Last night, Dick, my husband and I lifted paintings from their hooks on living room walls and carried them into the dining room. He carried plants. I carried a small leather bound set of Shakespeare, twelve volumes, the leather flaking, the pages thin and trimmed with gold, then placed it carefully on a long Italian limestone serving counter in the dining room. These were my mother-in-law’s volumes. Shakespeare did not live in the house in which I grew up. He lived in my mother-in-law’s house, along with volumes of Dickens, the complete works of George Eliot, a leather bound volume of Keats', Poetical Works, a two volume set, Famous Actors of the Day, Famous Actresses of the Day, copyright L. C. Page and Company, 1899, Boston. In that two volume set, there are lovely photographs of those actors and actresses, Mrs. Fiske, Mrs. Leslie Carter.
I lifted a lovely old wooden tea chest from a shelf, placed on the limestone counter. After his mother died, that was what my husband wanted, this wooden tea chest. The counter is long. It holds throw pillows from my couch, a stone carved walrus that Dick brought back from a trip to the Arctic, a hand built ceramic sculpture that Andrew, my son who is a potter, crafted, an old German beer stein that belonged to my great-great grandfather on my father’s side. There are three figures, two men one woman, all wearing what looks like Tyrolean dress, the men in short jackets, the woman in a ruffled white blouse, white apron. All three wear hats with feathers. There are my orchid plants, pillar candles, a metal sculpture of the discus thrower that belonged my maternal grandmother, a small carved ivory figure that used to sit inside a breakfront in my parents' living room.
This morning when I walked Lucy and Sam, my two standard poodles, I walked in drizzle, thinking I may have a reprieve. Perhaps, the carpenters won't come. Perhaps, I will go to my study. Perhaps, I will hear only the sound of the ocean outside the sliding glass door and inside, only the sound of Sam's breathing. Perhaps, I will drift to that place where I go when I write, a place where the rest of my life falls away. But, there are two black pickups in my driveway, and outside my living room windows, two carpenters have climbed ladders. They are hammering. I am sitting at the dining room table, drinking coffee, trying to write this piece. I’m edgy and distracted. They are prying with the backs of hammers. One tosses a board of gray siding to the ground. They are replacing a large picture window, two side windows. They need to repair flashing, seal the house against leaks. Inside, another carpenter covers the couch with plastic. He covers the rug, the coffee table. Outside, the sound of a drill. Now, voices in the living room. Two carpenters. One uses my phone. I overhear words. “Can’t finish until I have… “ I have lost the essential word. What does he need? Over the years I have learned not meddle. I will wait because I will have no choice. He hangs up. “Always somethin’”
Days later, after the carpenters leave, the painters will come. They will repair what the carpenters have torn apart. They will sand, then repaint around those replaced windows. They will prime and paint raw wood. They will patch the ceiling where water leaked. After the paint dries, Dick and I will carry those volumes, that old tea chest back to the places where—for now—they belong.