You know, you would think that after years and years of living in an old house, that I would have learned by now that absolutely nothing ever goes the way that it should, and that everything is more complicated than it needs to be. We can’t just replace kitchen cupboards, because the cupboards are attached to plaster and lathe walls that crumble when you take down the cupboards, which fall to the ground to reveal that the main support of your house partly gone, which you discover is because the sill plate has rotted out. (AKA: How the cost of a reno quadruples in a nauseating week from hell in which a hole to the outside is made in your kitchen and must be defended so that raccoons do not gain entry – but I digress.) I should have known. We have never so much as hung a picture in this house without having to deal with some sort of unexpected outcome – part of which I blame on the fact that 125 years ago when my house was built there were no building codes. Just what the guys whacking the place together could manage or thought would be good. (Thanks, mystery guys from the past, for such wonders in my home as leaving the grounding wires off much of my electrical, and thinking closets were for sissies with too many clothes. Awesome.
All of this should have braced me for the knowing that as awful as the furnace things was going- that it likely wasn’t the end of the upset, and that was certainly true last night when the other shoe dropped. Turns out that the portion of our basement that is a soil crawlspace wasn’t deep enough to allow the furnace guys to crawl in and though they thought they could work with that they can’t and they called last night to essentially ask us how the digging we didn’t know we neeed to do was going. Naturally, since we didn’t know we needed to do it, work had been proceeding rather slowly.
(Do not judge my little house in this picture. I told you, it’s very old. Old basments are complex places.)
It isn’t now. Joe called in the reserves (like Pato, what a good boy) and started to dig a trench through the top layer of the crawlspace, and hauled dirt onto the basement floor, then bagged it up, then it was carried by me and Ken (ok. Mostly Ken) to the backyard… where… where I’ll have to figure out how you make it go away. Work can now proceed on the furnace on schedule tomorrow morning, and for a little while there, the tears had stopped. (Let’s not discuss the mud/dirt slurry in the basement. I’ll figure that out later.)
At that point, we were pretty sure that things were as bad as they could get, and we were feeling pretty good about our ability to roll with the old house surprises, when Joe showed me some bricks he’d noticed. (You can actually see them on the left of that picture.) There had been cosmetic half wall build in front of the dirt years and years ago, and apparently that hadn’t let us see that bricks were mysteriously landing there on the floor.
Joe: Look at this, it’s bricks.
Me: That’s weird, isn’t this a wooden house?
Joe: Yeah, it’s really weird. The only place that there’s bricks in this house is the…..
(Here, Joe pauses for so long that I wonder if he’s having a stroke, and then it hits me.)
Me: The foundation, right Joe? The foundation? Those bricks are falling out of the @#$%^UI(*&^%$ing foundation, AREN’T THEY JOE?
Me: That’s structural.
Me: That’s four really expensive bricks.
At that point we neatly piled the bricks, Joe got a beer and two codeine/tylenol for his back, and I bumped up my painkiller from cashmere to Bison.
There’s nowhere to go but up.