When you live in a Shaker house that’s old enough to be your parent, it’s great to have at least one handy member of the family.
By Beth Friedman-Rommell
I’m involved in a “mixed marriage.”
While my husband is Mr. Fixit, I am Dr. DoNothing. I grew up thinking a stud finder was what my wild friend Betsy was. But when you live in a Shaker house that’s old enough to be your parent, it’s great to have at least one handy member of the family. I’m happy in this case to abide by the old gender stereotypes. Which is why Fixit was amused and surprised to discover he couldn’t close the door to our third-floor staircase one recent evening.
What’s so funny about that? Only that it remained jammed open by the strip of carpet that I had attempted to rip off the bottom step during a fleeting psychotic break, thinking, “How hard could it be?”
I failed to grasp that under the carpet was this pesky pad held in place by approximately 1,400 nails. The pad wouldn’t come up, the carpet wouldn’t go back down, et voila, new door stop!
Unfortunately, this door was now blocking the entrance to our bedroom, so I couldn’t just forget about the whole thing until it’s time to sell (my usual approach). For the first time in 13 years, I was going to do some Work on the House (yes, I feel capitals are warranted here).
I blame the new freezer. Like the majority of Shaker basements, we have a finished “rec room” (gotta love those ‘50s!) next to an oh-so-charming laundry room of concrete slab and cinder block. Of course, the laundry room is also where all your forgotten stuff pines for you until you need it, or until you have grandchildren. But suddenly, we had to move all that stuff into the rec room to make way for the freezer. And there it stayed for the next six months, until the rec room was urgently needed for my returning college man’s Dungeons and Dragons tournament. (Are you starting to feel like Edith Bunker is telling this story?)
Anyway…this seemed like a good time to prepare my third-floor office to receive a boatload of basement refugee books, files, and memorabilia. You know how this goes. Before bringing in more stuff, I had to make room for it. To make room for it, I needed more shelving and another file cabinet. Which would be going in the hallway. Which was currently covered, like the steps, in olive green carpeting, punctuated every two feet by stylish metal threshhold strips.
I’ve always hated this carpeting. My office/guest bedroom has a nice hardwood floor, and I was pretty sure the same was true for the hall and steps. Why would anyone have covered that up? But when we bought the house, I was pregnant with my second child and working four part- time jobs, and the priority was just to get set up to be able to work, so the carpet stayed.
So that covers the “why.” As for the “how,” I sweetly asked Mr. Fixit what tools and techniques he recommended for pulling up the recalcitrant pad, confident he’d offer to do it for me so I’d have time for more important pursuits, like practicing Theremin.
He presented me with a variety of pulling things, prying things, and directions to the jumbo trash bags in the garage.
“Have fun!” he wished me cheerfully. Bastard. Fun is not how I would describe it. I should have paid attention when he pulled up the carpet on the steps and second floor hall and bedrooms before we moved in. It is a dusty, awkward, and strenuous job, made more exciting by the constant need to protect the kitten from stepping on or ingesting the aforementioned legions of nails and carpet tacks. How many times would I knock the box of nails over before figuring out to put it somewhere else?
Why was my back starting to feel just like it did before I pinched a nerve in the tragic gardening accident of aught-nine? If so many stair treads are cracked along their length, why hasn’t my foot gone through one yet?
“Be sure to roll that carpet nice and tight before you bag it, honey!”
Bite me. After two exhausting Sunday afternoons and a whole lotta shop-vac, I have a bright and cheerful staircase and hallway. But you know how that goes. Now that the hall is ready for shelving, I really need to rearrange the office, get a better desk, maybe finally paint the walls, which means new window treatments, different linens for the guest bed…. I should never have bought that freezer.