“Are we done yet?” I asked Mr. Wonderful while hanging over the edge of the deck. Looking down into a mud and vinyl filled pit, he pounded (or pulled) nails (or screws) from something (possibly wooden) that wanted nothing from him in the way of change.
He was hot and sweaty and looked up at me, squinting. “Done?” “I don’t think that’s possible. You made that word up just to trick me.” Possibly.
It’s been nearly twenty years since we moved into this old endless to do list turned home. I recall having a punch list and a five year plan. As near as I can tell we are maybe 15 years behind schedule. That doesn’t mean we haven’t accomplished anything.
We’ve made a house a home. We’ve changed land, mechanicals, and virtually every surface inside and out. We have added on and taken off and dug deep and gone high. Somewhere a roofer still trembles remembering being three stories up when they discovered the nest of bees.
We’ve lost trees and gained lawn and never quite been able to keep gravel in the muddy lane we call a driveway. We add gravel and then it goes…somewhere. I think if it were just washing off we would have a big pile — a mountain really — of it somewhere, wouldn’t we? Somewhere there is a place where all the lost socks and missing gravel go. I hope some missing shoes go there too or walking around just in socks is going to sting a little.
Like most people we have been here long enough to be comfortable with some things we once swore we would change. We have waited so long to renovate the kitchen into something bigger that I’ve outgrown the mood. We haven’t starved from cooking in our small kitchen yet.
We renovated two bathrooms just a few years ago. Then recently we discovered that our nearly new bathtub is leaking into the dining room below. The tub has cracked because we did not purchase a bathtub made out of cast iron and porcelain built to withstand the ages. We didn’t even go for a nice porcelain on steel.
Instead, we made the mistake of going for plastic, or maybe it’s fiberglass, I don’t know. I just know that it has developed a crack. That is probably why they wisely chose not to build bathtubs out of plastic when our home was originally built. We thought we knew better and now the entire bathtub, surround, and possibly the tile will have to be repaired or replaced around it.
It’s a small issue that definitely makes me realize that the whole concept of “done” is fluid at best. We fix and repair and change things only to have time come along and make it necessary to do it again.
Mr. Wonderful was standing in a 52-inch-deep hole full of mud and vinyl because we had removed our swimming pool. After a decade of faithful service, it too was leaking. We made the decision as a family to remove it. Our years of enjoying small to medium sized kids splashing in the backyard are done even if our fixing the remaining debris is not. The thing I have learned from leaky bathtubs, endless cleaning, projects, and plans, is that time and life marches on. Maybe “done” is more punishment and less to be seen as a goal.
When we moved in here 20 years ago I had a baby on the way and a firm conviction that the entire house would be done within a year or so. My plan was that by the time “the baby” could walk, everything would be perfection. Suffice to say that life gets in the way of perfect. In a good way. Today “the baby” is facing graduation and things are not “done” around here.
As happens in this season of life, a dozen or more couples fanned out in formal prom attire on the front lawn of a 112-year-old home that is still a work in progress. The smiling faces have come up my drive, through my door, and into my life for nearly 20 years now. They have grown from preschool play dates to teammate’s to accomplished and elegant young people.
Most importantly our children, and their friends, did it with us on the sidelines, in the stands and the auditorium, and always around. That kind of presence does get in the way of to do lists sometimes. What has been done is the making of a comfortable home. We have made memories and messes and some progress, yes. We have also made plans to keep plugging along. If we are lucky we won’t be “done” living for a very long time.
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