14 Oct Our Library and the Root Hog School of Housework

Our Victorian library is done. Before I started, I told a contractor friend that it would take me only a week to put the thing together. Mind you, I have never built a library before. The work took me two months. That, in a nutshell, is the story of my experience as a house rehabber. Anybody who does this kind of work will tell you: estimate the time and expense of your undertaking, then multiply that times three. Or four. Or five. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and still I won’t accept a realistic appraisal of the work before me. This denial, no doubt, is a matter of survival and it informs most aspects of my life.

Euphemistically, friends call me “optimistic.” If I am, you can blame my mother, who always told me that “anything is possible.” A variation of this was “you can be anything you want to be.” Or “you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” I guess that included being an astronaut or becoming, dare I say it, president of the U.S.A. Maybe you heard this too. It seems endemic to life in America, but I’m not convinced that this kind of encouragement is all that healthy.

In the main, when it comes to daunting tasks—like building something I’ve never built before–my philosophy is, in the words of my North Carolina cousins, “Root, hog, or die.” I work almost in a panic, for fear that if I stop, I might never start again. In other words, I don’t give myself time to consider the prospect of failure. The job at hand is simply a task that has to be done.

As you can see, there’s a world of difference between the cobbled-together Ikea shelves we started with and the built-from-scratch replacement. We wanted it to look like it’s been here for a hundred years. The one thing left to complete is installation of the stained glass window on either end of the case. Jill just finished a class in stained-glass repair so that she can fix those missing windows.

We think the library looks pretty cool. But, mind you, I’m no cabinet maker. If a cabinet maker took a close look, he/she would shudder. Be that as it may, the books are back and everything is in working order. The only problem is, we have more books than shelf space. So, this summer I’ll build some more book cases, maybe in the hall.