Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Changing Décor Gave Me The Shutters

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published February 24, 2011]  © 2011

OK, I admit it.  I don’t like change.

When Olof married me sixteen years ago after eight years of commuting from the Bay area, I knew it was important for him to have his own space in my house since he’d had to give up his own.  Since Rory had just left for college, I told Olof that room was his to do what he wished.

Who knew I married someone with no taste?

What I really meant when I made the offer, of course, was that he was free to do what he wanted with the furniture.  Buy more. Decorate at will.  No Air Force souvenir too tacky.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his decision to dump the wall-to-wall carpeting and shutters in favor of hardwood floors and blinds. 

I still remember the dagger that went through my heart when he announced this. 

I grew up in upstate New York in a house with hardwood floors and blinds. The floors were cold, noisy, high maintenance and uncomfortable to sit and play on.  And those Venetian blinds?  I spent my childhood in enforced labor dusting those suckers slat by slat on Saturday mornings.

From the time I was six, my dream home included only wall-to-wall carpet and shutters.  OK, so shutters have slats too but my dream included a cleaning lady. 

Meanwhile Olof was peeling back a corner of the wall-to-wall.  “Great!” he said.  “There’s hardwood under here.  All we have to do is rip out this crummy carpet.” 

Crummy carpet?  Could this marriage be saved?

I have to confess that I delayed, stalled, cajoled, and otherwise resisted removing my beloved carpet and shutters.  But ultimately, a deal’s a deal, even if the dealer was a total idiot to ever have made such an ill-considered promise to the dealee. 

The day the floor refinishers showed up to take out the room’s carpet, I panicked.  In my heart I knew this was a terrible decision, one that Olof was going to regret once the sterile Siberian floors were exposed and the nasty charmless blinds in place.  But we’d never be able to match the carpet again.

Which is when I hatched upon a brilliant idea.  For a large undisclosed sum, I hired the floor folks to roll up the carpet and pad and wrestle it up into the crawl space in the attic.  (No garage in this house.)  Who knew carpet could be so heavy?  But when Olof realized the error of his ways, I could say, “Tada!  It’s not too late!  The old carpet is still here!”   He would be in awe of my prescience and creativity.

The floor guys saw it differently. “I just hope you realize that that carpet is up there permanently, lady,” they groused.  “And we wouldn’t advise standing underneath it in an earthquake.”

When Olof came home from work that night, he admired the newly sanded floor awaiting its first coat of urethane.  “You’re taking this all remarkably well,” he said.  “I would have thought you’d be on your third glass of wine by now.” 

I smiled beatifically.  “Olof, my little lutefisk, my only goal in life is to make you happy.”

Which he was until he got out the ladder some months later to bring down a computer box from the attic.

“Inga,” he said tersely, “why is there five hundred pounds of carpet in our crawl space?”

Ultimately, all the carpet in the house had to be replaced, the worse for wear after twenty years of kids. So it was either all new carpeting – or go for all hardwood.  But by this time, the kids were gone, and I’d come to realize that these were not my mother’s hardwood floors.  Nowadays they were easy to clean, almost maintenance free, lovely to look at.  OK, so Olof was right about the floors. (I still dispute the blinds.)

When the refinisher guys came to rip out the carpet throughout the house, I had to pay them six times the original undisclosed price to get the quarter ton of carpet out of the crawl space.  “What moron would do this?” they grunted as they wrestled the carpet down. 

That’s easy:  one who hates change.


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