Today was pretty cool. Today I took a vacation day and worked on the house. Today I had the privilege of stepping into a time machine.
I don’t know what it is, but for whatever reason I woke up at 4am stressing out about the house. My mind processing 10,000 things regarding design, to do’s, road blocks….on and on with no hope of getting back to sleep. When I did get to sleep again I was greeted with the “house dream” consisting of a massive house, executed nicely but with enough oddities to stress me out, even in dream mode. Next thing I know I’m transported to the present and I awake in a panic wondering what time it is.
Damn it all to hell. Finally able to sleep but I’m late.
Text shows my brother’s running late as well; enough time to scramble, throwing my circular saw into the Rabbit.
The weather looks a thousand times better in that it shouldn’t snow today. Yesterday was a complete nightmare of wind and air turning to a crystalline vapor mist. Today would be dry. Today was my day.
Today I was a cut man.
I arrive on site to the pleasant surprise of several trucks and vans on site. Finally the trades were cramming to get their work done and get inspections going. I park the Rabbit on an embankment to the side of our driveway, suitable for the Jeep, not really for the VW. Propping the door ajar with my foot I grab a handful of the day’s requirements. One dash into the hatch to grab my saws and tool belt then up the drive to the house site. Looking at the house I admire its scale and proportions. They grow on me daily.
My brother is getting out of his truck. We exchange pleasantries and walk inside. The electricians are hard at work; wires running seemingly everywhere. The radio is blaring classic rock and the smell of wood fills my nose. I set down my saws and swing my tool belt around my waist, fastening the plastic fastener in front. Not in back like the nerdy guys do in the handyman magazines or I suspect they do on ‘This Old House’; no offense to TOH, I’m really a huge fan. It’s just this is how I’ve always worn it. What is missing though is any semblance of a carpenter’s pencil. Rather I’m stuck with random ballpoint pen from my car.
But not really. Because today I got to do something I haven’t done in a long time. And not to say I’m an expert at this, or anything for that matter, but for one day I got to do something I wasn’t too half bad at doing back in the day.
Today the plan was to tackle some odds and ends. In the end we ultimately framed out the fireplace. The actual fireplace will go in next Friday so we needed to frame it out. Part will stick into the screen porch. The rest into the Family Room.
After setting out the tools, extension cords and air hoses I manned my station. Two plastic saw horses that had seen better days but were secure and proud none the less. I loaded them up with 2×4’s and 2×6’s. For the next several hours my brother and I designed, schemed, cut and nailed until we had the framework that would eventually house our fireplace. I pulled the tree hugger card and made sure we had 8″ of rigid below the fireplace box and I even used the 2×4’s from the window packaging for the plates and platform joists. My cuts were the straightest but hey, it’s been a while. Afterwards we set the first door of the house, the one going to the screen porch. Meanwhile the roofers continued their march west. The HVAC techs, electricians and plumbers all made significant progress as well.
And over in the Family Room was a 38-year-old guy transporting himself back in time. See, in high school and college my brothers took pity on my and let me work for them rough framing houses. I wasn’t the most adept at walking roofs or walls so that basically meant moving lumber. Eventually though I could man the saw; measuring, cutting handing up boards and sheets of plywood to the guys above, below or around so they could be nailed up. Sure I’ve nailed my fair share of boards so it’s not like I was one-dimensional, but the romance is being one thing or another, not necessarily a jack of all trades.
For all intents and purposes. I was a self-proclaimed “cut man”.
So for one day I got out of the office and I got to man the saw again, alongside my brother. He laughed because he said it takes a pretty special project (or a fair amount of money?) for him to come out of retirement, away from his cabinet shop, and fire up the framing gun. I’m pretty sure if I wanted to I could close my eyes or squint hard enough to transport myself back eighteen years today and not have been able to tell the difference. It was only for a handful of hours, but part of me had dreamt of it for a long time. And part of me knows that, aside from maybe one or two more days at the house, it’s a dream turned memory that will most likely never be repeated as long as I on this side of the horizon. The funny thing about time is it glosses over everything so much that the only things that shine through are the good parts, generally speaking. Framing was a nasty job at times and working to death in a corporate America cube is a lot better in most if not all regards. I’m not being mellow dramatic either. I have absolutely no desire to go back to that way of life or to even do much more manual work on my own house for that matter. But inside of me, somewhere, there’s a part that looks fondly upon the best parts of that old job.
To visit, possibly for the last time, that time and place while working on my own house is pretty special.
So as I reflect upon the existence that is my life at the, god willing, halfway point I’m ashamed that most of it is made up of selfish acts and actions. Maybe in a way this house can somehow be one selfless acts I somehow help leave behind. The reality is though I’m going to enjoy it as much if not more than anyone else so there’s not much selflessness about it. And the reality is I’m but one of dozens of people making this house a reality. At times a bit player at best I am. I like to think though on the off chance one of my sons wants to hang on to it or sell it they’ll either get a house that will have low overhead and was ahead of its time or they’ll make a pretty penny off it. When you’re me, this is as good as it gets.
I can always hope and dream though.
When my boys look back upon it, upon that house, somewhere back there in the shadows where memories and dreams dance, what they’ll see is their old man got to be a cut man one last time. And he loved every second of it.
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