What do you get when you cross a man, a woman, a 250 year old house, and a big green insulation machine? Labor and Delivery, Dole House Style!
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a woman called Dishy. One magical day, Dishy went to her local video store to sign up for an account, and standing behind the counter she found (hubba hubba) MISTER RIGHT. Armed with his clipboard and dimples, Mr. Right won the fair Dishy’s heart, and from that moment on they were inseparable. So inseparable that eventually Dishy found herself – uh oh spaghettios! – eating for two. She wasn’t expecting to be expecting, but there she was; knocked up without a paddle. Months passed and bigger she grew, until finally, one day, she was delivering her baby. Not by herself, mind you, but still. it was hard. The baby grew, and one year turned into two, and before you could say Rumpelstiltskin! Dishy found herself giving birth again. And then, again! Well. Hats off to selective amnesia, because there’s no way Dishy could have gone through that blessed event 3 times without a little helper called – not epidural – but memory loss. Because as all fairy tale godmothers know, labor is LABOR.
This past weekend, Mr. Right and I rediscovered labor, without any of the front-end fun normally associated with said event. Instead of birthing babies, we endured a bloodless, though equally messy and painful process called OLDE HOME ATTIC INSULATION, PART 2. Because when you own a 250 year old house, and you are us, this is how we do do do!
We rose Saturday morning feeling hopeful. Perhaps another party had already commandeered the insulation machine from the Home Depot? Forcing us to postpone our insulation party yet another week? YES? Sadly, no. There were two machines ready and waiting. An ungodly heavy, barrel-chested monstrosity beside the bundles of insulation that screamed “Casketmaker,” and parked waaay in the back, the familiar, boxy sight of the slightly-less-heavy though still unwieldy machine we’d used before (in OLDE HOME ATTIC INSULATION, PART 1); Big Greenie. I was in equal measure both disappointed and relieved to see Big Greenie, so much so that I gave him a few pats just for keeping on keeping on.
See, as much as Big Greenie is a machine, he is also, technically, a friend. Having spent so much time at our house already. Most people, when they insulate their attic, hire a company to come do it for them. They spend their Saturday doing whatever they want to, eating food, drinking water, and breathing fresh air, while a team (read: more than two) of trained professionals conquers the task and gets paid in the process. HAHAHHAHAHAHHHHH!! (*wipes tears from eyes*) Not that we wouldn’t love for it to be so, but unless one of us perishes during a less-than-successful home improvement project, that ain’t the Dole House way! Thus, OLDE HOME ATTIC INSULATION, PARTS 1 and (now) 2! Much like pregnancy, we started this project months ago and have been in a gestating limbo ever since. I’d say we put it off solely due to financial constraints, but in truth it was for the same reason many people space their children. It’s easier when you forget the trauma of the first.
SO. We brought Big Greenie and his tub o’ tubes home w us, and we got started! Not insulating, oh no. Because FIRST we had to make space. See, here at ye Olde Dole House, attic space is at a premium. We have stuff to store up there as much as the next fairy tale couple. Things like dice costumes, a broken coffee table, old wood (yes, we have more old wood), and of course, OLD INSULATION. Because when you replace the old stuff w new, it’s got to go somewhere. And ours was in a bazillion black contractor bags a-waiting its final journey to Dumpster City, Spring 2015.
All those bags above had to be moved from the right (now clean) side, to the left. So I was a mover, while my husband was a shaker. Seriously! After we moved all those bags, we had to take up the plywood floors, and then Mr. Right had to shake-shake-shake his many cans o’ Great Stuff (such great stuff!) in order to fill in all the gaps, cracks, open holes, et cetera so that – whoops! – our insulation wouldn’t blow down into the second floor.
After that we ate lunch. Mostly bc I was hungry and the respirator was preventing me from indulging any whims such as food or water.
Here we are, finally ready to begin! My husband is giving the universal thumbs up signal, which means I better put down my phone and get working.
You can see the open floor just waiting with bated breath for its fluffy new blanket of insulation to be blown in. Trust me, there is nothing better than tucking in your beloved house this way. Spending hours on Saturday with my head in a hopper, deaf and blind to the world, left ample time to think about all sorts of things. I thought about what a wonderful machine Big Greenie is, despite the fact that we had to carry his nearly 200-pound bulk up two flights to the attic, and back down again, for a second time. (Just the two of us. Bc it’s cozier that way.)
I thought about how much our environmentally-friendly fiber insulation, GreenFiber, looks like oatmeal cookie batter when it gets broken into the machine, and how Big Greenie’s rotating blades stir it into a stuffing worthy of Build-a-Bear workshops. (But without the felt hearts.)
I thought about what an amazing man I married. How we can conquer any task set before us, because it’s what we’ve chosen. (Hard work is easier when you own it.)
Basically I let my mind wander, because when your body is taxed, that’s a wonderful thing to do. I floated above the hum of the machine, and the music in my headphones, to the spots being snowed upon below. The numbers carved into each hand-hewed beam.
I thought about the toils undertaken by the men (and surely they were men) who built this house. I thought about the lives they might have led, the labors and the deprivations they must have endured, living before electricity, before gasoline, before ease. I reminded myself that as boring and filthy and awful a task as OLD HOUSE ATTIC INSULATION PARTS 1 and 2 are, this too shall pass. One Saturday, albeit one of many, spent in hard work, making memories that will last a lifetime. All the while, rejoicing in the fact that as a modern woman, I have the ability to escape historic gender roles. Blowing insulation, feeding the hopper, wearing filthy britches. Living and loving life exactly as it is. Exhaustingly mine.
Which brings me back to labor and delivery… because after we were done (HOLLA!) I spent a lot of time thinking about the striking similarities between birth and parenting, and the joys of homeownership. They both start the same way. I mean, to find love or the perfect house, you’ve gotta do some legwork. Whether 30 seconds or 30 years, you look until you find “the one.” You eyeball the selection. You may get a walk-through. If things go your way, you get lucky. Resulting in joyful exultations behind closed doors!! In much the same way a woman’s body changes during pregnancy, you buy a place and move in. You fill it, and fill it, with all sorts of stuff, till your rubbermaid tubs runneth over. Eventually, something’s gotta give. With pregnancy, the day of reckoning is birthday, baby! In the case of home ownership, maybe a pipe’s burst. In either case, there’s no turning back. As Elvis said, TCB! Both parenting and home ownership are labors of love, involving vast sums of time, money, and patience. Neither should ever be undertaken lightly. Sometimes they end in divorce.
As for birth and attic insulation themselves, there are further similarities. Both involve:
- Abundant swearing, pushing, and sweat
- The aforementioned $$$
- Changes of clothes
- Seemingly endless blowing
- Specialized heavy equipment
- Gloves, masks and respirators, and
- So much filth you’ll feel dirty for DAYS.
Apart from the overnight hospital stay, they’re really one in the same. They both leave you warmer than when you began. Both are a gift that keeps on giving. And you’ll never want to do either again. The end.