We were probably less than a year in and in that gooey phase of love and so when we sat at the dining room table with his grandparents (met for the first time, for me), Kyle’s grandmother scolded him: no kissing at the table, she said.

So his grandfather gently nudged our chairs away from the table.

It wasn’t long before we lost Kyle’s grandfather, and this weekend, we lost Kyle’s nanny, too. She was a woman who liked things just-so, a quilter, a woman who adored sweet potatoes and disliked cheese. She was meticulous and strong-minded and unfailing genteel. Which is why, when speaking of cheese, she would say, I just don’t care for it, and if she didn’t quite agree with something you said might say, Really? and then if she really didn’t like something might say, Oh, please. Ladylike, but: she said what she meant.

Nanny visited Dayton during the madness of getting the big apartment in New House ready for tenants. A team of us, including Kyle’s parents and an aunt and uncle, scurried around painting and laying flooring and landscaping. Nanny pitched in, too, coaching us on how to trim the hedges: just-so. It was a frenzied, frantic, disorganized weekend. It was exhausting.

And as she was leaving, she said it: Oh, I just had so much fun.

Okay. So maybe nanny, a woman of voluminous social graces, could sometimes exaggerate. But I think she saw this thing we call renovating, this messy and uncomfortable and failing-filled rush to and through something bigger than us, together, and she called it for what it was: life. The best of it. And so a paint and grout-splattered weekend is a joy, for the same reason my great-grandmother adored playing rounds of less-than-thrilling Pokeno games and my grandmother Tess willingly(!) took afternoon calls about just about anything, from dog cataracts to making soup. Because we will never get enough time with the people that we love. And so we take the messy and we take the mundane and and we take the hard and we take the beautiful, too.

Nanny, we just had so much fun, too. The whole thing.

And in honor of that fine lady, who will be missed, some photos from the projects of last week:

These were the counters right after the faux concrete, and I was like: I like this. Then I laid a coat of tung oil because I figured expert renovators have to experiment, and remembered I was actually an amateur renovator. I don't have pictures of the blotchy mess that followed, but it was bad, and that's how they've been for months.

These were the counters right after the faux concrete, and I was like: I like this. Then I laid a coat of tung oil because I figured expert renovators have to experiment, and remembered I was actually an AMATEUR renovator. I don’t have pictures of the blotchy mess that followed, but it was bad, and that’s how they were for months.

And the servants stairs, were looking like this...

And the servants stairs, were looking like this…

And they still look old, because they are. Good enough for now (eventually the stairs are coming out).

And they still look old, because they are. Good enough for now (eventually the stairs are coming out).

And we redrew plans for Old House. Again (x100).

And we redrew plans for Old House. Again (x100). Good things are happening there. Can’t wait to show everyone.

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