21. The Award You Don’t Want
After Pete and I helped convert our disgusting – and quite useless – one-car, detached garage, into a lovely high-end studio, we kind of got hooked on do-it-yourself renovation. A few of our jobs (not including work at the salon we owned for five years) include: redwood playground equipment, multiple fences and gates, pergolas, deck/pathways, a kitchen remodel, and multiple garden installations. Perhaps the most notorious is the patio room we built to connect the lovely studio to our house to create a master bedroom suite. We pulled it off beautifully – meaning nobody died.
We hired a contractor for the foundation and main supports for the structure, which meant we had to take down the massive and tired wooden patio roof. I say “roof” because it was shingled, and completely weatherproof. In fact, I don’t believe a hurricane would have done much damage. It was bolstered with 4 by 4 inch posts, substantial 2 by 6 inch beams, plywood, and composite sheet roofing. It had most likely stood for at least 30 years, and probably would have lasted another 30, but it was so massive that it shadowed the entire porch, making the area cold, dark and depressing, so that we didn’t use it much. It had to go, but we didn’t want to waste money on a demolition crew.
My ex-wife Laurie was living in the studio at the time, and our son, William, was with us as well. They both enjoyed helping us with our projects. We were a fun crew. Laurie was particularly looking forward to helping us remove the patio roof; she’s always loved a good demolition. William was dying to help us, but at 9, we were afraid he would die helping. He would stay safely inside, watching through the French doors.
We were careful, and planned it out. The patio cover was a heavily constructed, with thick, old wood beams, and two layers of solid roofing. There were also layers of what was most likely toxic lead paint, cracking and flaking like the earth’s crust, offering glimpses of different color paints, hinting of bygone epochs. Our main concern in this project was bringing this roof down in a controlled manner.
Pete planned what section had to be taken down first, then which sections would come next, and so forth. Every section needed to come out without causing the rest of the structure to collapse before we were ready. We didn’t want to damage the section attached to the wall of the house, for instance. Above all, we didn’t want it falling on us during demolition.
Laurie and I carefully grasped the front top beam on the left hand side of one solid 4 by 4 post which held up one side of the whole canopy. We gripped firmly with our thickly gloved hands to the main outside cross beam. We had safety goggles to protect from dust and flying debris, and helmets and thick shoes to protect us from falling chunks of roofing material. We couldn’t be safe enough when it came to taking out a few hundred pounds of roofing and solid wood beams we figured. Pete was ready with an electric chain saw, so besides his careful cutting, his most important task was to watch the electric cord. He really didn’t want to slice through an electric cord; that tends to end badly.
We were set. Adrenalin pumping, Laurie and I braced. Pete started the saw and carefully started chewing away at the supporting beam in the ceiling while William watched excitedly from inside. Pete sliced cleanly though the old, dry heartwood, and within a minute, the roof came crashing down – the section that Laurie and I weren’t holding.
We stood stunned for 20 seconds, then burst out with hysterical laughter, the laughter of the idiotically lucky. It was the laughter of the stupid souls who escaped a Darwin Award. Our only regret was that there’s no video. These are the kind of stupid acts that win on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Oh well, somehow I’m sure we’ll be that lucky again.
22. No Virginia, There Is No Easter Bunny
We were sitting at dinner, it must have been very early spring. I’m pretty sure it was just a family dinner. Most likely the company consisted of my mother, William, Laurie, Pete, and me. I doubt it was anything special; we usually went out to a nice restaurant for birthdays, so it couldn’t have been my birthday in February, for all I know it was my mother’s and William’s April 1st birthday dinner, though again, we usually went out. Regardless, it was definitely spring. I know this much at least, because we were discussing William going to his grandmother Betty’s house to decorate eggs. William was probably around 8 or 9. In any case, I don’t do egg decorating. It’s messy, it’s boring, and I feel too much pressure to “perform”. For some reason when you become a hairstylist everybody assumes you are an “artiste”.
Other than the egg decorating, I have always adored Easter. I love the plastic grass, the colored eggs used for deviled eggs at lunch (just because I’m too lazy to color them doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them), hollow chocolate Easter bunnies, jellybeans, peeps, all of it. I remember one year, I was probably around 8 or 9, I got a doll. It was obviously made for a boy, but it was definitely a doll. My father hated it, but I was a very lonely boy and I loved it. My step-brother destroyed it somehow. I’ve blocked the memory. But I still remember digging into that basket Easter morning; Easter is like Christmas without the pressure.
Decorate eggs though? Ick. So my mother took over the duty when William was old enough. I’m not sure why William’s mother Laurie didn’t do it with him, she’s very crafty, I have always assumed she didn’t really care that much either. But there you go, I’m sure she’ll correct me.
Dinner discussion most likely followed the same style as all of our family dinners did in those days, lots of laughing (Laurie can be amazingly funny), William and Pete both being utterly charming in their ways, my mother talking non-stop, and me going crazy in the middle of the chaos. Yup, that’s me, life of the party at work, wallflower everywhere else. But in the end the discussion would focus on getting William to my mother’s for the weekend to dye easter eggs.
I think maybe we were discussing the fact that we couldn’t do an Easter egg hunt on Sunday. I think it was going to rain. All I know for sure, is that when Laurie became a little exasperated and blurted out, “Well it’s not as if he actually believes in the Easter bunny,” the room went absolutely quiet. I remember somebody, maybe me, saying uuuum…and then everybody slowly turning to see William’s reaction. A sharp gasp, and a faint, “Oh shit,” escaped Laurie.
William said very clearly, “Well I don’t now!”
Again the room got deathly quite as the meal resumed. A minute or two ticked by until William spoke again, “But I do believe in Santa Clause, because I’ve seen videos of him,” he stated emphatically.
A general, “Well obviously” reaction went around the room, a few nodding heads and mumbled, “of courses”, and then…not another word was spoken about Santa Clause for the next 16 years. In our house, as long as you believe in Santa, he will gift you, but if you doubt, too bad. After all, would you deliver gifts to somebody who didn’t even believe you existed?
Apparently the Easter Bunny is more generous; Easter continued unchanged for many years.