Thursday 08 Dec 2016

Home Improvement
AJ Robinson

No, this isn't a story about Tim Allan and his TV show. While I always loved that show, this is a personal story of my own. Just recently, I had to do some work on my home, forced to action. A leak appeared in our master bathroom, and we had to rip out the sink and vanity, and then open up the floor to get to it.

It turned out, one of the old copper pipes was leaking. No wonder our water bill was so big. We had to call in a plumber to fix it.

As times are tough, we've yet to fix the wall and put in a new vanity. The wall stands open. Sometimes, many times, when I'm in there to get a shower, and I'm standing there drying myself off, I look at the hole in the wall. There's a faint sent of mildew in the air, and I can see the wall joists and bare pipes.

The sights and scents of the place carry me back to another bathroom, one of many years ago. How many? Oh, let me put it this way: I had to stand on a stool to get up high enough to look in the mirror!

It was our old house in Arlington, Massachusetts, where I grew up. Right outside my bedroom door was the bathroom. It was quite the old bath: small sink in the corner, toilet and big old claw-foot cast iron tub on the other side of the room. For me, all of about four years of age, it was like all rooms: big! Reaching up, to use the sink, was tough, getting in and out of the tub practically required a ladder and using the commode; well, never mind, it's too personal.

Anyway, one day, I came home from kindergarten to find the room torn up! I was mystified; what was going on here? This was back in the day when parents tended not to tell their kids everything. Eventually, I found out that dad was remodeling the bathroom. I was mystified. Why was he remodeling? Granted, the room was a virtual obstacle course for me, but I didn't mind. Was something wrong, had I said on done something to make my parents think I was unhappy with the room? At that age, my imagination often ran wild; according to my wife, that continues to this day, but I take issue with the assessment. I had no idea that it was at the bequest of my mother that the room was getting a makeover. Again, my parents hadn't bothered to tell me all the details.

Over the next couple of weeks, I watched walls torn out, the tub and toilet removed, and the sink pulled off the wall. The floor was torn up, and the shelves and mirror taken down. I was amazed at all the things hidden behind the walls. The scary thing for me was that I now had to go up in the attic to go to the bathroom, at night! That was not an easy thing to do. After all, once the sun went down, the attic monsters woke up.

I got so I could brush my teeth, go to the bathroom and wash up in less than sixty seconds!

Well, okay, I tended not to wash my hands quite as well as my mom liked. Still, it was justified. I was in a life and death battle!

Finally, they finished the new bathroom. It was quite nice: fancy new vanity with a big mirror, medicine cabinets on the sides and many bright lights. Nice big tub and shower, one of those fancy ones that's all one piece and creates walls. The old window was gone, which I missed. For all its beauty and fanciness, I actually didn't like it. The old bathroom, for all of its shortcomings, it had character.

Now, today, as I look at the hole in my bathroom wall, and I consider what sort of vanity to install, I think back to that old bathroom. Yeah, I'm going to put in something nice, but I'm also going to look for something with character. After all, who wants a boring bathroom?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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