Monthly Archives: March 2014

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In my favorite part of the documentary about our neighborhood, a coiffed blond man talks about early renovators discovering the original brick roads hidden beneath modern asphalt. They decided it would be a “good idea” to take the street up (you know, the one the city recently put down). But it did not come up in sheets, like they expected. It came up, says the blond man, in small chunks “like brownies.” They plowed on anyway, pushing wheelbarrows of asphalt crumbles in the summer heat, and exposed a block of that beautiful old brick before calling it quits.

This story is comforting for someone maneuvering a stove down a snowy sidewalk at 1 am on a Wednesday night. It is a reminder: many others have been carried away by a good idea to places they didn’t anticipate.

For ten months now we’ve been living the lives of renovators. We have also been living the aftermath of multiple moves, of Kyle’s foraging in our storage units for what is easily available, of trying to squeeze contents from a three-bedroom house into a one-bedroom apartment. This means, for example, that we’ve had a very lovely fake ficus tree in our abode. However, we have not had a couch.

We have gotten accustomed to absurd living, but even we know that is not so good for guests. We wanted to finish our downstairs unit and get our belongings out of storage before parents and friends came for a visit. To have something we could show that looked like done. To maybe, even, have a couch to sit on. This is why we were moving a stove down a slippery sidewalk at 1 am.

But what actually happened was that we got just far enough to get our boxes out of storage and crammed into the downstairs unit before my parents showed up for a visit and saw the sink sitting on the chair in our actual apartment and decided (wisely!) to rent a hotel room. In other words: we failed.

Kyle said, We need to get our act together. Which reminds me a lot of when the bird died and Kyle said, No more disasters. I like that we are still pretending to have control over things.

But we’ve come a long way. Here is how things were:

Bathroom hallway view kitchen
And here is how they are (sort of–this is pre-furniture and finishing touches, which my parents helped pull off):
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To us, the transformation is amazing. We look at the apartment and see all of the small steps that went into what can actually be seen. For example: the painted trim is really sanding the trim, taping it all off, filling the knots, sanding again, priming, painting, sanding, painting, and then touching up around the edge.  To us, the apartment is a mountain of invisible accomplishments. To our visitors, it’s a sort of nice place–or it will be, once it gets some doorknobs.

Which brings me back to the documentary. I’ve driven over that brick more than I count, and it never once occurred to me that it was a dozen peoples hurting backs, a dozen peoples sweat-drenched summer. I just thought it was there. It’s a good reminder that many of the personal challenges we set for ourselves may be appreciated by others, but are unlikely to be understood. There will be no party: other than the one we give ourselves.

Luckily, our neighbors did throw a party for themselves. There are photos of them sitting out on that unearthed brick, tables with white linen and buckets of champagne set in the middle of the street. Kyle and I: we are clumsily following in the footsteps of these early renovators. We sat at our dining table, the one we were newly reunited with, and ate eggnog ice cream and drank wine with friends. And it was wonderful.