I was once married to a very practical Man. He is an engineer, and he can do anything from tiling a bathroom, building a cubby house, putting in a staircase, to doing the wiring for a whole house. He can solve all the computer problems, fix the plumbing and change a tire. Due to his ridiculously over-the-top excellence at All Things Manly I tended not to even think about how the house worked. That was all The Man’s province. When things broke, I put them on The List, and waited for them magically to become fixed.
This is not to say that I don’t have my own areas of expertise. I concentrated on those things I am good at, or had to become good at due to necessity, such as baby whispering, cooking dinner every night, grocery shopping on a budget, reading aloud and growing tomatoes and daffodils.
Now, of course, our carefully maintained system is not going to work anymore. The Man is a good soul, and perfectly ready to help out, but is not often here. The list of things that I am going to need to become good at due to necessity has grown enormously. Since The Boy left home, the girls and I have had to put the bins out ourselves. I know, shock, horror. Also, we had to work out how to make the lawn mower mow (since this debacle The Man kindly bought us an electric mower with a push button start. Mowing the lawn has now become one of my favourite jobs).
When I first contemplated life as a solo home owner (which will soon be my new status), I was rather overwhelmed. There are so many bits that can break, fall off and cease to function in a house. I am not a practical person. I am not someone who does things, so much as someone who thinks about doing things, and how lovely it will all be when it is done. Start explaining to me how something actually works, and my mind starts going, ‘La, la, la..’ Start drawing diagrams and I begin to feel a desperate urge to have a little nap.
Slowly though, I have begun to tentatively feel a little excited about the idea of my house. This is now my little kingdom. There are bits that need painting (again), there are flourishing ecosystems growing in the gutters, there are bushes that grew into trees and need to be removed. I suddenly feel a keen sense of responsibility to not let it fall into a sad state of disrepair. Once, that was The Man’s job, something I didn’t really even think about, and now, it is my baby and I must look after it.
But of course, that is easier said than done for someone whose greatest technological achievement to date is recording movies on the Tivo (even then I need help when the guide tells me it is going to clip my other program. What to do? What to do? How on earth will I ever get to watch a whole movie when all the children leave home?). My first big test came last week when the pool cleaner stopped working. The pool vacuum cleaner, affectionately known as Creepy, stopped creeping and just sat there sullenly, refusing to clean away a winter’s worth of leaves and detritus. Well, who could blame him? It is not the varied and fulfilling career he had dreamed of. How to inspire him to get back to work? First I panicked, then I coaxed, and offered Creepy a pay rise. Nothing. Then I sighed and set about trying to be logical. There was nothing blocking Creepy’s prodigious mouth, all his bits were appropriately joined together, the filter wasn’t full of leaves. At this point I had to brave the pool shed and look at the pump. This is a big step. There are machines in there that go ‘ping’, with digital readouts for technical things that require a manual to decipher. But mercy be, the pump thingy was blocked. I managed to undo the lid without much swearing, and take out several days’ worth of munched up leaves. Creepy quit his strike action, and I learned to check the pump regularly for detritus during the end of winter clean up.
I am feeling quite pleased with myself at this evidence that I am not completely incapable of solving a problem that is not homework- or housework-related. Sure, it is tiny on the scale of Things That Can Go Wrong, but optimism is another of my hidden powers. Deep down, I am always convinced that Everything Will Be Fine.
Although yesterday when the water heater broke (probably from exhaustion), and we were left with the option of lukewarm showers or staying dirty, I decided that even optimism has its limits, and called the Lovely Plumber.