A good man is hard to find

Among the pages of newspapers under the linoleum flooring of our old house were the pearls of wisdom from 1930s advice columnist Dorothy Dix. When a reader asked her to define a “nice boy,” Miss Dix did not equivocate:

“My idea of a ‘nice boy’ is one who is clean inside and out. He is a boy who thinks clean thoughts, who likes clean sports, who enjoys clean amusements, who reads clean books, and who prefers clean girls. The things that are filthy, spiritually and morally, are as disgusting to him as it would be breathe the air of a sewer or eat out a garbage can.”

A remarkably tall order for any boy, much less a man. By Dot’s estimation, my Greg would have been deeply inhaling sewer gases and gobbling garbage on occasion. But, partners in house projects and in life must accept the messiness of their undertaking, and imperfections in each other. We have been tested by frayed patience, short fuses, and the renovation bone-weariness that is a constant dull reminder we are not so young anymore.

The “project”, as my sister-in-law has dubbed our house venture, would have left me curled in a fetal position by now wondering what happened to my Pinterest dreams were it not for Greg. A civil engineer by training, he is a linear thinker and a logical doer. No problem evades Greg’s solution.FullSizeRender

He has put his strong back and able mind into the blue house, thinking and rethinking floor plans, meticulously plotting locations for light fixtures and switches, planning every inch of the kitchen and the bedeviling second bathroom we will squeeze under the eaves upstairs.

A new-to-us house is starting to emerge from the wreckage. For that I can thank the guy with the ragged work boots and the dirty jeans, the “nice boy” and the good man I met more than half a lifetime ago.



Stripping paper, and other fun times

Canada Day, July 1, 8 a.m. and the thermometer was already promising a rare blast of early summer heat. Greg and I were committed to the cause at the old place, him framing up new walls, me stripping away decades of floral wallpaper.

Our youngest Faye, 14, was on-board for the day’s activities, eager to earn a few bucks from her folks. An energetic, athletic kid, she could be a great help with this house venture were she more inclined for work than fun.

With the close of the school year, Faye’s social calendar is packed with hang-outs, sleepovers, swimming and movies. Our time with her is now at a premium, so it seemed logical to offer her a minimum hourly rate for her efforts at the fixer upper.

Greg went on ahead as I roused Faye and our dog Kipper and we hopped in the car for the hour’s drive to the old place. We turned off Highway 103 and drove the few kilometres up and down hills, through green fields and shingled farmhouses to the now-familiar crossroads  – a right to the house, straight into the town of Lunenburg, left to the fishing community of Blue Rocks.

It was a spectacular day, the blue of the sky and the green of the rolling landscape ending sharply at ocean’s edge. “Let’s check out Blue Rocks,” I said, as we turned left.

We made our way  to the tiny community, past its wharves and stages to the rocky cove at its end. Our first stop was The Point General for chocolate mousse ice cream which we ate while we watched a kayaking tour group prepare for an outing. We strolled through the village, every small inlet a postcard for Nova Scotia, and I told Faye to remember this place wherever life takes her.

After Blue Rocks we cut back through Lunenburg, its waterfront and brightly-coloured shops already bustling with tourists and daytrippers, and headed along the Mason’s Beach Road, winding along the coastline to Route 332 and our place.

As we reached the turnoff though, it was clear that a girl and a dog would be happier on a beach. We kept going, on to Rose Bay and out to Hirtle’s Beach, a stretch of sand that seems impossible in the depths of a Nova Scotian winter. Faye and I walked the beach, watching Kip chase the waves and other dogs, then reluctantly turned back to take on our tasks that awaited us in the last hours of the day.

We got a couple of hours in, spraying the paper down with water, peeling and scraping to bare plaster. It was, at least, a start.

But, wallpaper can wait. Summer and my girl at 14, not so much.