Lessons from Hardwood

With apologies for more time away than anticipated, here’s a recap of what the universe of wood flooring taught me this past month.

Lesson the first: Cardboard is a wood floor’s best friend.

Lesson the second: As a friend said, yay for dads.

Empty room with wood floor
The new wood floor in all its glory.

Lesson the third: I liked seeing my floor stripped down to the plywood, though I’m still not sure why. Maybe it’s reassuring to know there’s something under it all. Maybe the unpretentiousness of plywood—its simplicity—appeals to me. The plywood, paint-splattered as it is, appears to be comfortable with itself and its role in the universe, a state of being I often fail to achieve.

Lesson the fourth: Home improvements are worth it. Every time I walk into my bedroom and see the floor, I think to myself, “Wow, this is my room” because I’m that surprised by how beautiful it is.

Lesson the fifth: Do-it-yourself projects provide an excellent opportunity to practice the spirituality of imperfection (not my term, stolen from Richard Rohr). The first time you use leveling compound, it’s not going to be pretty.

Lesson the sixth: Beds are awesome. I slept on a cot in the living room for more than a week and the return to my bed was, as previously stated, awesome. I think Tux, my cat, was happier than I was.

Lesson the seventh: Though unanticipated moments may lead to quality time contemplating different shades of brown caulk, they may also form the happiest memories. One of my favorite moments had nothing to do with the floors. Dad and I were leaving for dinner, and Tux had snuck out into the patio. I was attempting to lure him in with treats, and he, being a cat, was determined to remain uninterested. Then my dad—who usually addresses Tux with, “Yes, cat, out of the way”—said, “Go on Tuxer. She has some treats for you.” Anything is possible.

Open Up the Door

In case you didn’t know, The Beatles were really, really smart. They summed up what I learned this week:

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Last weekend, I was staring at a pallet full of wood flooring held together with two impressive steel bands. Over the phone, my dad recommended using a Sawzall to cut them because I didn’t have a tin snips. I had used a Sawzall before, so it was no longer in the category of scary power tool. But then he said, “You might want to put on some safety glasses if you have them.” At that moment, it became very relevant to my life that my neighbor’s garage door was open.

I had watched my neighbors build a bunk bed frame and so concluded that they probably owned many tools, including, perhaps, a tin snips, a tool that does not require safety glasses. I wandered into the garage and after calling some hellos met not my neighbor but a friend of theirs who lived around the corner.

There were no tin snips, but this young man knew all about Sawzalls. He could tell a blade designed to cut metal from one that cut wood in a single glance. He quickly noted that the metal blade I had inserted was old and dull and therefore might fly apart mid-cut. And then he volunteered to do the sawing for me. I said yes.

I’m happy to report that no shrapnel flew, no one was rushed to the emergency room. I’m even happier to report that a few minutes later, the young man came back to borrow some aluminum foil for barbecueing corn and stayed for a few minutes to ask me about my water softener.

It struck me that it took such a small letting go of self-assurance “open up the door,” to transform our relationship from “people who live next to each other” to “neighbors.” I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself and others that I can do it on my own, but The Beatles have it right: Help!


 

Note: The blog may be sacrificed to the home improvement gods the next couple of weeks as my dad and I install the above-mentioned flooring. If you know of any other sacrifices that appease these particular gods, please don’t hesitate to perform them on our behalf.