May 1, 2012
1. Any of numerous shrubs or vines of the genus Rosa, having prickly stems, pinnately compound leaves, and variously colored, often fragrant flowers.
2. An ornament, such as a decorative knot, resembling a rose in form; a rosette.
3. A form of gem cut marked by a flat base and a faceted, hemispheric upper surface.
4. A compass card or its representation, as on a map.
Idioms: Come up roses
To result favorably or successfully: Those were difficult times but now everything’s coming up roses.
You would not believe what I’m doing. It’s midnight, and I’m on line, shopping for locks and levers. That’s fancy contractor talk for “door knobs.” Yes, I am picking out doorknobs. That’s how far along I am on the house.
That, of course, is the good news. Nellie and I are still about two months from being “home,” and we have to move AGAIN because our lease has expired and the construction is delayed. (Sigh. Really BIG sigh.)
Two months sounds like a nano-second compared to this almost two-year process, and yet it still feels impossibly far away. My brain still cannot let me grasp the fact that soon we will be home again, back on my land, in my new house. Part of me refuses to accept that, and won’t believe it until it’s real. Denial, caution, overwhelm – or a combination of all three? What is it that holds me back, what voice has begun to whisper in my ear, “Don’t believe it until you see it?” I don’t remember hearing that voice before. For most of my life, I have been Ms. Throw-Caution-to-the-Wind. The fire has made me a bit more wary, and frankly, I’m just plain tired.
A friend was over the other day and said, “Wow, you look kind of exhausted.” I said, “Oh hon, I passed ‘exhausted’ about a year ago – that landmark is long gone.” Recovery from loss is a marathon, not a sprint, and now that I am in the home stretch, I am feeling the distance – trying to catch my breath yet again for the final run across the Finish Line. And yet I know there is no Finish Line – just a different life waiting for me up ahead; a life full of question marks, new experiences, and possible adventures.
Anyway, back to locks and levers. Yesterday I drove about a half-hour to a doorknob showroom (yes, doorknob showrooms do exist) to go look at levers for the doors to the new house. You’re probably thinking, “Oh for God’s sake just go to Home Depot and be done with it!” Well, apparently some doorknobs are made from plastic, some from metal, and if you go to a real doorknob guy you’ll probably get something more long lasting and durable. As I’ve said, I’m building a house to die in, and part of the design of my new house is what’s called “aging in place.” So I actually don’t have door knobs in my new house, I have levers. No twisting, just a gentle push and voila! The door opens. Mom in her walker, my friends with mobility issues – everyone can move around easily in my new home. And thus, I am taking some time to thoughtfully choose door hardware. And besides, as a writer and researcher, I tend to be neurotically detail oriented, so this is right up my alley.
I sat down with the very nice guy in the showroom and started looking at catalogs. We found a simple hardware set for the pocket doors – a bracket and lock that you can grab easily – stainless steel, looked nice. I asked how much it was and he said, “Let’s see… that one is…five hundred dollars.” I said, “FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?!!! That’s my entire budget! One one doorknob? What do you have in the forty dollar range?” (Note to Self – Always tell the vendor your budget before you start shopping for anything.) Sigh.
And of course, you not only have to pick out the levers, but the locks – what kind of locks? Keys? Keypads? A separate deadbolt? Keyed in the plate, or in the knob? Do you want locking pins for stability? (Take another breath, you can do this…)
We picked out some inexpensive hardware that will do the job, and this still took over an hour. This was my fourth house-building appointment of the day, and I was feeling a little overwhelmed, but okay. Then he said, “What kind of rose do you want on these?” I looked at him and said, “Rose? What kind of rose do I want?” “Yes,” he said, “The rose is the plate that goes behind the lever – this part right here…” He pointed to the little metal plate behind the lever I chose. “Do you want round roses, square, oblong, rectangular, custom…?” I stared at him blankly and said, “I have to decide what kind of ROSE to get?” And at that moment, I felt my brain starting to shut down. I could almost hear the little computer inside my head beeping; “Warning! Hard drive full! Crash imminent!” I stared at him and said, “Uhhhh….” This was decision number ten-thousand-two-hundred and eighty-four, and my brain just decided to take a little vacation. It was refusing to cooperate. He said kindly, “Would you like to call your architect?” I said, “No, no, just give me a second.” Roses, for Pete’s sake.
My little dog Nellie was with me, and she came over, wagging, and licked my hand. I picked her up and said, “Okay Nellie, what kind of roses do you want on your doorknobs? Round, square, oblong…. perhaps dog-shaped?” and then we laughed. That seemed to snap me out of it. “Round,” I said. “Round it is,” he said.
And so, another milestone. I have picked out locks, levers and roses. Phew.
I drove down the highway from the showroom back to Boulder, chomping on an apple, feeling rather proud of myself. Nellie was crashed out in the back seat, exhausted from being dragged around to various places all day, and I felt strangely happy. I wasn’t raised to be handy, or to know anything about building a house. I always thought, like many people, that it was a wildly complex project, far beyond my abilities. But when push comes to shove, you just do it.
Even though I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, I realize that this is a precious gift that has been dropped in my lap, through both dire and happy circumstance. Who gets to build a house from the ground up? Mostly people with a lot of time and money, which has never been the case with me. My friends and I like to raise money for charities, but we don’t tend to stash away a lot for ourselves. Freelancers, nurses, artists, teachers – these are the folks I spend most of my time with. Building a house would be like flying to the moon for most of us, and yet here I am, working with architects, builders, painters – picking out doors and locks and levers, paint colors, tile, and designing rooms. And learning, with surprise, that I am rather good at it. Who knew?
I am finding that when life pushes us far beyond our comfort zone, we seem to rise to the occasion. When we are stripped of comfort, of all familiarity, all that is left is our inner strength, our true resiliency, our inner core of being. And I am finding, at that core, my Warrior Princess, my Inner Super Hero, who can sometimes leap tall buildings in a single bound, who can coordinate crazy amounts of details, and who can orchestrate, with a lot of help, an entire house rising from the ashes of disaster.
Who knew, almost two years ago, when I drove down the driveway of my old house, off to spend the summer on the Washington coast, that this is where I’d be two years later? Who knew that I was embarking on a heartbreaking and wonderful adventure, or that I would meet scores of new people along the way? Who knew that I would learn so much, and find so much joy, in spite of everything?
When I look at a house, I will never again see just a house. I will see the thousands of decisions that someone made, and the agony and overwhelm and excitement and love that it took to make that house a reality. I will see the dozens and dozens of people – architects, contractors, excavators, masons, framers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, and painters, to name a few – who worked night and day to make that house a reality. I will see the village that it took to raise that house.
I realize that a rose is not just a rose, it can be many things – a lovely flower, a diamond, a compass marker, and even the little plate behind a doorknob. Who knew?
Wishing You Sweet Dreams, and Days Full of Roses,
South Side of the House and the Giant Deck
Cheerful Roofer Guys
Hooking Up the Phone
Amy the Brilliant Architect
Cute Drywall Guy
The Trim Carpenter and Chet the Tile Guy
Lars the Cute Painter
Warren the Amazingly Patient Electrician
Jerry Long, My Wonderful Contractor (left) and John Chambers, Supervisor Extraordinaire and All Around Nice Guy