No Place Like Home

Since buying a house last August, it’s been nothing but DIY projects coming out our collective wazoo. First, it was the removal of bazillions of yards of wallpaper, with which the former owner was apparently pathologically in love. The kitchen, for example, was papered with three different patterns—one on the bottom half of the wall, one of the top half of the wall, and a border strip dividing the two in the middle. Getting rid of this wallpaper was an abject nightmare. We scored it, we DIFed it, we steamed it, we scraped it—and still it came off in tiny strip after miniscule shred, tearing the underlying walls apart in the process, which led to the next project: rebuilding the walls.

Mr. Shakes also laid hardwood floors on the first floor, nailing in each board by hand, because hiring a nail gun cost $50 a day, which adds up quickly when you’re only doing it bit by bit every night after work. By the end, he had nailed in over 1,800 nails…and had very manly calluses to prove it.

After that, it was painting. And painting. And painting. I discovered that the green we chose for the kitchen determinedly left its color behind for an unseemly amount of time when I undressed for a mammogram the morning after a night of painting (and a subsequent shower) only to have my doctor react with alarm to “this strange discoloration.”

“Oh. Heh heh. We were painting. That’s the color of our kitchen.”

“Oh. Nice color.”

Tonight, Mr. Shakes removed from the main (living/dining) room a hideous chandelier, which looked like a refugee from Cruella DeVille’s Boutique of Atrocious Light Fixtures. He’s currently attempting to rewire our replacement, which my mom fortuitously won in a silent auction and generously gave us, and came packed in Chinese newspapers, complete with funny pages and recipes for what I can only guess are delicious dishes.

We’re finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Though the bedrooms still need work (including more painting) and the downstairs bathroom looks like a tornado hit it, leaving behind strips of moisture-proof wallpaper still stubbornly clinging to the walls in spite of our best efforts to detach them, it’s really beginning to look like home. Our home.

Reaching the place when you walk in your front door and feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be is a momentous occasion for any homeowner, I imagine. For Mr. Shakes and me, it is a reminder that the dreadful, distressing days of being apart, separated by 4,000 miles and mountains of red tape, are really, finally over.

This past weekend, one of my dearest friends, Miller, whom I love more than words can express, came to visit, and brought with her a new friend, whom we had never met. At dinner, we were compelled to retell the story of our meeting, which remains, endearingly, one of Miller’s favorite stories. She remembered things that both of us had forgotten—like the time that Mr. Shakes mailed me a pack of cigarettes, with one half-smoked, accompanied by a note saying at least we could still share a fag—and we recalled our creative ways of spending time together over the miles, when we’d both put on Star Wars at the same time, and watch it “together” over the phone. It was nice to remember those things, and I recollect them fondly. But I’m glad that time is behind us. I’ll take the aggravation of home improvement over the emptiness of longing to be together any day of the week.

Mr. Shakes just came in to get me so I could see the new light, all wired up and ready to go. It looks lovely, casting a cozy glow in our little house.

I like this time in our life together. We are on the same shores, in the same place; we are home.

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