From now on, anyone coming to stay at my house needs to bring power tools.
My brother, Fred, and his wife, Laura, just left after a long weekend spent hiking, kayaking, cooking, eating, drinking and fixing stuff. They can come back anytime they like, wherever I am.
When I visit friends or families, I rarely fix stuff. Sometimes I break stuff, but no one asks me to repair broken plumbing, hang pictures, fix cabinets or anything that involves a tool.
My dad was the ultimate fix it guy. He tore apart our childhood home from stem to stern and rebuilt everything. Dad could do carpentry, wiring, painting, roofing. All the manly stuff. Me? Well, I got to be very good at holding ladders and handing up brushes and hammers. I know the difference between regular and Phillips head screwdrivers, know a nut from a bolt and can gage the correct lock nut to go with any particular screw.
It’s just when I try to do something useful with these skills that it gets expensive.
The same goes for John. I prefer that he never open up the tool drawer, not that it’s organized enough to enable anyone to actually find the tool they’re looking for.
But with John “fixing stuff,” the results are either costly or a permanent reminder that John’s gifts are not of the practical sort. Ask my wonderfully brilliant (truly) husband to explain the practical physics behind hammering in a nail, and he can provide it in mind numbing detail. Ask him to actually hammer in a nail, and the result is an eyesore that stays in our house until we get it ready to sell it. That’s when we hire someone at great expense to fix the broken things we have been looking at since five days after moving in when we originally tried to fix them.
That’s also when we get rid of the hideously ugly things like the fake African violets ensconced in the bathroom wall in a house we bought in 1989. We noticed how ugly they were when we decided to buy the place, but figured we’d get rid of them before too long. And we did, six years later when we sold the house.
So after my brother’s visit, I’m thinking of requiring that all guests fix something. I promise wonderful meals and great conversation (“Hey, are you interested in the theories of physics?” I’ll ask.) It seems like a great deal to me.
Actually, Fred is not the first such savior, just this weekend’s.
John’s niece Heather wisely married a man who can fix everything, and they just can’t come often enough. Clinton emails me before he comes, asking for a list of chores. For a few years I was too shy to impose. But he really enjoys the wonder with which we look at him after he repairs something that John and I have tried unsuccessfully to fix every weekend since the start of the second Bush Administration.
Last time they visited, Clinton rushed past our outstretched welcoming arms to examine the kitchen cabinet that refused to open just because we bought a new refrigerator. I hadn’t finished offering him, Heather, and their daughters Lydia and Alex drinks before Clinton had fixed that problem and was checking his printout to see what was next.
Heather and Clinton have an open invitation to stay for as long as they like. Fred and Laura do too.
But it occurred to me that there are a lot of chores to be done around here and these folks just don’t visit often enough. And since I know that John and I will never do them in a way that they won’t need to be redone, I have come up with a plan.
We’re going to have lots of company in the next few months, starting with you. And when you ask “what can I bring?” Don’t be surprised when I suggest a power saw.