My father-in-law’s brother (my uncle-in-law) had big ideas. He lived in a nice large house on a hill and it pained him to see DD and me in the little cottage. In his opinion, my in-laws had consigned us to less than appropriate quarters. Since he had a great deal of influence on my father-in-law, especially, it wasn’t difficult to convince him he needed to do something about the situation. A builder was brought in to assess the project.
The man my FIL selected initially was (still is) an expert craftsman. His rate was reasonable for the quality of work but my FIL was looking to save money. I couldn’t blame him. He’d worked hard and saved every penny he could. I stayed out of the negotiations.
The addition of two bedrooms to the cottage was begun. First, concrete had to be poured and volunteers from the surrounding churches came in to help level it and finish it off.
After the concrete had cured completely, the framing started. That’s when my FIL and the builder hit a snag. The price for his services was too steep. No matter he was doing excellent work. He had to go. A distant cousin and his family (a son and daughter-in-law) stepped in. They did the kind of building that, as my mother would say, wasn’t a thing of beauty but it was a joy forever.
Always on the lookout for a way to scrounge and save, the windows that were taken out of what would now be inside walls were recycled. They were old, discolored, ugly and didn’t really fit. They were windows and that was that.
Instead of finished lumber and real windowsills, we got rough lumber and rounded off 2x4s. We were going to have more room which comforted me.
It did aggravate me that the person leading out in the job would stand and talk and talk and talk when he was supposed to be hammering nails and sawing boards and his daughter-in-law was getting paid for basically doing nothing. That’s when I did something truly ugly.
Every morning, I would study my Sabbath School Lesson using the Lesson Quarterly. When I’d finish, I would spend the rest of my quiet time journaling in tiny tiny printing using the margins. I saved each of the little books so when (and I still believed it was “when”) DH came back, he’d know what we were doing and how much we missed him.
A niggling little suspicion told me I wasn’t the only one who was privy to my written conversations with DH. One morning I arranged everything with an eye to knowing if anything had been disturbed. Sure enough, when I got home, things were not as I had left them. I went on to the second part of my plan.
The next morning, I detailed how the work wasn’t going as quickly as it should. The head man would stand and talk, swinging his hammer back and forth, and the daughter-in-law mostly sat on “her fat butt”. I even quoted my father-in-law which I definitely should not have done.
That afternoon, I found out just how successful I’d been. My mother-in-law said the DIL had come over to her back door waving the quarterly and demanding that she should read it. My MIL was a upright and honest woman and she refused saying that what I’d written was private and not her business or anyone else’s. The quarterly was returned to the table where I kept it and that was the end of it. The work went ahead a little faster.
During all this construction, we learned to live with plastic over the openings and sawdust everywhere. It was hard to do any cooking so I’d buy cases of ramen noodles. DD started a recipe book and included one of her original concoctions using the noodles. She ended the instructions with “eat and get fat”. That’s what I did. Along with eggs and cheese, the noodles started adding to my already increasing poundage. Oh, I liked a sprinkle of “bacon” bits mixed in, too. I’m afraid the DIL wasn’t the only one with a “fat butt”.
After what seemed like months, the building was finished and carpet picked out and laid. To save (once again) we used carpet remnants but the installer was so skilled at his job, you’d never know it. DD picked out mauve carpet to go with the gray and mauve theme in her room and I had a color that blended with the peach walls.
We had a house! It was still small but the square footage was almost doubled.
My father-in-law wasn’t happy with the way the outside looked. It needed something and he decided it should have a porch. I told him I’d be happy with a little shelter big enough to open my umbrella once I got outside but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted one almost as wide as the house, itself, and deep enough to house a picnic table. When he set his mind to something, there was no talking him out of it.
The ones who had done the house were unavailable to build the porch so he swallowed his pride and called the craftsman. He could do it and do it he did. For privacy, he built the walls up halfway and made a shelf that went around the three outside walls. The rest was screened in with a screen door opening onto a sidewalk he fashioned by sawing the existing one in two and laying the pieces end to end. It completed the place in style. It almost made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
A couple came and, for a $100 donation to fund a school trip for one of the students, they took the wall out between what was now the living room and the old front porch and turned it into one long room. DD and I painted the walls.
The men from the church came and moved my living room furniture and the piano. I’d made a huge pasta salad and had drinks to offer but hardly any of it was touched. It was up to us to eat it.
Now, something else cropped up. I started feeling like I had a furnace inside me that would turn on at will. It couldn’t be menopause! Could it?