Winter time, though itís not really all that wintry right now, doth hath its charms.
I havenít touched a lawnmower in going on two months now. I pass by it in the back yard, and stick my tongue out at it sometimes, but it pays me no heed. Feeling particularly mean-spirited one day I snuck around the corner and kicked it by surprise, right in its left rear tire. Unfortunately, it didnít care and I was wearing sandals and it hurt like the dickens. Serves me right for being vindictive.
The boat, on the other hand, itís got the lawnmowerís back. Knowing thereís no fishing to be done, when I pass by it under the carport on its trailer it sticks its tongue out at me.
Crazy weather, this, but I donít mind 82 degrees in December.
"Itís ridiculous, I hate it," people complain. "It doesnít feel like Christmas."
Something Iíve never understood. Christmas feels the same to me at 85 degrees as it does at 30 degrees and I canít recognize squat worth of difference except that I gotta wear more clothing and take a few more nips of eggnog when itís 30 than I do when itís 85.
What does Christmas "feel" like? Cold, for some people, it seems. But what else? To me Christmas feels like early nightfalls and bright lights of many hues. It has an aura of aromas, if you understand my meaning, like conifer needles a halo of pumpkin bread, glazed ham, pecan pie, cornbread dressing with oysters and rum fruitcake. Eight-five or 30, it still smells the same and looks the same.
Anyway, Iíve still been busy working on my renovations and enlargement of the secondary bathroom in the house.
"What, you gonna make this a lifelong endeavor?" folks ask me, folks who, by the way, are either retired, self-employed or unemployed and have all the time and resources in the world to do their projects. Never mind that I have to work around the daily grind over here, night meetings, cash-on-hand (a decidedly variable-rate condition) and walks to the bayou with the dog to look for wood ducks.
Donít have to contend with this house, either, where I spent most of Sunday fitting one Ė let me repeat that for you, one Ė piece of paneling.
I messed it up twice, and finally got it pretty much right on the third attempt. This was merely a 42-inch wide by 31-inch high piece of beaded paneling going over the half-wall (from ceiling downward to support the roof) that still exists from where I enlarged the old bathroom.
Imagine this half-wall, then, coming down from the ceiling. It leans toward the new section, even with the new header I installed. The walls on one side of it splay outward. On the other side theyíre pretty square (figure that one out, itís the same wall on both sides!) the ceiling slopes, as does the header, thankfully in the same direction. Oddest of all, the last eight or nine inches of the wall on that side, to the right, makes a sweeping curve outward, creating a sort of micro-cathedral effect.
Into this quagmire I spent the day fitting a piece of paneling. Two failed attempts later, I finally got it right, sat down on an old ice-chest nearby, lit a stogie and uncapped a Shiner to celebrate, or mourn, depending on how you look at it. I was exhausted, my calves were killing me from going up and down the ladder, and I have a scratch next to my nose on my right cheek that I havenít the faintest idea how I came to possess.
After that I cut some cypress to start molding around the header. I wanted to case it in but ran out of time and energy. Regardless, itís coming out pretty good, if slowly. I hope to be done sometime before claiming social security.
Iím sweating doing all this work, too, and if anyone wouldíve come by and said, "Sure donít feel like Christmas, does it?" I probably would have thrown a boat builderís bevel at them.
A boat builderís bevel, in case you donít know, is a tool that is like a square, except that it is adjustable. You use it to record and duplicate bevels and angles. It was my fatherís tool, he was a boat builder, and it came in mighty handy when I built my boats.
In this house, it comes in mighty handy again, because in addition to recording and duplicating bevels and angles, it also allows me to recreate skews and misalignments.
You know, my ancestors may be getting unhappy with me because I seem to be painting this old homestead of ours as a derelict structure leaning precariously at angles and seemingly impossible to remain upright. Itís really very strong, structurally sound and well-built. Imagine how many hurricanes itís withstood since the 1840s! You donít really notice much of the shear and twist Ė much, I said Ė until you start working on it. Itís kinda like the girl you meet at the dance and sheís pretty and well-dressed you think, until you get her closer and in the light and realize her clothes need ironing, her shirt is buttoned wrong and she had on two different color shoes.
Iíll never forget a day when, full of youthful dreams and ambitions of shaking the dust of the Rez off my heels, I told my grandmother Ma Faye to let someone else have it.
I canít imagine the pain it must have caused her, me, her only heir, her only grandchild. Though I had not intended it that way, it was like saying, I donít want you. After living there for more than 70 years of her life, they were inexorably linked.
She had looked up at me, there in that old brown chair, a half-finished beaded necklace on a loom in her lap, and her eyes were black, moistening pits of hurt.
Thankfully, my choices became wiser, and my loyalties stronger. Every panel I fight all day, every banged thumb from a misplaced hammer blowÖwell, you know, all these columns are meant to get a chuckle out of you folks, of course. Meant to make you smile and share just a little of my world if it entertains you.
But most of all, it fulfills a promise and heals a hurt from long ago. When I sit in my chair Ė that same old brown chair, threadbare and lumpy that I canít part with Ė I know this surely as our own name.