My husband has been on a tear.
His most recent project began as many do: with Spencer leaning against a counter as I brown chicken or ground beef and announcing, “I had a thought.” All of our serious conversations take place in the kitchen. Dinner prep is one of the few times we have to ourselves — when the kids, plied by “Peppa Pig” and a light snack after daycare, will allow us some uninterrupted conversation.
My husband is a planner . . . and a doer. If he brings something up in conversation, I know it’s as good as purchased, installed and operational within 24 hours. (Just kidding — 48 hours.) I value this about him. My parents raised my sister and me with the “do what you say you will do” mentality — and though this isn’t the same as, say, carrying through on a promise to a friend, Spencer doesn’t talk just to talk.
He creates a blueprint.
That’s how I found him Sunday, after returning from the store with a metric ton of instant mac and cheese. Splayed across our kitchen table were graph paper, pens, an open laptop. Spence is the nap time whisperer, and somehow successfully succeeded in getting both kids to snooze mid-afternoon. He was drawing up plans to reconfigure the basement.
Before we moved in, I basically ceded all rights to the house’s lowest level by telling Spence he could use that space as his “workshop.” The spare bedroom in our old condo had been converted into a project emporium, and the man was out of space. While house hunting, we were immediately taken with the basement here. Spence was excited to have a designated area for projects — and I was excited to have those projects somewhere other than our living room.
I cheerfully call my husband a serial hobbyist. Spencer Johnson can be summed up in one recent quote, referencing one of his newfound interests — stained glass, perhaps. “I couldn’t figure it out, and it irritated me,” he said. “So I mastered it.”
That interest has blossomed into a full-scale operation. Studying Tiffany lamps and the history of stained glass, Spence has tried his hand at many of his own pieces, one of which now lights up a dark corner of our family room. He’s been working atop a handmade cart, but his idea for the basement — now well on its way to completion — was to build a huge table that could be used for his glass work, plus all manner of kid-related projects.
I wasn’t on board at first. Mostly because his “I had a thought” comment quickly became, “Let’s tear out all the carpet.” The finished basement was . . . finished, and the idea of tearing up plush flooring in favor of concrete did not appeal.
Spence talked me into it, pointing out the carpet’s age and potential source as the strange odor we occasionally still detect and just call “the old house.” Because it was closed up for so long before we moved in, there was a cold, stale smell we attributed to stagnant air (we checked for mold and other serious issues, too, of course). When we’ve been gone for a few days and come back to a house purposely kept at a cooler or warmer temperature, whiffs of “the old house” still get us.
Bringing that up was a good tactic on my husband’s part. I hate that smell. And so, with my official sign-off, Spencer has been working on redesigning the basement to be functional and practical not just for him . . . but the kids, too.
Because downstairs is the one area of the house that is officially off-limits to Hadley and Oliver, that is — of course! — the one place they’re obsessed with breaking in to see. Aside from just the issue of stairs, it’s been a storage area for everything we don’t want the kids to have access to (including, you know, loud toys we’ve “misplaced”). There are locks and kid-proof handles involved.
By downsizing, clearing out and decluttering down there, we’re getting closer to having a livable area that could also entertain two busy kids who just want to check out this secret space. If it includes a big worktop for crafts, well, more’s the better.
The blueprint Spence finished Sunday was for cabinetry. We’re planning an IKEA date to bring them home in the truck and get started.
Just kidding . . . Friday.