When my husband and I were first married BC (Before Children), we got the half-baked idea to move back to our hometown in Pennsylvania. We missed our families and the countryside. To seal the deal, we bought an old farmhouse.
Every weekend, we’d travel from Virginia to Pennsylvania to renovate the house. At the start, we thought we would be moving into the house and living there, so the renovation work became far more extensive than if we had been fixing it up to sell it. In the end, we realized that there were quite a few reasons why moving wasn’t a good idea and were happy our plans didn’t work out even if we had put far too much effort into the renovation.
We loaded the doors onto my husband’s truck and took them back to Virginia so that during the week, I could strip the old paint and restore their beauty. Since they were handmade, solid doors, I felt the effort was well worth the labor and time. They were beautiful by the time I finished. But other tasks in the house were in situ chores.
The entire house was finished in old plaster, and a lot of it was in sorry shape. When we tore down a wall to open compartmentalized space, we found that the original owners were poor folks who insulated the walls with newspaper. The newspapers dated the house’s age to 1916. The headlines featured WWI and the women’s suffragette movement.
Much to my surprise, the editorials on the suffragette movement focused on the question of who would raise the children—a question we still struggle to answer—when I had imagined fearful, domineering men trying to hold on to their power (although I’m sure there was some of that and some of the other inane arguments justifying inequality). The opposition arguments were better than I expected because their priorities on children were at least valid. I took some of the advertisements from the newspapers, kept them and had them framed.
One night, after we’d been working on the house for several months, we were slap-happy with fatigue and started knocking plaster off the ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms. My husband worked in one bedroom, and I worked in another. Even though my husband is a building contractor, to this day he favors new construction because renovation is a dirty mess.
I’ve always loved champagne. My husband, wanting to reward me for my perseverance, bought me a cold bottle, but he forgot that we had no glasses, not even a paper cup. With no alternative, I opened the champagne and drank directly from the bottle. Since we were young fools with a lot of energy, we continued to work. Perched on a ladder and armed with a hammer in one hand and the champagne bottle in the other hand, I knocked off old plaster, which rained down on my head and covered me in grime, when my brother-in-law came up the stairs to see how we are doing.
I hoped and prayed, and then he answered my prayers by asking, “What are you doing?”
Of course, I replied, “I’m getting plastered.”
Do you orchestrate one-liners for your characters? Has life afforded you the opportunity to deliver any good one-liners? Let me know. I’d love to hear your stories.