Ta Da!

September 24, 2023
September 24, 2023 Betsy Voreacos

Ta Da!

“Don’t use the kitchen while I’m away,” I warned the ever-loving spouse when I traversed to Traverse City a couple weeks ago.

“Why not?” he asked, incredulously.

“Because,” I blathered. “It’s not ready.”

He rolled his eyes and complied. At least I think he did. I wasn’t here.

Almost three months to the day after the first sledgehammer exposed rotted beams behind the walls (due in full to our ignoring a years-long shower leak), the new kitchen was complete.

Except, of course for a litany of minor misses and that would never have been noticed had we not spent our golden years’ nest egg on the renovation. There were a couple biggish things, like the new, supposedly in-stock refrigerator that inexplicitly hadn’t yet been delivered and the wrong sized microwave that had been delivered, but all-in-all, it was ready to go.

But I wasn’t.

It seems that I didn’t want to actually use the kitchen. I just wanted to look at it and revel in the clutter-free counters, the shiny cabinets that actually close (soft-close at that), the junkless junk drawers, the yet-to-be-smudged stainless steel dishwasher, the custom pantry void of expired food, the crumb-free silverware tray, the beauteously wallpapered powder room with a gasp! chair-height toilet seat.

I wanted to invite the world in to see the one room in our house that was clean and bright and looked like a high-end Airbnb listing. For some reason, my spouse actually wanted to move the pots and pans back into the drawers, put food back into the cabinets and maybe even cook a dinner in the new oven.

“You do know,” I said, relaying my sister Emily’s advice from when we moved into our first house eons ago. “That wherever we put things now is where they’re going to stay for the next 20 years. I just want to be a little more intentional in how I put the kitchen back together.”

Another eye roll. Another take out dinner.

But finally, the new refrigerator came, the old one moved to the garage, the old-old one to the dumpster. My sister, Nancy, was coming to hang wallpaper in the powder room that, as in many 95 year-old homes, opens right into the kitchen, and I knew I would get more than an eye roll if I hadn’t done made any headway.

And so on the Thursday before Labor Day, I began unloading the boxes and boxes of kitchen paraphernalia that I had so deliberately labeled and stacked in a corner of the basement. In no time at all, the kitchen was back in working order.

That very afternoon our neighbor, Jim, rang the doorbell with a baggie of fresh-caught tuna in tow.

Excited for my inaugural meal, I asked how I should cook it.

“A little bit of oil, sear it for a few minutes on each side and you’re good to go.”

I hadn’t cooked in quite a while and perhaps went a little overboard on the oil. Maybe a lot overboard. Because that oil sprayed and splattered onto my new zellige tile backsplash, dripped beneath the unblemished burners on the stainless steel stove, splashed onto the unsullied granite counter top and turned the hood’s shiny grease filter a nice shade of yellow.

But the tuna was delicious.

Over the course of the renovation, not to mention weeks (months) before, I fretted and fussed, waking up in the middle of the night panic-stricken that I had actually chosen to do this. My poor sister, who can do this kind of thing in her sleep, was the receiver of most of my angst (not to mention thousands of texts). Naturally I couldn’t unleash my full fears on the ever-loving, after all, I was the one who begged for this.

I worried obsessively if my hardware would look okay, if the tile floor would break too many glasses, if the rustic purple backsplash was too purple – or too rustic – if the left-placed toilet paper holder would prove bothersome, if the in-cabinet trash would eternally smell, if the wall color was too light, too dark or too out of fashion, if the mid-century modern clock matched the décor, if, if, if…..

I still turn to my right instead of my left to flick the light switches on and off, walk to the wall for the trash can that is now tucked seamlessly within a cabinet, and haven’t yet broken my habit of leaving doors and drawers ajar, despite the help of soft-close hinges. But the counter tops are still clear, the table devoid of anything but random newspapers that can be stacked and recycled in seconds and I smile every time I walk into walk to the kitchen, still shocked by its transformation.

Like driving a new car, it all gets easier after that first scratch and like birthing a baby, you realize (eventually) that it was worth the pain. Then one day as you’re roasting that chicken and smiling because the ice-maker still works, you start to wonder what exactly it was that made you over-obsess. Then in the course of a conversation with a friend who asks how bad it was, you answer with muted memory, “Oh, it wasn’t bad at all.”

And that’s the day you call the contractor and say, “We were thinking of redoing the basement…”