When you launch a home remodeling project, there goes your privacy. You become naked to the world.
In ordinary times, most of us reflexively lock up when we go to bed or leave home. That’s how we keep evildoers at bay.
This habit is so ingrained that even a single imagined lapse — did I close the garage door or did I not? — is enough to trigger an immediate turnaround on the drive to work.
Our home project has pretty much broken us of this security reflex. For the past year we’ve given our house over to a legion of workers in the construction trades who have had the run of the place. Meanwhile, Cheryl and I have retreated to our detached garage.
These strangers have not only had unimpeded access to the work zone, but to the rump section of the house that is being left as is: our living room and bedroom.
Let me put a finer point on it. Our bedroom, our innermost sanctum, has been open to any carpenter, electrician or painter who wanted to check it out. A drywaller could theoretically have napped on our California King mattress and rendered an opinion of our bedroom’s pink-and-white-striped wallpaper and we wouldn’t have been any the wiser.
That’s the way of construction projects. You sign a contract, then you get the heck out of the workers’ way.
I can talk with relative nonchalance about this loss of domestic privacy and life in the garage because I was once in the Army. I survived the rigors of basic training. In a pinch, I can live on just pine boughs and twigs.
Cheryl, however, never wore a uniform. Having workers take full possession of her house while she was banished to the car shed was often stressful.
As the project wore on, we ceased to think of the house as ours. For all practical purposes, it was the workers’. They were the ones who spent their days there, creating something from nothing while playing their music, enjoying their snacks, warming their meals on a microwave salvaged from our trash.
The sense that we were garage renters while they were the lords of the big house was never stronger than on weekday mornings.
I’d sneak out early for work as the construction trades were pulling up in their full-size pickups. Left behind was Cheryl who’d slipped into the house to visit her beauty nook in the main bathroom that had been kept operational.
There she would be — often in her PJs — as the guys stomped onto the property and went to it. No exaggeration: Guys could be crawling on the roof above her, digging out footings below her or building a new kitchen beside her as she rushed her makeup and hair and attempted to tiptoe out a side entrance without being noticed.
Rarely did she succeed. There was always The Issue of the Day to discuss. How many ceiling lights over the counter, the placement of sockets. Anything and everything.
Cheryl felt overmatched. Big men, little her, not quite fully dressed.
Where was her husband during these dozens and dozens of awkward encounters?
Sorry, Cheryl. They pay me to get to work early and surf the web.
Our 14-month-old project is now in the punch list phase. Day by day, our contractor is crossing off items. Dimmer switches installed. Check. Hole drilled in counter top for computer cable. Check. Vents on roof painted black. Check. Nobs and handles. Soon.
On Monday I got to share a small piece of the action. First, Cheryl devoted her lunch hour to being present while the gas fireplace guy finished his installation and taught her how to light it without blowing ourselves up.
Then she returned to work as I arrived to welcome the guy who had come to fix lights on the new stove vent that weren’t lighting.
While he tore the vent apart and talked to factory tech support on his Bluetooth, I stood there in my stocking feet so as to not mar the new flooring and took stock.
Gone were the construction guys, even their porta-potty. In their wake, two empty rooms. Lovely rooms. Cheryl’s vision of domestic bliss incarnate.
This state of virtual completion caught me off guard. After 14 months, was it finally happening? Were we being invited back into the big house?