, but I am suffering a bit of cabin fever. I refuse to have work done unless I'm home to keep an eye on the furry kids, so I've been rooted to the home front for the greater part of the last month.
Yesterday I decided to make a quick run into Austin to pick up a present for a wedding shower I'm attending in the near future. With the way things are going, I had no idea if I would get another chance before the event. I hate malls and I hate Saturday traffic, but I gritted my teeth, left the house bright and early and headed straight for Barton Creek Mall, intending to pick up the gift and make a bee-line back home.
On the way in, I kept thinking of other stops that I should make as long as I was in town: a stop at the main Half-Price Book store to check for titles in a new series I've recently discovered and a stop by Central Market to pick up some prepared meals to see me through the weekend until the plumber returns on Monday to reconnect my kitchen sink and dishwasher. (I had great success at both stops, picking up 5 hardbound books in the Mary Russell mystery series and 2 bags of soups, salads and assorted breakfast goodies.)
I was pleasantly surprised to discover I had beat the Saturday crowd to the mall and I had my wedding shower business taken care of quickly. Feeling good to have that out of the way, I allowed myself to be distracted by a sales girl from one of the mall kiosks as I was making my way back to the exit. I'm not exactly sure what she was selling, but it had something to do with skin care. She was pleasant and chatty and I was enjoying watching her maneuver me toward a sales pitch, since I have no problem whatsoever in saying "no".
At one point before I beat a hasty retreat, she asked if she could guess my age. I said sure. She asked if she could be honest. I said sure. I have no problem with telling anybody my real age, all the time hoping she didn't push me into my 60s. That would have been a tough pill to swallow. She studied me carefully and I mentally crossed my fingers.
"Well," she said, "from your nose down I would guess....54." I breathed a sign of relief that at least she had hit a few years on the younger side. "And," she continued, "from your nose up...." I braced myself. "...58." I laughed and told her she had hit it exactly. She looked genuinely surprised, whether at her accuracy or the fact that I was not offended, I'm not sure. She began to launch into her spiel, I guess with the idea of selling me something that would bring my eyes back to 54 to match my nose and mouth. I made a quick feint and headed for the car.
So, my reality check for the day was finding out I look exactly my age. I guess, all things considered, that's not so bad.