Once upon a time, there was a small bungalow in a beachside town on the prettiest stretch of Highway One. It had a for-sale sign and promise. Perhaps we were the only ones who saw the potential, and perhaps we took on a bit more than was wise. But with the last bit of flooring in the laundry room, our bungalow became a finished product.
We hadn’t thought our new home would change that much. A new door here, a new floor there, a lot of cleaning. But as we grew to love this little place, we decided it deserved better. And so began a year of one better thing after another. After another…
I picked one shot to sum it all up. We started with this:
Laminate, tile, hardwood, carpet, vinyl. I’ve lived on top of it all. In the bungalow, I’ve lived on top of plywood for a good long time. No one heard complaints, much, because even the plywood was a great improvement over the moist cold air coming up from the crawl space beneath.
But it was time for decisions about what to put on top of that plywood, and I’m not talking about the throw-rugs I put down to pretend we were done completely with the renovation. Since I had declared the bungalow a grout-free zone, tile was out. We had a store-house full of laminate, but Stanley vetoed that in the bathroom, just in case I splash three times a day crawling out from those long baths. Moisture-resistant, water-repelling, easy-to-clean. I started looking into vinyl.
Life for me is not my dogs’ lives. I like to sit and watch, blend in, observe without much hullabaloo. But I am doomed to cavort with noticeable dogs.
First: Reina, the almost-collie. So beautiful people would cross the street in the Texas Hill Country just to be closer to her multi-colored fluff. Then they would look at her face and notice she had but one eye.
Then Patch, who stuck to my heel like that lousy piece of discarded gum on a hot summer day. Misunderstood and determined to let you know it, she would growl and let her ridgeline hair stand straight, all the while with her soft warm nose attached to the skin above my tennies.
Ace, the noble full-bred pointer, came running at me from the SPCA and never let up the pace. Except when he spied a bird, or rabbit, or critter. Then he would stay stark still -pointing – until every inch of him was a-quiver. He would drag me on our very long walks and people would comment, “Who’s walking who?” until he spotted a creature and the show would begin. On one walk, I counted six people stopped, watching his virtual hunt of a prey he would only once in his life claim.
Sadie follows this lengthy tradition. Ruler of the house and yard and dinner table and seemingly our life in general, she has opinions on everything. She is not allowed inside during meals, so she finds a way to look at us from every window in the house. She is a camouflage dog: coat like a cheetah or leopard, reminding people of that “wild dog, the Australian dog, the African dog, that Dingo.” People can’t help themselves. She elicits comments like the finale of a fireworks show – oohs and ahhs. She gives more love and requires more attention than all my former dogs put together and multiplied by ten.
Sadie has been running ceaselessly from one side of the yard to the other, scaring the workers who come to renew the bungalow. First, we closed her off from the back of the compound, where the workers gathered nail guns and dry wall. Then, we chained her, hoping that would remind her of her manners. Sadie appears to love all this activity. Nothing discourages her enthusiastic romp, or loud comments. Me, Marsha, I’m ready for some quiet time.
Every day brings an improvement in ye old chicken coop. Today we have a tub. And a toilet. Hard to imagine gratitude for those two common household items. It probably gives an indication of the really trying nature of all this home renovating to confess that this view
refreshes me at the end of the day.
PS – just because I mentioned a tub and a toilet, doesn’t mean they came with walls.
And so the garden begins. I took a quick run to Miner’s Ace Hardware, which is a celebrating kind of spot on the weekends, and took a walk through the spectacular nursery. I came away with my first coastal garden plant.
Branches, blossoms, new leaves come quickly to the few transferred pots I brought from the valley. The new coastal plants, to me, appear brilliant in color, spiny in design. I love the new decor.
I found a great sale on ocean grasses. They are now potted, placed on the deck, and adding their sway to the afternoon breezes. Everything looks so fresh. Even after working for several hours in the coolness, I’m energized.
Sadie, though, is looking tired, and soon will sleep.
Where there are pipes, there are also planks. So far, in the cottage, we have found four different under-layers beneath the flea carpet that is now gone. There was the initial linoleum, a mish-mash design of rock-looking things and metallic gold paint. Before I could put on the disco music, Stanley had pulled that up to reveal the second layer: green and gold fluer-de-lis on older linoleum. Next was the plywood layer. Finally, the sturdy, thick, heavy planks of real wood. They look like they could stand another 60 years. Original hardwood? Is this what design freaks seek out in older homes? I think we will just be grateful to have this durable under-layer and proceed with some sleek, no-holes, well-fitted laminate and be glad for the technology that produced it.
We had been in the bungalow for three days. Sadie was also in residence, a very happy dog, poking her nose into all the places an old yard hides. Stanley had been eyeing the cottage, collecting laminate, and charting out a schedule. I had been placing stuff in cupboards and cleaning. At the end of one very long and productive day, we finally took showers and prepared to relax. That’s when the toilets stopped flushing.
It’s a night we will forget as soon as we can. We suddenly felt like the strangers we were. No plumber to call, we sat wondering how bad this would be. The next morning, we planned to go to Miner’s Ace Hardware and ask for referrals. On the way we saw this sign: I Am A Plumber Looking For Work. Sounded just right. Stanley made the call, and in five minutes time, we had a semi-diagnostic, an estimate for the job, and a two-hour window before the plumber, Dave, would show up at the bungalow.
We took a walk on the beach.
For the next two days, the smells, the open holes in the grass, the dislike Sadie took to the plumbers, and the splashing of brown stuff (mud, I’ve convinced myself) dumped us unceremoniously onto a sensory overload. But the job got done and the price was reasonable. Dave is a great plumber – he purposely named his business “I Am A Plumber Looking For Work” and is as honest as that name implies. Of course, you can’t invite a good plumber into your home and expect he won’t find more things that need repair. So we have become very friendly with Dave, the life-saving plumber, and Gary, his apprentice. They will be around, pulling up old pipes and capping unused gas lines for a while. Thank Goodness.