I wrote today’s post last night, sitting on the screen porch. The day was warm and overcast and an unsettled weather pattern crept into town. By evening, a cool, damp breeze stirred through the oak trees and I could hear the tapping of acorns on my garage roof.
I decided to sit in Handy’s chair.
When I lived in my tiny condo in Hampton, New Hampshire, I had an even tinier deck outside my living room. How I ended up buying a good-sized Telescope Casual stacking chaise lounge chair is a long and boring story. It had a fifteen year warranty; I could have left it on the deck over the winter. But knowing the temperamental and ever-changing plow guys who often crashed into my deck in a snow blind fury, it spent a few winters in my spare bedroom. As time went on, I didn’t want to sit on the deck anymore, so I brought the chair to Lisbon Falls and stuck it up in a corner of Uncle Bob’s barn. It sat there until I bought the Perron house and then it went on the screen porch with an “inferior” but vintage aluminum lawn chair and a few other random pieces of furniture.
One day after I first moved in, I went down to Lisbon House of Pizza for lunch. Handy was eating a sandwich and reading the newspaper and even though we’d never been formally introduced, I knew who he was because we’d both grown up going to Holy Family Church. He might have been an altar boy. I can’t remember if I struck up a conversation with him or he struck up one with me, but we got re-acquainted and I told him I’d just bought a house. I invited him to stop by any time.
I’m not sure if he told me he did “handy man” work, but why else would I have invited him over?
I was kind of surprised when he showed up the following Sunday afternoon, but I gave him a tour of the house and gardens and began to outline my many concerns and fears about the purchase. Then I invited him to sit out on the screen porch and tell me what he thought about these problems. He sat down in the chaise and made himself comfortable. He listened to my litany of fears.
Oddly enough, my best friend forever Samantha Van Hopper (who doesn’t even live in Lisbon Falls) just happened to stop in and saw Handy all sprawled out on my chaise lounge chair. She didn’t stay long, but when she got home she shot me an e-mail asking “who was that man on your porch?”
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Handy first visited. You know, when I moved into this house, I was afraid all the time; my heart would race at every creak and odd noise. I was afraid to go in the basement and my imagination would run wild at night.
I could hardly sleep.
Then Handy started coming over and fixing things. In the beginning I’m sure it was a little overwhelming for him; I’d text him all the time in a panic. I was probably a little dramatic too. “Handy, do you think the house is going to collapse upon itself?” or “Handy, I think I heard a mouse in the basement. You’ve got to come over here right now!”
But the truth is, there’s hardly anything here on the property he hasn’t improved. He’s always thinking of a way to make home ownership easier. He’s replaced doors, put up gutters and rain barrels, built brick paths, replaced windows, and weed-whacked my suicide slope. There are few home improvement problems he hasn’t encountered and his research of the unknown is fascinating because it always leads to solutions.
And I’m a better cook, too! Did I tell you he showed me the proper way to hold a chef’s knife? Yeah, apparently, I’ve been holding it wrong all these years. It makes me smile every time I chop an onion and realize I’m holding the knife correctly.
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s generous with his time, fixing things for my parents, and Uncle Bob, and my brother.
Gosh, I sound like a Handy sycophant, but…these days, I’m not afraid to go in the basement. And if by chance an acorn pings off the roof and wakes me in the middle of the night, I clasp my hands on my chest and thank God for bringing Handy over to sit on my screen porch and make everything better. Because the most important thing Handy does when we sit on the screen porch? He listens to me and he takes my dreams and schemes and foolish ideas seriously. Sometimes he tells me a few of them would be crazy-expensive or not worth the investment, but he’ll always hear me out before he pronounces his verdict.
The last time he sat in his chair on the screen porch, we were looking at the lovely new gleaming white fascia board treatment he completed on the garage. Now that the garage has a new roof, all it needs are some curtains in the windows and it will be pineapple perfect. Handy said “you’ve really accomplished a lot this year” and then we went over all the projects that were completed. It’s true. Not all of them are obvious to the casual passerby, but much has been done. Home maintenance. But I hardly did anything. It was all Handy’s handiwork.
Sitting in Handy’s chair, I’m wiping a little tear from the corner of my eye right now.
Having access to a handyman is a fine thing. Even better when it’s Handy. He did some nice work for me here at the compound. He’ll be coming back for an extended stint in the future.
Amazing that these skills are so hard to find in the 21st century—or perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.