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Around the bend: Weather allows time for a deal

 
Since moving into our old farmhouse five years ago, Mark and I knew we’d eventually like to make some improvements. With a combination of indecision, insufficient funds and outright hostile disagreement, however, we’ve never gotten around to any renovations. But this winter’s oddly pleasant weather has given us the opportunity.
In the past it seemed like we just didn’t have the time to figure out what to do on the house, much less when to do it. In the summer we’re busy tending livestock and runaway gardens and, for me at least, complaining about the heat and the bugs. (Complaining, when done right, takes up a lot of time.)
And in the winter, when we’re not scraping ice off the car, shoveling and re-shoveling the path to the chicken coop and rearranging our schedules around weather delays and cancellations, Mark’s usually out plowing the driveway and I’m inside doing what I’m good at: complaining about the unending darkness and wind chill.
This winter, however, hasn’t overwhelmed us. On the contrary, we’re feeling pretty comfortable, with no worries about power failures, slippery roads or ice damage. I’d say we’re even a little bored, a state I’ve heard much about but have never before experienced firsthand. Recently it occurred to us that maybe now would be a good time to start thinking about renovations — perhaps even acting on them.
This would mean overcoming our differing priorities. For instance, I want a walk-in pantry, heated floors and a central vac. Mark wants a jetted tub. (He seems to forget that I prefer showers.)
I like old-fashioned things; he wants new. When I say I want to keep our old back door, which is cute and creaky and has the most darling brass knob that comes off in your hand when you least expect it, he goes on and on about how wind, snow and the occasional stray cat freely pass through the gap between the door and the threshold. He has no appreciation of antiques.
Even assuming we could work past our differences, we’ve never had the time. But last weekend, when we would normally be outside chipping ice off the eaves, we found ourselves with nothing to do. Here was our chance.
In light of past failures, this time we approached the issue in a businesslike manner. We faced each other, silently, across the dining room table and began the negotiations. The only sound was the ticking of the hall clock.
After a stare-down lasting several minutes I wrote “New kitchen?” on a scrap of paper, turned it facedown, and slid it across the table toward Mark.
He picked it up and laughed, shaking his head, and then scrawled his counter-offer on another scrap.
I turned the paper over and read, “Hot tub.”
I rolled my eyes at him and crumpled the paper.
We continued this way back and forth, not speaking. One by one, we shot down each other’s ideas: my walk-in pantry, his sauna, my sunroom, his Panton fieldstone fireplace. At times we sighed deeply, bit our knuckles and even pounded the table. We were getting nowhere.
This went on for over an hour. We were just about to give up when Mark sat up tall, smiling.
He hurriedly scribbled one word and passed me the paper. It said, “Windows!”
I tapped my pen on the table, thinking, then wrote back, “How many?”
He wrote, “All of them?”
I went into the office and checked our budget figures. Returning, I wrote, “Six.”
He read the number, rubbed his chin, then shrugged.
He reached out his hand and said, “Deal.”
This never would have happened during a typical winter.
Now, before you accuse me of being insensitive to how this weather has hurt Vermont’s economy; disappointed skiers, snowmobilers and small children; and caused scientists studying climate change to develop nervous tics, please understand: I’m only enjoying winter now because it’s allowing us to finally get some renovations done.
There’s plenty of time left for heavy snow, hazardous driving conditions and bitter cold, and I need them as much as anyone. I do my best complaining after mid-February, and I’m going to need something to work with.

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