Thursday, September 17, 2009

The way I walk is just the way I walk

Sam, Molly (making her mosquito face), and Casey, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Other day, a ton of kids (a squirming, complaining, ticklish ton - they get that way when you pack them in to weigh them) were playing at our house. In, out, making forts, playing tag, wearing hats, playing LEGO. The way I like it.

I was working in the kitchen (read: screwing around on Facebook while reveling in the fact that there were six kids at my house, none of whom required direct or constant supervision - GETTING BIGGER ROCKS) when I heard Zhou, who was working with LEGO in the living room, make an exasperated sound.

I heard him get up, stomp to the sliding door in the dining room and slide the screen closed.

"THIS is why there are so many mosquitos in this house!" he groused to nobody in particular.

I related this anecdote to Bob last night as we stood in the kitchen swatting at pantry moths. I said, "He's only six, but you add a couple 'goddamns' in there and that could have been his grandfather speaking."

Bob said, "That's funny, I was thinking the exact same thing, but it wasn't your dad that came to mind first."


Our house came with a lovely wooden screen door. The old-fashioned kind, with old brass hardware. Here's a picture.

First Grade for Big Man

And maybe you don't think about your screen door every day, but in Baltimore, if you don't have air conditioning, your screen door is an important element in your suite of ventilation strategies. In addition, we have a very friendly street, and if the front door's open, I can be in the kitchen and have a straight sight line out to whomever's walking by. People wander in to say hi, and I can keep one eye on the kids playing out front.

Well, that door eventually fell apart. As things do. You can see where it's starting to come apart in that picture, actually. We hired our pal Rich to replace it for us, and he had a hell of a time finding a wooden one that matched the style of the house and fit the opening. Big surprise, we have a nonstandard door hole. Took him a whole day to shave the thing down to fit. The kids played with the curls of wood from his plane. And then it took me a whole day to stain it. I do not like stain. Here's the new door:

first day of school, 2009

Next, the old hardware that Rich had transferred to the new door stopped working. So, next time our friend Jack was over fixing other stuff (god, it is SO GOOD that we know people that hire out their technical skills - my only motor skill is folding laundry, and Bob can usually accurately dig a hole) I asked him to look at the screen door latch.

The latch hardware was totally worn out in one direction. It's brass, it's 85 years old, a groove was worn in the... the thing. But he managed to jam the spring so that the knob would work if you turned it counterclockwise. The opposite of the intuitive way, but I really like that hardware and I didn't want to replace it with new.

Nowadays, we frequently have visitors who need a brief stymied moment before they get the screen door open. Sorry, friends. But the kids and I have gotten used to it. Neural pathways are teh awesome.

The day that Jack and I made the hot sauce (Jack has tried it and says it's great, I haven't opened a bottle yet), we noticed a rent in the screen door.

"Goddamn it!" I exclaimed.

Jack shook his head. "Gotta beat those kids good when they get home, huh?"

"I don't think so," I said. "They've seen all the trouble we've gone to over that door. They watched you fix the latch, remember? One of their beastly little friends, I guess."

When Mao and Zhou came home from school, Zhou was the first one up on the porch. "Hey!" he called out. "What happened to the door?"

"Well, you're off the hook," I thought to myself.

Mao was next up. "What? Oh, man! Who did that to the door?"

Either they were both innocent, or they are much better actors than I thought, and I am in BIG TROUBLE GOING FORWARD.

That evening, I showed it to Bob. "I am really upset about this door. After all the trouble we went to getting it fixed, now it looks terrible and it's going to let in all the bugs."

"Yeah, that's too bad," he agreed. "Mao told me about it when I got home. I asked if he thought I could blame it on Zhou and he told me 'No. She already knows he didn't do it.'"

I looked at my husband, graduate of three of the most prestigious universities in this land, and furrowed my brow. I did. I know it when I do it, and I have lines on said brow that no amount of Jurlique Calendula Cream can erase.

"You," I said.

"I hate that door!" he said. "I'm going out in the morning, and I have my gym bag, and my laptop bag, and my coffee and my keys, and then the goddamn door doesn't open! What the hell is wrong with that door?"

"You have to turn it the other way," I said. "How long have you lived here? When Jack fixed it, the hardware was too far gone to work the usual way - what the hell! I explained this when it happened!"

"Huh." He went over to the door and turned the knob experimentally, watching the latch go in and out.

"Next time I'll try turning it the other way," he said. "Before putting my foot through the door."

Sheesh. THIS is why we have so many goddamn mosquitos in this goddamn house!