Monday, March 29, 2010

Capes and Tights and One Wild Ride

Three weeks ago, I stood sniveling while watching raindrops fall into the kitchen sink, which sat on top of bark mulch in the side yard. Yes, the kitchen sink was in the side yard, which was not a good thing in and of itself, but since I had just received an offer on my house, it was a really bad thing.

It all started something like this: Sunday night, we received an offer on my little Greenwood house. Monday, I asked Brian to check the vapor barrier in the crawlspace to see if it needed to be replaced. Monday night, I walked in the door after work, and Brian immediately asked if I wanted a drink. He already had Manhattan fixings on the counter, quickly offered me hummus and pita, mixed the drinks, and suggested I sit down. He’d been in the crawlspace, and had discovered a gigantic pool of sludge.

In the days after the discovery, we learned that at some point in my house’s history, someone with little to no home repair acumen ran a kitchen sink drain vent using a crazy, not-to-code standpipe and attached this bizarre vent to the drainpipe using two female connectors. Whether these two connectors were at one time attached with duct tape, string, silly putty, or cheese whiz, we’ll never know, because by the time we had removed some of the siding from the house, there was not only nothing connecting the sink drain to the vent pipe, there was actually a two inch gap between the connectors. So, some number of months earlier, the actual drain must have become clogged, and instead of backing up into the sink, everything from our sink drain flowed out the vent, into the wall, and down into the crawlspace. Yuck!

We then had to call the prospective buyer’s real estate agent to explain that we could no longer sign the offer and be ready for an inspection right away. To our utter amazement, however, he claimed that the buyers were still interested, so if we could fix this plumbing disaster quickly, we might still save the deal. It seemed an impossibility.

Brian, always the visionary, believed we could pull out the cabinets, fix the plumbing, and the wood rot, and put it all back together pretty quickly. I did not share his vision. I sobbed and sobbed—certain the kitchen would be ruined and the deal lost.

Which brings us back to the weekend the sink came out. Brian’s good-friend, John, came over, and the two of them (a physicist and a geologist) cheerfully wrestled the beastly, double-drain-board ceramic sink out into the side yard, where I fought back tears as the demolition of the kitchen commenced.

And, I have to confess that while I’m typically a glass-half-full kind of gal, the pressure of trying to sell the house plus the stress of knowing that we were about to tear apart our kitchen for some undetermined length of time (while still having to work full time) had me in a hardcore state of doom and gloom. And, while I knew that all my loved ones were ready, as we say in my family to don cape and tights and rush to the rescue, it wasn’t really clear yet just what they could do.

Enter the amazing Kele. Kele is a friend of Brian’s. They met years ago in Bellingham, where Kele had helped with the house Brian was remodeling at the time. A few phone calls on Sunday morning, and a plan was formed. I was off to pick up Kele, and Brian was off to get the table saw from the storage unit.

Kele and Brian quickly sent me off to Home Depot for supplies, while they assaulted the damaged part of the house with sledgehammers and Sawzalls. By the next day, the crew had grown to include Kele’s friend Josh. By late in the day, there was a lot of testosterone in the house. Muddy boots went in and out. Cigarette smoke wafted through the yard. Coronas disappeared, and ribald jokes and laughter filled our typically quiet little house.

Brian and Kele kept sending me off to Home Depot, Lowes, and Dunn Lumber for supplies. It was better for me not to see the destruction that had to happen before the “putting it all back together” could begin. As long as I had a task at hand, I could fight back the tears.

Late on Mon, the work was winding down. The plumbing was fixed. New framing was in place, new subfloor laid, new sheetrock in, and the cabinets were going back into position. And all of this was just two days after the sink first came to rest on the bark mulch in the side yard.

Looking back, I accept that it is understandably hard to come home to see a gaping hole in one’s kitchen—especially, when it’s the kitchen of your very first home, where you and your Mom painted the walls and cabinets, where your Dad re-hung the cabinets and the shelves, and where you tiled the counter all on your own. So, in the midst of all of the chaos, when I would return from my trips to the big-box-home-improvement stores, it was impossible not to look worried and distressed. But, after a while, I noticed that Kele, Josh, and Brian kept checking in on my expression, and they started offering reassurance that all was going well and that the job would be finished quickly. Where at first, I just noticed a bunch of dudes doing construction work, I started to notice observant, compassionate men, who were putting my house back together not just as part of a job, but because they were trying to help a good friend, Brian, and trying to ease the fears of his girlfriend, me. I started to see and feel that they were concerned about my state of mind and stress level even more than they were concerned about putting pipes and lumber and drywall in place. They had agreed to come and work on this project for a rate far below their level of experience and talent, and when they left, Josh even hugged me and thanked me for letting them come to work on my house.

I’d love to say that putting the kitchen back together was the last of the major hurdles with selling my house. But even through the next calamity involving a slightly damaged sewer line and insanely mean-spirited neighbors refusing to let us dig 10 inches on their property to fix the sewer line, my amazing family, friends, and friends of friends have been true super heroes—all willing to jump into cape and tights and bound into action at a moment’s notice to help. Brian has been as supportive a partner as one could ever hope to have, and my original super-hero parents, who should be enjoying nothing but leisure and playing with their grandchildren, have rolled up their sleeves to dig, clean, repair, install, and do more than any 43-year-old kid could ever have a right to ask.

So, this house selling business has been way more of a wild ride than I ever could have anticipated, but I have been completely humbled by realizing that I have an entire super hero posse, all of whom rushed to my aid when I was in distress. They put my house back together, supported me, and helped me believe that good things were still around the corner.

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