Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reno rage

My kitchen sink was a white plastic laundry tub that wobbled and leaked. Then one night, I lost it


From Friday's Globe and Mail

When I tell people my sink story they're speechless.

I'm 5-foot-3 and after three kids I can still fit into my size 6 jeans. I am not a big woman. But one night many sleeps ago, I ripped out a laundry tub with my bare hands.

This wasn't just any laundry tub. This white plastic laundry tub had served as our makeshift kitchen sink for what became a six-year kitchen renovation. The sink's legs wobbled on stacked pieces of 2-by-4, wedged between plywood that served as our countertop. For the most part it did the trick, but during one dark moment in the depths of our renovation, this mamma had a meltdown.

After we fell in love and married, we fell in love again with a century-old house that had been sitting empty for 12 years. It was owned by a developer and slated for demolition. The old house was beyond reasonable, realistic repair. It was far too expensive for us to afford and far too large for the two of us and our first child, whose arrival was imminent.

A momentary lapse of judgment we signed a deal with the devil and purchased the house. Two days after we moved in I went into premature labour. Our son was born.

Our new home needed, for starters, de-batting (of the flying kind), running water, a septic tank overhaul, a new heating system, new roof, new plumbing and new wiring. The structural work took forever and cost a fortune. After years of dealing with these deficiencies, it was finally time to tackle the kitchen.

My husband decided to hire a crew and gut the kitchen while I gave birth to our second son. From floor to ceiling to exterior walls everything was gone. Gutted. All that remained of the floor were the joists. One misstep could send me plummeting to the basement below.

The refrigerator sat in the back hallway, the stove was stored in the garage. The ancient porcelain sink was dumped in the driveway. Colicky baby in one arm, jealous toddler yanking on the other, postpartum lurking in the shadows, the devil knocking at the door. I. Was. Living. In. Hell.

Weeks became months. A flapping tarp covering the gaping hole where our new bay window should have been was no match for nightly raids by raccoons. I became proficient in microwave cooking and dial-up dinners. Our firstborn thought it was just like camping. I wish.

Finally, a floor: 3-foot by 3-foot slabs of granite, installed to look like one continuous piece. It was magnificent. Radiant heat warmed the granite. Our feet were in heaven. Our children put their cheeks to the floor, marvelling in the magic.

The floor looked expensive because it was. We ran out of money. The renovation ground to a halt.

Months became years. Somewhere along the way the aforementioned tub cracked. It leaked every time I used it. A friend tried to shame my husband into replacing it, but he refused, oblivious to my pain. The laundry tub was supposed to be a temporary measure while our kitchen came together. It had more than earned its keep. It owed us nothing, which is why I am ashamed to say that I took out my renovation rage on it. But I did.

An old apple juice can caught the dripping water that leaked from the tub. As long as I remembered to empty the can, the system worked. After one particularly stressful day and dinner, I began the cleanup routine. I picked up the can and began to pour the catch of the day down the drain when something caught my eye. A dead mouse bobbed in the water, apparently driven to drink like I had been on many recent occasions.

With a tin can filled with stinking dead mouse water in one hand, and a dirty dinner plate in the other, I discovered what my limit was that night because I had just reached it.

I threw the plate against our beautiful granite floor. It smashed into smithereens. It felt good. Two plates felt great. A stack felt amazing. Plate after plate exploded as they hit the granite floor. I felt empowered. I ran out of plates before I ran out of rage. And then I turned my attention to the sink.

With both hands I grabbed my stinking, leaking, teetering white laundry tub and ripped it from the wall. Water spewed from the pipes, turning our granite floor into a death trap. My husband and sons ran into the kitchen. One after another they slid across the floor like Bambi on ice.

If I said we can look back on that night and laugh it would be a lie. I am not proud of my behaviour, but most people sympathize. Renovations are not for the faint of heart. It does not take 24 minutes and three commercial breaks to get to that heavenly "after" shot. And it always costs more than you budget for. Way more.

Our marriage survived that night. Two years later we finished our kitchen renovation, and 19 days after that we welcomed our daughter into our completely renovated world.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Hey Reiner, good to hear from you. Nice blog. The experience that woman suffered reminds me when you did some work for us up here in Haliburton! Just kidding!

Insert a space between the "inToronto" in your Header a the top of your page.

Best regards,