During the deposition of my divorce, my soon-to-be-ex husband was asked the reason for the breakdown of our marriage. “My wife had an sexual and emotional affair,“ he claimed.
“With whom?” asked my lawyer, the both of us flabbergasted, as I had never cheated on my husband.
“The contractor,” he replied, with a straight face. “I bet she’s still banging him.”
It had been five years since we’d had any real work done to the house. Later, I laughed at such outrageousness, but at least four people I’ve heard of in the past couple of years have indeed fallen in love with their contractors, or even married them.
So much of my life and priorities focused on using any extra savings on dinners out and family vacations, and I never saw the point of pouring money into the house. I was certainly not a homebody, and would totally rather drop a few thousand on a couple of weeks in Europe or Costa Rica, rather than on a new granite kitchen counter or paint job. I can’t tell you how many excruciating lunches I’d sat through with my children’s preschool classmates’ mothers, who would agonize over what color to paint the wainscoting or which were the best brand of kitchen faucets. That was not me at all.
But several years ago, after every single major appliance in our kitchen fell apart of exploded, it was out of the question to “just leave it” which had been my ex’s attitude about basically everything. We had to remodel the entire kitchen, no question about it. Luckily, it was in the midst of the recession, and the contractor we ended up hiring, one of the few females who owned her own company of this nature, said that business was slow and was willing to give us her time, talent, and workers for, if you can believe it, less than the price of Home Depot.
I did not fall in love with her, but I have to give her credit for sparking the dormant artist in me. As we glanced around the shabbiness which our kitchen had become, she asked a pivotal question: “What would make you happy, in terms of what we can do for you?” I don’t know who, if anyone, had ever asked me that before, and it felt good to have someone not only willing to listen, but to actively determine how to improve my life. I said I wasn’t sure at first; really, I just wanted working appliances, but that was setting low standards, and she too, was an artist.
“What inspires you?” she said, and we looked around the room until my eyes fell on a little planter I’d bought in Mexico decades before, on a trip with my sister. It was ceramic, with chunks of colorful pottery mosaicked around every edge, and I was completely in love with it. She pulled it off the shelf, and said that we’d take it from there.
Three weeks later (yes, only three weeks!), I had a kitchen beyond my most kaleidoscopic dreams, one I’d actively participated in designing myself, in bold reds, greens, and cherry browns, but the jewel in the crown was the backsplash, which had been put together with all kinds of treasures I’d collected on my travels throughout the years and tag sales, including bits of Spanish pottery, seashells, and ceramic heads from an artist colony in Szekszard, Hungary, where I’d spent a year teaching English. There was a story in each piece, along three walls and above the stove. Eery time I entered the kitchen, I felt jubilant, resolving to keep it as sparkling clean as it did the day the job was completed. You can imagine how that stuck, but I noted that the money on that project was certainly well-spent, because my day to day life was much better for it. It made me HAPPY, and continues to, several times each day.
Two years later, a similar need to take care of an emergency house problem came up- several, actually. You know how one thing leads to another – I notice that house renovation can get addictive, and not just with me. First, it was mold which could have crept into the house, then an ant problem, then flooding which had to be dealt with. We found a guy through a friend, and from the beginning, my relationship with Steve, to be honest, was certainly a connection.
Steve was from Hungary and had a background in structural engineering, but a very quirky artistic sense. He had built his own car, dabbled in antiques dealing, and loved wild details. We were a perfect fit to work together, though I can now see how my ex may have thought I was closer to him than a typical worker around our house. From day one, he “got” my style, which is rare. Note that I was never attracted to him, even though he was handsome in a very surfer dude type of way, but what I loved was that he took my ideas about changing my space seriously, and could make most of them happen, while embellishing on what might have seemed crazy at first.
“You like some crazy shit, don’t you,” he said, on day three of work. “I’ve got some stuff to show you.” And sure enough, the day after that, he and his partner unloading a couple of “time machines” he had built right onto my front walk, some of the most incredible steampunk style sculptures I had ever seen (I actually own two of them, one of which is in the photo).
To be continued in Part 2…..
Share this post