Voices: With the best of intentions
By Donna Reed
Think "I Love Lucy." Better yet, think "The Three Stooges" minus one. Now you'll have a picture in your mind of our comical yet best-of-intentions recent house projects. Our son had just bought his first home and was away on vacation. My husband and I decided that since it was summer, and we had the time, we would take this opportunity to travel north a few hours and lend a hand at the new house. Our son agreed saying he could use help with two things ... the sprinkler system wasn't working correctly and his plants would need watering before his return. If we could help with those two tasks, he could handle everything else.
Our first night on the job we tried to close the dining room blinds. Those long, lovely vertical blinds had a mind of their own, and the more we pulled cords and twisted individual blinds, the worse it got. With The Project Man, my husband, taking charge, I gave up and went to bed. Some time after midnight my husband woke me ... not to say good night, but to tell me he had no idea what he had done to the blinds, and first thing in the morning he would have to call someone to repair them. I turned over and remembered our son's words, "all I need help with, Mom, is the sprinkler system and watering the plants." So much for day one.
The next morning I woke early, and after staring at the closed and twisted blinds for a while, I began to investigate other rooms in this new house. I thought having my coffee in the sunroom would be a pleasant way to start the day, so I pulled a sliding door that opens into the sunroom with no results. (Little did I know that it was just a stubborn, old, in-need-of-some-oil sliding door.) "It must be locked," I thought, and I turned the locking device to open the room. Now, it really was locked, and we had no keys to any of the interior doors, since "all we needed to do was check on the sprinkling system and water the plants."
After the blinds incident and the locked sunroom, one would think we had learned our lesson, but just as Lucy and Ethel ventured deeper into their comedies of error, so did Project Man and his sidekick. We tore down paneling in the basement to expose water leaking in through a window, and the next few hours were spent with a squeegee and paper towels trying to contain the wet mess.
Outside the house was fair game as well. Without a pole-saw for cutting dead limbs out of a backyard oak tree, Project Man borrowed our faithful dog's 20 foot stake-out lead, climbed up on the flat roof, lassoed branches (Will Rogers would have been proud) and pulled them down.
When that method was no longer useful, he used a 2-by-4 like a javelin, and, leaning forward on the roof, like the winged Mercury, he hurled the 2-by-4 toward higher unruly limbs, bringing them down with a crash as well. No broken bones or windows; we were so lucky! Although neither the dog lead nor the 2-by-4 were in my hands, I knew that I was just as guilty since I was the accomplice in these little fiascos. I could see it now ... a judge would issue a restraining order stating that we had to stay away from our son's home when he was not present! From behind his lofty bench, the judge would shake his gavel and say, "Why didn't you just look at the sprinkler system and water the plants?"
Like a chocoholic who craves the sweet treat or a Lay's potato chip fan (bet you can't eat just one) it was too late to reverse our path, and our need to complete "just one more task" was out of control. We pulled weeds, dug out contrary vines, cleaned gutters, interviewed lawn mowing companies, got a bid from a contractor on a basement remodel, planted flowers, pruned rose bushes, hung pictures, bought new door mats and bathroom rugs, raked the yard and tarred a leak in the roof.
We left for home the third day. I was afraid we might start to build on a new addition if we stayed any longer. The sprinkler system? It's still not working. The plants? They could probably use another good watering about now, but I think we will leave that to the new homeowner.
Donna Reed is a freelance writer from Champaign.