Weekend of Tasks 2009 was a fantastic success. I planned on building the gate this weekend, and thus closing and sealing the perimeter of Casa Soutowood. Finally we would be able to work in the yard and Baby Harbat wouldn’t go running towards the street through the open portal. Being design geeks, my wife and I put the entire fence and entry into SketchUp so we could test out several gate styles and options. After painstaking modeling of every board, screw, plant, and clump of dirt, we had several simulacra from which to choose. Plan of action set, we went to the hardware store on Saturday to pick out the gate hardware. Baby Harbat insisted on sitting on the dusty floor of the lumberyard with her Elmo book and stuffed frog. “Babu?” she asked, patting the floor next to her. “Of course,” I said, sitting down to read with her. When you have a kid, you think nothing of sitting up against a rack of pressure-treated 2x4s in the Home Depot to read about Elmo lassoing snakes.
Saturday night, buoyed by cookies and optimism, I set to a couple household tasks. First was the screeching metal sweep on the front door. Every time the door opened, there was a Nazgul shriek from the thin metal strip at the base of the door. I replaced it with a rubber seal that does the same thing without worrying the neighborhood dogs. Next up was the deadbolt on the back door. For a while we had a rag stuffed in the hole left when I removed the old door lock. Then I added a deadbolt with no bolt. It was just dead. Finally I installed the real thing, then filed down the strike plate screws that protruded .002 nanometers and prevented the door from closing. Nota bene, Uncle F&%#-Up, this will be a recurring theme! I then replaced the flapper valve in the bathroom, filed down another door strike plate, fixed the closet door handle and latch, identified the cause of the pool skimmer disfunctionality (failed float valve), and rectified the low water pressure issue (plumber didn’t fully turn main house valve back on). I went to sleep feeling like St. George after the dragon is slain and townspeople safe. Yes, my children, I will fix everything.
Sunday morning found me at the lumber yard loading up a hundred bucks of beautiful redwood for the gate. I built the frame with extreme care, double measuring, and even a perfect miter-cut z-brace just as the fence book showed. “See,” I told my wife, “I am following directions and doing what the book says.” That hardware was all bolted in place, and the gate frame hung and perfectly balanced. The whisper of a pixie’s breath was all the force required to push open the gate. Path to glory, I tread on thee!
“Isn’t it crooked?” My wife stands out in the street and looks at the gate frame in relation to the entry crossbars. I stand back and look. Well, yes, it looks crooked. The whole fence is crooked.
We argued about how the fence rails should go, how the spacing should be set up. There were loud sighs, rejected pleas to finish the job the next day, questions about the basic premise of even having a gate set up like that. When problems arise in home improvement projects, my wife and I feel the ground crumble beneath our feet and everything we thought solid and done is questioned. What if we don’t have a gate? What if we don’t have a fence? Should we even have bought the house? See, I told you this was a bad idea. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!
During this “discussion”, Baby Harbat had to climb through the gate frame and get out. She is like water on a roof. Eventually she’ll find a hole and leak through. She and my wife went back inside and I continued work by myself, standing on the street side and screwing each plank into place. Then I went to open the gate and get a tool. It was stuck. Some measurement was off and the rails wedged against the post. I crawled through the frame like a roach, sweat dripping off my tentacles. In a few minutes I was crawling back through with the sander, taking wood off the ends of the rails one nanometer at a time. Eventually the fence was done and swung smoothly.
This morning, with a spring in my step, I trotted down the walk to go through our new gate. It didn’t open. Maybe it was the heavy dew that made the wood swell a bit. Maybe the gate sagged just enough. I got it open, but it doesn’t close. When I come home today I will get the sander back out and go at it again. When I am ninety years old, my grandchildren will be tugging at my frayed robe saying, “Grandpa, just come inside!” No. Not until the gate is done.