Monday, January 08, 2007

Poppi/Papi Jobs

Ode to my Poppi job

My dad was a wonderful man. An introvert who was happiest when he was home with mom and the rest of us. Father to seven kids all born about a year apart. He was goofy soul and I have no shame (dare I say a little pride) in having inherited dad’s goofiness.

Well, there was one thing my dad was famous for. We call them “Poppi” jobs. A Poppy job was a household project that after many months or years of procrastination finally got started. And that was about it. Bless my dad’s heart, he never learned how to repair or fix things and basically had neither aptitude nor interest in doing things like that. Oh, and when things were half-way started and stayed that way for years it never really bothered our dad. It’s like he didn’t see it. How can something bother you if you can’t see it?

But the bottom line is that my dad never felt comfortable doing drywall, carpentry, tile repair, painting. Mostly because he just flat out didn’t know how. He didn’t have many tools (although we did have a vice-grip which was a magical device used to fix most everything.) He was smart as heck and could read a book and learn what to do but it never came naturally.

This all would have been a non issue if we’d owned a sparkling brand new house, but the house my parents bought when we moved to MN in 1963 was build in 1906 or so. And when one of us would accidentally let the bath tub overflow and the dining room ceiling tiles were ruined below, he kind of had to do something.

You’re probably thinking that perhaps my mom should have stepped in. But in those days it was expected that the dad would do such things and besides, mom had no idea how to do any of these things either. And let's just say it really was something my dad needed to take care of.

So in a nutshell I grew up with a sort of history of half-finished ideas and lack of confidence about how to do anything related to house repairs. In fact after I bought my very first house and met my wonderful new neighbor Susanne I was AMAZED at how able she was. I was scared of every problem I encountered and figured I'd have to pay someone to come in and fix it and she'd just shake her head and let me know it would be as easy as pie to take care of anything. She grew up in a very different kind of environment. Both her mom and dad are very handy and hard-working and Susanne learned so much. She’s fearless because she understands so much. Take down an overhead light or fan? Move the thermostat from one side of the dining room to the other? Knock down a wall and reframe a new one? Make some built in shelves for the basement. Build a frame and do the masonry for a fireplace? No problem.

Now I’ve been trying to learn for years. We work together on projects and she’s also a very good teacher so I now know things I’ve never known before. But I hadn’t counted on Susanne being “out of commission” on the renovations to our upstairs guest room and baby’s room. Our house which was built in 1937 and gets shook at times by passing trains has some cracks in ceilings and walls that have to be properly patched and plastered before painting. You have to use a utility knife or other tool to sort of scrape along these major fractures and then put in a mesh that comes on a role like tape. It’s sort of like operating on a wound. Then you plaster with joint compound and sand. Lather, rinse, repeat (no, just repeat.)

So in a perfect world your work is smooth as a baby’s bottom and you can paint. But you see applying the joint compound evenly and smoothly is an art. It’s like a painter applying oils with huge brush strokes except you’re using special putty knives.

I’ve been working on the darn guest room for about 2 months now. And I’ve got to admit that although the work was done properly, it was no where near paint ready. And my beloved Susanne couldn’t help me this time because we don’t want her around the dust from the sanding. My future looked bleak. And then came Papi. Not my Poppi who sadly passed away in 2002. No, this is Su’s dad who is sometimes called Papi. If I think my Susi is the most perfectionist person I know then I’d better think again. Her dad holds that title. He came to visit this weekend and with the skill of a magician made the rough scars I’d created look like a perfectly iced cake. I’ve been smiling now for 2 straight days. Thank you, thank you!!!!

Of course just because the patching is done doesn’t mean the project is done. It’s still a Poppi job as of today but not for long. Dad, I think you’re smiling down from heaven thinking “it looks that same as before right?” Ah, I miss you Poppi. Love, Monica

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