Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pausing for Africa.

I promised myself that, within the two weeks that we were forced to pause building due to a work trip to South Africa for dad, I would fully update the blog. Dad is now in the air between Memphis and Mississippi and I have yet to put fingertips to keyboard. (Pen to paper has such a nicer ring to it!). So, here I sit, with a cup of South African tea, funnily enough....trying to wrap my tired brain around all the progress we have made since last I wrote.


Although it sounds vaguely like some wild 60's protest, roughing-in the plumbing for the house had very little in common with a Sit-In, Love-In ...or Laugh-In, for that matter. Between the plumber who couldn't keep his pants hitched and who had a tendency to sing Dolly Parton's hit song Jolene at the top of his lungs and my dad who fathered that plumber and therefore feels it's his place to offer unsolicited advice/wisdom/criticism and my own battles with re-introducing my broken wing to a shovel (for hours a day!) it was nowhere John Lennon would've wanted to park his bare bottom!
But we got it roughed in. Or...I should say my amazing brother got it done in his spare time away from his family and new job. I am eternally grateful for his mad plumbing skills and also for the entertainment factor that he brings to a job site. Although, I regret to inform you, his plumber' it impossible to publish most of the photos of the rough in without earning an Adult Content tag on this blog. I shudder to think what would happen if he hadn't had a belt on!

The Slab

May I preface this by confessing that the word SLAB is on my Do Not Use list? It falls somewhere between groin and pouch but above mildew. It's as if SLOB and FLAB had a baby. An awful word!
That being said, the most exciting day thus far was Slab Day! We woke early and headed over to the site where the cement trucks had already begun pouring. Dad was as giddy as I was as the little porch took shape, then the red clay hiding the pipes disappeared under truckload after truckload of wet, gray sludge.
What had been blocks and dirt the day before became the foundation of our home. It was quite a heady experience.
Having done the job of finishing concrete on another project with dad, I was amazed how fast and easy the pros made it look. It looked perfect long before they were finished and then it looked more perfect, if that's even possible. They even framed up and poured a little landing at what will be the bottom of my porch stairs because they had extra concrete mixed.
When it was all finished and starting its own work of drying and curing in the sun, the foreman called the kiddo and I over to put our hands in the wet concrete of our patio. We pressed them in side by side and signed our names. All I could think seeing them there was "I'm glad I have a record of a time when my boy's hands were the same size as mine." In this house he will pass me by in height and hand size and certainly shoe size, if he hasn't already. I love that his little 12 year old hands are preserved for me in our house.

Hours after the men left and the concrete was set dad and the munchkin and I met at the slab. Dad made us sit on the edge of the front of the house with our legs hanging down over what will be the base of the porch.
"Lay back and feel how solid.", he instructed us.
We lay in a row, surprised how solid something can feel in an early afternoon that was liquid that same morning.
"It feels attached to the earth." I comment.
"It's like a monolith." my very scientific boy comments.
A monolith. That is so much better than a slab.
The sun began to set with us laying in our row, talking about permanence and roots and foundations, dad in his 60's, me in my 30's, and the kiddo knocking at his teens. I found myself wishing the moment could be preserved in concrete like our hand prints.
"Thanks for today, dad." I said and we went to his house for dinner.

Framing and Cancer Awareness Lumber

The day I realized framing was upon us made me wake-up extra early. The slab was exciting because of its massive significance but framing makes all our work begin to look like A HOUSE!
Even having woken early, fed Kiddo a quick breakfast and gotten straight into my work boots, dad was already well into working when we drove up. There was a corner framed up! The corner which would be my Master Bath! I walked straight in, sat sideways on the floor where my tub will reside and announced, in my brassiest Liza Minnelli impersonation,  "Llllove it!". (Okay, the phrase Master Suite has totally gone to my head and made me a diva!) It really made the house plans begin to become 3D in my mind. I could stand in 6 feet of space instead of squinting down at a little diagram with a disconcerting little set of concentric ovals to represent my future toilet and what appears to be a giant television where I plan to have a bathtub instead. For all their beautiful handwriting, I am convinced architects use obscure diagram images just to make it seem like an extra specialized field. Why can't house plans be made of shiny plastic and have repositionable stickers like Colorforms? (Does anyone other than me remember Colorforms? I loved them! One of my best friends bought me Smurf Colorforms that I kept until there were only 3 stickers left.) Just an idea.
By way of a method in which we build a wall, lying down (the wall, not us) and then strap it to the tractor bucket, we are able to stand them up and use minimal brute force in positioning them over the bolts anchoring them into the foundation. I'll admit there is a moment right before they slide into place that I pray for our toes and stand at the ready to leap through an open space in the frame Buster Keaton-style as the wall falls around me.
We have several walls framed up and 30 toes among us intact. Also, none of us have had to experiment with our Keatonesque stunts.
In an interesting hardware store outing, Doc happened to notice that there was a section of lumber slightly cheaper than the rest. Ever the thrifty Boy Scout, he bought a load of it. Apparently, it was the leftovers from a batch of wood which was sold to benefit a breast cancer research organization and is therefore HOT PINK!
As the tomboy who never brought herself to admit to wanting Barbie's Dream Home for my Barbie and her GI Joe husband to retire to, I thought it lent the framework kind of the kitschy girlie vibe that old Barbie would approve of, even if her GI Joe husband had to sleep in his GI Joe Official Combat Jeep until the pink was hidden by drywall. And even if it didn't contribute to the very worthy cause of cancer research and awareness, at least it kept some callused, cussing, dip-spitting old construction worker from having to buy the last of the hot pink lumber. Also, it EXACTLY matched the pedicure I was hiding in wool socks and workboots! How many builders do you know who can say that?

Well, dad should have landed at our little coast airport by now and will be driving the banged up Lexus home with all the windows open and some decent classic rock or maybe public radio on. I can guarantee you with 100% certainty he is planning the next stages of framing and getting trusses as he drives up the highway.
And I will admit to having needed and enjoyed the break for packing and resting and moving my things into the temporary carriage house we'll live in until Jessica's Dream Home is finished but I can't wait to see my little frame getting taller and more houseshaped on my hill.
Lots of progress made and still a long way to go. By this time tomorrow I will have heard all about South Africa and probably ordered my trusses. If I'm lucky dad will take one day off to conquer jetlag but I doubt it. He'll hit the ground running. I better be ready. I hope I haven't packed my workboots!

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