Thursday, November 18, 2010

Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

The honeymoon is officially over. My fairytale romance with the Restoration Project has come to a screeching halt. When my relationship with the Restoration began back in August, like a pre-teen girl with her first crush, I was blinded by my emotions (and by the reflective glare of my braces whenever I happened to pass a mirror). I fooled myself into thinking that the Restoration Project, with its shiny tools and mysterious terminology (C-beams, lally columns, plaster and lath) was some kind of God. It could do no wrong. It was saving the house. Yes siree, I walked along hand in hand with the Restoration Project, convinced that this was true love. Sure I “knew” the path ahead would be bumpy and maybe even a little frustrating but as a well-respected 80s hair band once sang – every rose has its thorn.

Well – our relationship is no longer shiny and new and the bloom has definitely left this rose. We’re at that point that all couples eventually reach - we spend way too much time together and know way too much about each other. What went wrong between us? Did I alienate the Restoration in some way? Make it feel like it wasn’t important enough? How had things gone downhill so quickly? Hurt and self-doubt turned to bitterness and a wistful yearning for yesterdays when I thought the Restoration hung the moon.

Prime example of knowing way too much about each other.

What has sparked this lovers spat? Well, according to the original construction schedule, today was supposed to be the last day of phase one restoration work. Western Building would have been going over the “punch list” making sure everything was done that was supposed to be done. But a funny thing happened on the way to the end date, namely – work was delayed. So now there is a newly updated construction schedule which puts completion of phase one as January 28, 2011 – and somehow, it feels like the Restoration has forgotten a very important anniversary for us and tried to make up for it by presenting me with a bunch of dyed-orange carnations it got for half-off from a Price Chopper trying to get rid of its leftover Halloween themed product. What went wrong?

Luckily The Hammer is a certified Restoration Relationship Counselor and he was able to sit down with me (actually, we stood up on scaffolding) and he talked me through some of the underlying issues that were ruining my relationship with the Restoration. First of all he explained that this was just typical Restoration behavior and it was something I had to accept as a natural part of the Restoration. That was a huge step. I already knew about the delay with the search for the white oak and I was able to come to terms with that fact and stop blaming the Restoration for it. Once I learned to accept these things and then move on, I found it easy to listen (and really hear) the rest of what Counselor Hammer had to say.

It turns out the north sill of the east façade is in worse shape than was originally thought. This sill was replaced, probably sometime in the 1980s. It’s not so much that the wood itself is compromised, but more that the way the wood sill was installed was problematic. The sections were shorter than they should have been, and end sections were not lined up to meet each other. Also, there was little done in the way of leveling off the area where the sill was to rest. The end result is, that the northeast corner post is actually floating in air as the sill upon which it is supposed to rest is instead busy curving down trying to reach the stone foundation upon which it is supposed to rest. Counselor Hammer showed me that it wasn’t right to blame the Restoration for something that happened way before we ever got together. A lot of bad things came out of the 80s and I had to understand that this was just another one of those things.

The black arrows in the above picture point to the exposed north sill in the east facade of the house (the layers of wood just above the stone foundation).  

The space between the top of sill (the five layer of wood you see in the picture) and the bottom of the northeast corner post is a problem - namely there should be no space there.

Example of  where the end pieces of the wood, which makes up the original north sill, do not meet.

Western will be correcting the problems that are currently affecting the sill and then they will turn their eyes and hammers to the south end of the east façade and begin the project all over again. The good news is that the architectural firm that we employ and Western both feel that the south sill may be in better shape than was anticipated and therefore it may not be necessary to replace the entire sill.

I was never one who put much stock in couples therapy but having gone through the restoration counseling that we did, I can now honestly say that it really works. After reaching a place in our relationship where I could accept the Restoration’s honesty without blaming it, my newfound understanding was put to the test. In addition to the sill replacement that was necessary, the wood frame for the basement windows on the north end need to be replaced as well. The wood frames have fallen victim to dry rot. In the past I would have been very upset and blamed the Restoration for not predicting this, but in my new place of light and love I am able to listen to the Restoration’s explanation, and then…accept it.

Earlier photo of the two basement windows.
Dry rot has deteriorated the wood above the window.
In case you missed it the first time - another photo of the rotted wood above one of the basement windows.

Yesterday, the Director received a letter notifying the museum that we have been reserved a matching grant of $300,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) “for the restoration project.” It was like the Restoration wrote me a love letter and gave me a gift that is more precious than roses, or candy, or jewelry – it gave me the promise of cold hard cash.

Coming from this place of light and love, I will cherish the time I have left with phase one of the Restoration and not count down the days until January 28th. After reaching this new level of understanding and renewed commitment to the Restoration, I have closed the chapter on the Glenn Close side of me that was sharpening my knives and boiling my water in anger. I just hope that as the end date draws closer, after a couple of months spent greasing myself with animal fat in a desperate attempt to retain body heat as the cold weather begins in earnest, that my love for the Restoration doesn’t morph back in to Fatal Attraction-I’ll-cook-your-rabbit-in-a-pot anger again. No relationship can survive rabbit stew…or greasy animal fat.

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