Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That's hot: Nov. 30, 2003

During a 40th birthday dinner for a friend last night, us girls all got to talking about our boys. Someone asked me what it was about Jim Fortune that convinced me he was The One. I talked about the fact that he is an honest-to-god genius, hilarious, the kindest person I've ever met and the best father in the world. But I forgot to mention this part: He builds the most jaw-droppingly beautiful things.

It must be some lizard-brain, cavewoman part of my DNA, but guys who can build stuff make me absolutely swoon.

The two-week working vacation is much more fun than I thought

    My husband took two weeks of vacation this month and spent every single minute working on the house.

    He made a two-page list, with indoor tasks on one side and outdoor tasks on the other. We sat at the dining room table and prioritized the jobs.

    "Kitchen crown molding?" he asked, pencil poised.

    "Well, I have been waiting six years for kitchen crown molding."

    "OK, it’s No. 2, right behind finishing the window trim in the addition."

    Does this sound like fun? No, it does not. My husband gets two weeks of vacation a year. He took them all in one fell swoop and planned to spend most of those precious days in the basement, sawing and painting and using loud tools with sharp edges that make me nervous.

    Part of me wanted to object. We should take a trip, I thought. We should do something fun, something frivolous. But we don’t really have any money for a trip, and we sure do have a long list of projects that need to be done. We live in an old house, and we added on to it before we finished renovating. So we stayed home, and Jim worked.

    Halfway through his vacation, my husband had finished and painted all the window trim in the addition (39 pieces he custom-made in the basement on one of the aforementioned loud tools). He also had taken a trip to a concrete supplier to buy 500 pounds of construction sand to make our 3-year-old son a sandbox.

    Does a 3-year-old need 500 pounds of sand? Well, apparently he does. I never saw a happier boy than our son that day, up to his calves in the mother of all sandboxes, plastic trucks and buckets strewn across the landscape. Daddy is his hero. The back yard is Disney World.

    Jim also spent a day at our neighbor’s house, helping pour a concrete driveway. This was a purely impromptu job. We were drawn by the promise of a cement truck parked behind our house, and came to watch the show. (High culture around here, yessiree.)     

    As the truck started pouring, Jim realized our neighbor and his friend were up to their ankles in concrete and needed an extra hand. He grabbed some rubber boots and a shovel and spent the afternoon moving concrete around.

    Our neighbor was extremely grateful. He came over that night to give us several thank-you six-packs of really good beer and took a tour of the addition. Jim and our neighbor talked about building stuff. It turns out our neighbor builds decks. He and Jim are going to build a deck on our house. Later, though, maybe in the spring. Too busy right now. Still have to hang the kitchen crown molding and build a retaining wall along the driveway.

    As the end of Jim’s vacation approaches, I have rethought my attitude about free time and how it ought to be spent. For nearly two weeks, my husband has been in a state of near euphoria, elated over his window trim, ecstatic at the chance to pour a driveway and help a neighbor, grinning constantly at the prospect of another job checked off the list. There is no trip we could have taken that would have made him this happy.

    I told my co-workers about all this one night at work. "He needs to live in one of those religious communities where the men get together every day and raise barns," I said.

    I can already see our son following in his father’s footsteps. I watched him yesterday, sitting in his spectacular new sandbox, moving trucks around, looking earnest.

    "Whatcha’ doing, Jack?" I asked.

    He looked up at me. "I’m working very hard," he said. "I’m building a lot of stuff."

    As I write this, I’m sitting in the office nook my husband built me last winter. Jim is sitting on the floor with a hammer, finishing the shoe molding around the perimeter of the dining room. A cold front is moving through tonight, and he plans to spend the next day or two in the kitchen, putting up and painting crown molding. Then he’ll build some bookshelves for the office. Does this sound like fun? No, it does not.

    He’s having the time of his life. 

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