Fixing Things

I haven’t written here in months. The last time I wrote, the pandemic was beginning, and soon those of us living in Illinois were supposed to be sheltering in place. It seems both so long ago, and like yesterday at the same time.

I’ve been thinking about my long silence, about the pandemic, the end of the trump presidency, new beginnings, new babies, and the reality of near-constant change. Sometimes all this thought is a thunderstorm, rain and hail and skies full of thunder followed by flashes of light and it’s impossible to put any of it into words. I am both gobsmacked and terrified silent.

There’s so much beauty in a storm. The clouds hanging low, heavy, and gray; the heartbeat of rain lashing against the windows.

Last year, we got a new roof. No shingles for us. Sheets of metal. And the crew that installed the roof also fixed our leaky skylight. For the past 20 years, we have lived in a house with water stained and peeling ceilings. No room was excluded from water’s assault on our roof and old sky light.

Over the years, we did patch work. The plumber (we live in a small town where the plumber will do odd jobs) would come and throw tar around the chimney and sky light when we noticed new streaks of water damage. Each time, I’d believe we had it fixed, and I’d paint the ceilings. Sometimes I painted the ceilings without really fixing them, just scraping the peeling paint away and painting over it so the ceiling itself was interesting in a 3D way.

But the roof continued to leak. The ceiling continued to peel. I learned to ignore it mostly. Oh sure, it was difficult when during the middle of a hard rain I’d slip in a puddle of water investigating the tap, tap, tap of rainwater hitting the vinyl floor. Or when I saw a guest’s eyes linger on the giant spot on the living room ceiling where I’d slapped a bunch of plaster on a fault and let it dry like reverse icing all swirly up there.

Then trump won the presidency. And I wanted to fix things–this is something because I have a high tolerance for domestic imperfections. While I’m clean, I’m no maven of home decor or maintenance.

First we remodeled the kitchen. Then we pulled the trigger on the roof, and about a year later, I called a painter and had all the ceilings painted and the walls too. And just last week, we installed a new gas log in our fireplace.

Is it weird that we’ve lived in this house for 22 years, and we’ve never used the fireplace which is by anyone’s account the architectural triumph of our small home.

The fireplace sits in the center of the home. It is open to both the kitchen and the living room. It is a massive Bedford stone edifice. The flue is huge. In fact, when the gas log came to investigate and give us an estimate, he said he’d never seen such a giant fireplace. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to fit it with a log.

He managed.

Now, it’s as if we’re living in a new home. And it’s hot. That fireplace churns out a lot of heat. But still, when it rains or snows (it snowed for the first time this week), I still pad out into the kitchen, stepping gingerly on the dry floor, expecting to slip by the light of the fire.

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