Hey, Let’s Do The Limbo Rock!
Lorna’s new-old home is one major construction project after another and both she and Chuck have professional jobs. Will it ever feel homey like her trailer did?
The Limbo Rock was a dance popular when I was young. Two people held up a bar or pole and drunken nuts would shimmy under the pole, bending backwards. The winner was the most flexible fool who made it under the pole without falling down or breaking her/his back. I prefer today’s version of pole dancing—much better on the back, at least for most of the moves.
I wasn’t imbibing, but plenty of beer and other alcohol flowed during the construction phase of our house. I noticed that the bar was raised pretty high in the beginning. Chuck was a great planner and he knew this process: he been through it before when his parents bought and restored their old farmhouse. I was blissfully ignorant. My role was the supportive wife, mother, and wage-earner who had visions of our beautiful historic home. It was easy to shimmy under the pole then.
Chuck devised construction phases, time-lines and specific budget allocations. I
believed in trusted in was comforted by his detailed written plans. What did I know? I was raised in a trailer. You go to the trailer store, pick one out, get it delivered, and move in. Simple.
There was nothing simple about what Alex dubbed the “Broken House.” When he was four-years-old, he nearly fell from the second floor because the balcony was missing. I scolded him to never wander around the house without adult supervision (something I never did either) because there were too many things still broken in the house.
The bar was first lowered when two
astronomical preposterous unexpected expenses had to be dealt with: a well that reached to the center of the earth and a massive roof that need to be replaced, not simply resurfaced. The money allocated for minor things like insulating walls with something more than 1870s newspaper or exterior doors that had keys smaller than crow-bars disappeared. But I was still flexible enough to bend under the lowering pole.
When the construction crew left, the bar lowered again. I looked around. To my untrained eye, not much had changed. The exterior of the house was the same, except we had real doors, windows and an entry way that had stairs rather than sloping planks. The interior seemed skeletal: wires poking out from everywhere, framed-in walls (some with insulation, some without) but no sheet-rock on most of the walls or ceilings, and the floors were still exposed pine planks–the kind where splinters were just gunning for your feet. This Limbo Rock dance was getting uncomfortable.
We had a modest kitchen without a dishwasher (if you exclude me) and two serviceable bathrooms (if you focused only on the fixtures and not the surroundings). A heating system and electrical wiring made the house habitable for the colder days of autumn and winter.
Chuck picked away at insulating, wiring, and sheet-rocking walls and ceilings after work and on weekends. My job was to keep Alex out of harm’s way and to help when he needed an extra pair of hands. Because I’m not a man and don’t think like a construction worker—traits, you’d think he would’ve appreciated in a female—I frustrated him more than not. He wanted me to anticipate what tool he needed; I asked him to just tell me what tool he wanted. Much of our collaborative work was done in silence.
Chuck, understandably, burned out. After the place was carpeted and the ceiling and walls primed, worked ceased. I, understandably, got
distraught disillusioned frustrated. I was not living in the finished home I envisioned when I jumped on board for this project. His “good enough” trumped my “but it’s not finished.” Thus began the years of living in the “good enough Broken House.” Chuck admonished my attempts to point out the unfinished business. “Focus on all we’ve done. Be more positive.”
The bar lowered and still I tried to squeak under it. I hurt from the contortions, but ignored the pain. He was right: I should focus on the positive: Alex, work and completing my dissertation.
Is a roof over Lorna’s head good enough to keep her wits about her?