I have been to Home Hardware more times in the last month than in my entire life. It was the dreaded stop when we were kids, “running errands” with my dad. Every Saturday seemed to involve a haircut at Caesar’s barbershop (worst outdated magazine collection to date—TIME and Macleans equalled a double snore at age 8), Canadian Tire and/or Home Hardware and some transaction at the bank that took eons. We banked a lot of childhood time swatting at each other in the back of the Cutlass Supreme desperate for the errands to come to a wrap. We were usually handsomely rewarded for our patience though, in the form of Kentucky Fried Chicken 2-piece snack boxes or a split box of greasy George’s chip hut fries.
I still like to be rewarded for my patience, but, Kim and I maturely lean towards a cold beer after running similar errands and sussing out the next project on our domino To Do list that comes and grows with home ownership.
What I have learned in our 20+ visits in the last few weeks is that Home Hardware serves free, relatively decent coffee (with real cream not the powdered crap), every day. Saturdays, dedicated customers like myself (and even one-off customers who don’t even necessarily buy anything) are treated to free bags of hot and incredibly salty popcorn.
The sawmills that we have been frequenting in search of our ultimate tabletop lumber pale in the free beverage and snack department—but, the learning curve has been uncharted. I have talked to half a dozen dudes over the phone about socket depth, breadboard ends, claves and the durability of accoya wood versus Douglas Fir. Oh yeah, I’m well-versed in burls, veneer finishes, purpleheart wood. sap lines and matchbook applications for table tops.
However, Kim is still CEO of the biscuit joiner and circular saw duties. I am the designated ‘holder-of-all’ and she suits me up accordingly in regulation ear plugs, safety eye wear if necessary and gives me a warning before a loud noise because she knows I tend to be jumpy. When I am not the holder-of-things I do double-time as the precise placer-of-things. I am routinely seen meandering room to room with various items: beluga whale vertebrae, a salt candle from the Siwa Oasis, a stack of National Geographics—searching for the “a-ha” position of the treasured items.
We’ve massaged a lot of life back into the bones of this 150-year-old stone cottage. There were some long-neglected areas (ie. The basement that had historical 150-year-old cobwebs clinging to every joist).There was five pounds of dog fur in the freezer and clogged in the rads. Fifty-eight paint cans waiting for a trip to the dump. Old air conditioners, a dehumidifier that weighed more than a piano. All relics of the previous owner which we are slowly decimating in overtaking the OUR-ness of the house.
The previous palette (derived from those 58 paint cans), which seemed initially liveable was deemed undoable once our stuff arrived. Cowhide does not pair well with mint. All our taupes and dark espresso wood looked misplaced. So, Kim and I went full-force in some unparalleled painting frenzy. One room forced us to do the next. The bubblegum pink and Thrills mauve of the guest bedroom was a no-brainer. The heritage blue of the master seemed too Grandma once our headboard and black and white prints were unloaded. The master bath was probably a pristine white at some point—but, we agreed, was now smoker’s yellow. Which was obliterated with a tasteful powder grey which led to the living room being repainted as well. While some friends saw a pleasing moss colour, I saw hospital green. Easter mint green. Ugh. Gone.
The floors have been mopped, the drains de-haired, the faucets returned to their natural shine with the unnatural super powers of CLR, the inner organs of the rads have been de-furred, the insect collection dumped from the (indoor) light fixtures, the dangling webs swept from the impossibly high ceilings. By god, we even figured out how to hook up the flatscreen, the BluRay and the soundbar without a mass murder. The wi-fi even works. And, the pet bat that we had welcome us when we first moved in has flown to higher ground.
I have lived in many houses, but, this one is different. I want to know the inner workings of the boiler and the water softener. I want to read up on our fancy Frankie fire clay apron sink andhow to best preserve its finish. What will grow around our towering black walnut in the backyard? I find myself Googling stone home construction and “re-pointing” (which I thought was something we just did a lot as kids—blaming the other by “re-pointing”). I voluntarily read more about our pine shake roof and why it is a better choice than cedar. I’m subconciously grooming myself for a job at Home Hardware!
I still feel like we are on some kind of outstanding holiday, relaxing at a really comfortable bed and breakfast while we plan our outings to the farmer’s market, debate the merits of Mexican or Thai for dinner and make note of local entertainment listings in the paper.
At night we lean on elbows into the deep window sills and gaze at the shadows of the black walnut across our snow-blanketed yard. A yard! A real yard! Toronto doesn’t have yards. And, for Kim, her suburban backyard meant you always had a dozen eyes on you, a dozen dogs barking at you and two dozen yelping and screeching children interrupting your idyllic backyard fantasies. Our only intruder and pair of eyes now is a nervous rabbit who comes by like clockwork. And, my god, we can actually see the moon and stars now.
I thought I would have deeper pangs for Toronto and that bustly city life that had become my second skin, but, I don’t. Those pangs have been replaced by more intense nesting instincts, a big dose of nature and the wonderful balm that is “change” and “new” and feeling, finally, at home.