Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What they don't tell you on HGTV

Chapter One:

A few months ago I decided our kitchen needed an updated appearance. Dad didn't like the word "modernization." His school of thought is this - if something works, why change it? And I have to admit this kitchen has served this family well for 45 years. It is, however, a little tired looking. The paint is peeling off the ceiling; the cabinets show all three coats of paint they've worn over the years - yellow, green and brown. And even though I am a fan of Clorox Clean-Up for most household messes, the grime that has built up UNDER the floor cabinets, is, well, disgusting and doesn't speak well for the person in charge of cleaning.
So, remembering the early days of my marriage when my husband would go on an extended deployment and I would spend my time and his money redecorating, I didn't think twice about tackling the job. And, hey, I watch every "re-do" store on TV. Those projects are usually completed in two days and come in under budget. "I can do this," I told myself, as well as doubting Jack and questioning Luther.

My first indication that I might be in over my head was the fact that I could not even un-screw the cabinet hinges. Seems that three coats and forty years of paint held those puppies in place as if they were wooly mammoths going for a drink at the La Brea tar pits.
A heat gun was suggested, and being a woman of innovation if nothing else, I resorted to my trusty blow dryer. It worked good enough to loosen the paint in the screw slot and eventually I was able to get the door off the wall (with a little hammer help from my trusty assistant). Let's see, four screws on each hinge; two hinges on each door; forty doors. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "this is going to take a lot longer than a weekend."

Undaunted, I moved the unhinged door to the garage - my work area. I have never stripped paint from anything before. Iwas lured into thinking it would not be difficult by the "Works in 5 minutes" advertisement on the can of stripper. FIVE MINUTES! I can tell you this, the gel like stuff I simply painted on did cut through the paint - one coat - in just a few minutes. But did I mention there were several coats of paint? "Hmmmmm," I thought to myself, "this is going to take a lot longer than five minutes."

Then I unearthed Jack's fancy dancy "mouse" sander from his suitcase full of power tools. This case is not quite the well-stocked and beautifully organized tool trailer that drives up to the appointed job on the TV show, but it is a treasure trove of sanders, drills, electric screwdrivers. The sander fits into the palm of you hand, is pointed at one end to get into small corners and vibrates harder than a Holiday Inn's Magic Fingers bed. After awhile my hand felt as if it was about to fly off my wrist and flap around the room, but the paint was coming off so I felt encouraged. That would be the same paint that is supposed to have easily peeled off in just minutes.
At the point where I thought the wood was almost as smooth as a baby's butt, and the menfolk thought it still needed some work and my hand let out a vibrating scream, "enough already," I gave up. I cried "Uncle!" I called a kitchen tune-up man. Brad Rogers ... my hero!

I traded elbow grease for a wee bit of frustrating compromise. My modis operandi has always been, think it, buy it, do it. I am not a planner by nature; I like to work at my own pace, which I've discovered (admitted?) is kind of manic. Once there was a significant check to be written for work done, Dad slowed me down by expecting to be cut in on the decision making. It makes sense, but proved difficult for me. I was looking for a fresh, new kitchen, not an opportunity for self-improvement. [Unless it's one of those organizing shows where a professional goes into a room that looks like a tornado blew through it and makes the maker of that mess analyze what/why to keep, I have never thought of HGTV programming as life-altering therapy. ]
Decisions have been made. Colors and styles have been picked. The downpayment has been paid. And I have just two and a half weeks to peel, clean, sand and paint. Did I mention cleaning out all the cabinets AND keep the kitchen operating in full measure? "Hmmmm," I said to myself, "don't the homeowners get to go on vacation during their television renovation?"

I spent last night in quiet reflection. I discovered I could lift a corner of the shelf paper my mother had applied 40+ years ago by using a single edged razor blade. Orange and yellow and green flowered contact paper. It was a tribute not only to the stickiness of the paper, but to the talent of a determined, but diminutive lady. For hours I scraped and peeled and I couldn't help but think of my mother and how hard it must have been for her to get that paper to lay smoothly, without wrinkles or sticking to itself, on the top shelves of cabinets that were well over her head. Did she do this project in the quiet of the day when her brood was at school? What did she do with the pots and pans and cereal boxes and tupperware containers as she worked (I have no memory of grocery bags lining the living room walls, like they do now.)? Was she looking down from her heavenly perch and rejoicing that the old paper was being replaced, or was she dismayed by my ripping and peeling thinking I was being a score or two premature in the paper removal?

Even though I am now considered this home's "kitchen maven", I am well aware of the woman who once ruled its roost. What they don't tell you on HGTV when they are renovating a well-worn space, is that the walls can talk. That ghosts of the room's prior inhabitants watch over you as you do the work. The good news is I find it comforting, somehow, to have my mom with me on this project.
To be continued ...
Wish me luck,
Merry ME


Anonymous said...

If walls could communicate, I wonder if they would just talk, scream, laugh, cry; maybe all the above. Kitchen walls might tell about the family secrets shared with mama over a hot stove. How about the curses caused of a fix-it project gone wild? How many "get down's" have been recorded from screams at cats, or "get outa here" to the family pooch. The kitchen seems to see a lot of action. Perhaps nothing is more telling than the silences filled with thought, reverence, prayer. Times people spent with a smokin' coffee cup or tea glass crammed with ice, lost somewhere in space or time. How many different people have sat in the dining area at the oval table sharing good conversation, or memories, or laughter, or made pain filled confessions or cast recriminations. Kitchens "live" with the aroma's of past meals; special occasion dinners, and the occasional birthday cake. Is anything more tempting than a fresh baked pie? The "character" of a house is not found in it's design, or appearence. Rather I think the character is captured best in the kitchen. Aside from the memories is the good news that with the new iteration come opportunities to add new "flavor/texture" to a space held dear in any heart that gives it thought.

Anonymous said...

I want more pictures!

And I'm intrigued by the above comment -- very thoughtful.

You go girl -- can't wait to see the results from this project.