When Kevin Kline, good guy husband, agrees to be a sperm donor for single gal Mary Kay Place, I think of all the husbands I've enlisted to help with a project or two.
Dave helped my brother and I with a railing on the front porch. Aaron connected my first propane tank in the gas grill (he noted that I was "such a girl"). My brother-in-law dutifully showed me how to change out an outlet. Johnny saved me from crown molding hell and a couple of other disasters.
Will was the latest recruit -- he helped me switch out a light fixture in the bathroom. I don't like to touch electricity.
"For you, it'll be a 10-minute job," I joked.
Ten minutes later, Will is on his way to Lowe's. He comes back with washers and toggle bolts.
"In a modern house," he drolly begins, "you would have a junction box here. But this isn't a modern house." Instead there are two woolly wires sticking out of the wall.
The bracket for the light fixture is designed to be affixed to a junction box. Will got the washers to float the screws from the bracket to the fixture, and the toggle bolts secured the breaker. Very MacGyver.
Three hours later, with light fading, we get it done.
It's what local folks call a "Shandon bathroom," after the neighborhood where most of these 1930s homes were built. I grew up in a Chicago flat, then a small bungalow in which the sole bathroom was not much bigger.
I'm tweaking it -- replacing the floor tile, patching and painting the walls, and changing the palette to gray from yellow. I frosted the bottom half of the window, which I think is a genius idea.
I'd rather be shifting the sink, toilet and tub around, adding a heated floor, new drywall (and insulation!) and adding a bit of square footage with a pocket door.
I gotta wait until next spring, when my tax money comes in and I'm on a little better financial footing. So, for now, tweaking.
I like to peel things: I used to cover my palm in Elmer's glue, wait for it to dry, then peel it off. I love contact paper, and that protective plastic on electronic equipment.
So, when I saw a tiny flake on an obscure bit of wall in a bedroom, I couldn't resist. I start to peel it back -- the paint came off, and under it, some wallpaper. Peel away I did, and found myself baring an early form of drywall. Peel on a corner, and another wall is exposed.
I spent days just peeling away, revealing layers of paint, green, red and, maybe, a blue.
Scribbled on one of those bare wells, the name Jenny. Written large with a flourish, as if a young girl were declaring herself to the world.
The name belongs to the daughter of the original owners, the O'Cains. Mrs. O'Cain now lives next door, and she's 95. Her daughter Jenny comes by every day to check on her mom, who broke her hip last year and can't walk around without a bit of help.
Jenny and her mother call my place "The old house." Jenny doesn't remember writing her name. But that mark became a part of the house, revealing itself about 40 years later.
Betsey Guzior has been with the features staff at The State since 2001. She was named features editor in 2003. The State's features staff produces six sections a week, contributes to A1 daily and provides content for specialty sites on www.thestate.com. She also edits a monthly lifestyle magazine, Lake Murray.