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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
Home Improvement
by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal

"It is the strong marriage that survives each spring without a tremor or two."
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Ah, Spring! The days are growing longer and everything is fresh and bright and new. Flowers bloom, warm breezes waft (here in Oklahoma "wafting" is anything less than 50 mph. You donít want to know what "blowing" is), baby lambs wobble on spindly legs and, to quote Tennyson, ". . . a young manís fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." A middle-aged manís fancy, however, lightly turns to thoughts of home improvement. Donít believe me? Just cruise on past your neighborhood home and garden center some bright Saturday morning. You donít even have to go in the store. The testosterone fumes in the parking lot alone will be enough to set your eyes tearing and your nose running. You thought it was cedar pollen, didnít you? Nu-uh. Pure, unadulterated testosterone. AAA-Choo!

It is the strong marriage that survives each spring without a tremor or two. My husband and I are well matched. We complement each other in most ways. I am a fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal. Go with the flow. Michael is definitely a "measure twice, cut once" kind of person. So we have different styles; most married couples do.

One summer I decided it was time to "do" the dining room. My sister and I got busy scoring the walls and then sloshing soapy water on them and scraping off big swaths of layer after layer of old wallpaper. Then we got to talking and sloshing water and scraping and having a cup of tea, and fixing the kids a sandwich. The next thing you know, smoke was slithering up out of the light socket. I ran to flip the breakers off and Mary called the fire department. It must have been a slow emergency morning in OKC because we got two fire trucks just chock full oí big handsome firemen (tell me who is better looking than a fireman? NOBODY!!! I love Ďem!). Anyway all these firemen in various stages of gorgeousness piled out of their trucks and came barreling toward our house, axes at the ready. "Come right on in!" I fluttered and cooed. I had momentarily forgotten some things. Like my age and marital status. And the fact that I was fetchingly decked out in a pair of my husbandís old sweat pants held up with a cubscout belt and a T-shirt that proclaimed, "Iím not fat, Iím well insulated." Plus, I was covered in specks of wet antique wallpaper. Have you ever smelled old, wet wallpaper? Mmm. "Hello boys! Whereís the fire?" FYI: firemen donít think thatís funny.

So, in they trooped with their boots and axes and checked out the no longer smoking light socket. They were very good-natured about the whole thing. They couldnít stay for a glass of tea (dash it!), but trooped out of the house laughing and teasing us while my sister (who was no better groomed than I) and I twittered and giggled and waved bye-bye like two twelve-year-olds whoíd had a surprise visit from B2K.

Now, contrast that to scraping wallpaper with my husband. There were ground cloths and safety goggles and those funny white paper coveralls. The neighbors probably thought that somebody had finally reported my refrigerator to the CDC and that theyíd found an old tupperware container filled with something heretofore unknown to modern science. Finally we were properly garbed and the room was all draped and taped and ready and we commenced scraping. Mike left the room for something Ė possibly a filter mask or some other safety related gear Ė and I got started, sloshing and scratching and scraping. I wasnít aiming water at the light sockets, but I was wondering if I ought to find an attractive sash to spice up my paper coverall when my husband came back into the room. "Good heavenís Elizabeth Anne, what are you doing?" My middle name is not Anne. His ex-wifeís middle name is Anne. So I know when he accidentally calls me Elizabeth Anne he is perturbed. "Well honey, Iím scoring, sloshing and scraping."

"No, no, no! You score your area," he demonstrated, "then you moisten your area," he gently daubed water on the wall, "and then you scrape away the old paper . . . (get this, now!) ONE LAYER AT A TIME."

I am not joking. He wanted me to remove the wallpaper one layer at a time, while wearing a paper suit and space goggles. Safety first.

Needless to say, we didnít have to call the fire department during that project.
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - March 14, 2005 Column
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This page last modified: April 3, 2005