I’ve heard that tragedies and deaths happen in threes. When a pair of bad things happen, we wonder, “What next?” while waiting for the [third] shoe to drop. It appears that “almost disasters” cluster together that way, too.
The two days before Christmas left me with an equal number of near catastrophes. I was ready for a break! “There is nothing that can’t wait,” I told myself. Christmas Eve flowed into Christmas Day, and then into the day after Christmas. With one dog or another in my lap, and the contents of several kitchen cabinets piled around the edges of the room, I indulged in gift chocolates and holiday movies. I stayed up late, and slept long in the mornings.
It took a little effort to ignore the mess I was living in. Baking pans, mixing bowls and colanders were stacked in several piles on the floor around the dining room table. Contents from other cabinets filled every available horizontal surface. The coffee pot shared its small bit of counter with vases, bowls and candle holders. The little Christmas tree, holding its space on the dining room table, was surrounded by other “survivors” of the fall.
The fallen cabinet was actually two 18-inch cabinets hung side by side. One of them was destroyed by the fall, and now rests out in the fire pit. The other, possibly repairable, was taking up space in the – already narrow – laundry room hallway. Preparing a meal, writing at the dining room table, or even just moving from one room to another, was a challenge…but I was up for it. I grumbled, but was not motivated to do anything about it.
That changed suddenly on Monday, the 27th of December. Tuesday, I had to go back to work, and it would be New Year’s Day before I had another day off. Because I didn’t have a clear idea of the steps to take to get things back in some semblance of order, I felt the job required my full attention, and a serious block of time. There wasn’t a single job that I could tuck in before or after a workday. Better get at it!
I pulled out the big magnifying glass, and sat down to once again tackle the tiny printing of the instruction manual that came with my new skill saw. So many cautions! I managed to insert the blade correctly, tried out the “on” switch once, and took a ten-minute break to celebrate. I propped up the edge of the countertop above the cabinets beneath it, measured and marked my cutting line. I tried out a few different things to stand on: would the small stool give me enough height, or should I stand – or maybe kneel – on a kitchen chair? Or should I kneel right on the countertop?
Finally, having exhausted every single stall tactic I could think of, I got to it. I opted for standing on the small, rubber-topped stool. I tried out the “on” switch a couple times. Then, resting the guide on the countertop with the blade lined up with my cutting mark, I turned on the saw. These thoughts went through my head:
“OH MY GOD, IT IS SO LOUD!!! IT IS VIBRATING!!! IT’S TOO MUCH! I DON’T THINK I CAN HOLD IT STEADY! THIS IS SCARY! THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!”
I turned off the saw, sighed with relief, examined the 1/8 inch cut I had made, and paced the floor. What next? Was this the wrong tool? Was I going to give up? No! I stepped up to give it another try.
“THIS IS NOT WORKING! THIS WILL TAKE ALL DAY! TOO MUCH NOISE! TOO MUCH VIBRATION! NO WAY!”
Again, I turned off the saw, shook out my hands, looked at the tiny bit of progress I’d made, considered quitting, and gave it another go. After several attempts, where it seemed like it was going impossibly slow, and that it would take all day to burn through the twenty-four inch depth of countertop, I thought to look at the clock. Oh. Even with all the pacing, and talking to myself, and melodrama, and turning on and off the saw, I had been at it for only five minutes. Okay. Maybe the saw wasn’t the waste-of-money, piece-of-garbage that I had determined it to be. This might be do-able after all.
On the next attempt, I stuck with it. Through noise, and vibration, and having to climb up onto the countertop to reach the back. I stayed with it even when I accidentally veered off my mark. I cut as far as the saw would go, then snapped off the last fraction, and set the countertop aside. I removed one last screw that was holding the cabinet in place, and moved it out into the room. Hurrah!
Except that the wall behind the cabinet was covered with mold, just as the wall above it had been. And, except that there was no floor under the cabinet, which left a 3/4 inch drop-off and exposed blue-board insulation. I had come too far to be deterred at this point. I sprayed the wall with Mold Control, wiped it down, then gave it a coat of stain-blocking primer. I measured the gap in the floor (16″ x 32″), and went looking. I found a board in the studio that was almost the right length. Then, in what seemed like another holiday miracle, the two shelves from the broken wall cabinet, side by side, filled the rest of the space almost exactly! So, now I could move the refrigerator.
Which was not an simple task! First, the kitchen is narrow. In order to get the refrigerator where it was going, the cabinet that had come out of that space had to be pushed through the kitchen and into the small dining room, already full of the residuals of this adventure. Then, the refrigerator – the bulky, cumbersome, heavy and stubbornly difficult to budge refrigerator – had to be moved out of its place, and across the kitchen, then spun around 90 degrees, and slid into place. I’m afraid I just made it sound much easier than it was!
But, finally, after ten years of planning this change, the refrigerator was where I wanted it. And…I. HATED. IT. How could I not have anticipated how massive it would look on this side of the room? How it would block my view of the door, when standing anywhere in the kitchen? How it would make the remaining countertop seem so almost uselessly small??
And, why was I surprised? I, who used to frustrate my husband no end by my inability to picture how something would work until I saw it. I would have him move the furniture, only to have him rearrange it again, and again, and again. I, who changed the positions of the bathroom fixtures several times before I was satisfied, causing the plumber to say he had never before needed to reset a toilet (three times!) before the house was even lived in. I, who have altered the layout of my kitchen at least twice before. I should have seen this coming.
I shoved the refrigerator back out of its place. I moved the small, chest type freezer over to that spot, and put the refrigerator on the stairway wall, where the freezer had been. I hated that even worse. I paced the floor. What I knew for sure – after so much planning, and waiting, and the emotional strain of cutting through that countertop – was that I did not want to put things back the way they had started. So, the freezer went back to the stairway wall, and the refrigerator went back to the place I had planned for it.
“I’ll get used to it,” I told myself. I put a couple hanging plants on top of the refrigerator, where they can bask in the sunshine coming in through the door’s window. I added the low basket that I keep crackers in. The appliance didn’t seem so gigantic, then. I acknowledged that there was, just as I’d planned, a wider entrance. When the cabinet is put in place at the other end, I’ll have plenty of countertop again. When I replace the refrigerator – and appliances don’t last forever – I’ll get a smaller one.
So, in the end, this was not a disaster. Only an almost disaster. The third, and hopefully the last, almost-disaster of this holiday season!