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Coffee with Mimi: Where does the time go?

By MIMI BECKER

Contributing columnist

I have a list of projects. Many items on the list have taken up space for a long time. Some are more in the category of “wouldn’t it be great if…” Other items are moved to the top of the list out of necessity as the home we bought almost 30 years ago has aged at about the same rate I have. If you take your eye off the ball, conditions get out of hand. If the task isn’t considered a priority soon there will be more at issue.

Again, the issue of time and the speed at which it marches on enters the picture.

Several years ago, our front porch fell apart. I never really liked the design in the first place. A porch should have space for homeowners to sit in rockers and visit with neighbors, or children and grandchildren. This porch was no more than steps from the driveway to the front door. It was more like a stoop.   

While I didn’t care for the design, at least it was useful in providing an entry into the house. The actual failure of the porch occurred in the dead of winter, making it impossible to repair until snow melted and the foundation damage could be adequately assessed.

The damage was irreparable. The porch had been constructed of concrete formed on packed dirt over 80 years before. We would have to start from scratch. I was thrilled. I wrangled a design which spanned nearly the entire width of the front of the house with a step down to another level and then down to the drive.

There would be more than enough room for two seating groupings and the firewood rack. A builder was secured and the project took shape. I had visions of plantings filling in across the base giving the appearance of a terrace floating above greenery and flowers. I didn’t want a railing to obscure this effect. But, people could scoot the furniture off the edge. The problem was solved with a clever, nearly invisible low rail all across. My dream was complete.

Time passed. Wood, being a porous substance, can and will definitely need repairs when exposed to the elements over a period of time. This spring a few boards just gave up. I got ready for a true overhaul by removing the overgrown shrubbery at the base. The original builder was no longer in the business, but our son has grown up and acquired a few very useful skills.  And power tools, and a big truck to haul stuff.

The problem with children who have grown up and acquired a few experiences, and tools, is  they also have opinions — in this case, about my front porch. If you leave a grown-up son and a husband alone with a project, in a large home improvement store, things start to happen.

Apparently, I want a porch railing after all.

Replacing the damaged boards was a job for one afternoon and was completed nicely. The railing would require much, much more time, experimentation, wrangling and hauling.

The design was negotiated and materials acquired. The plan was estimated to require a weekend of construction which conveniently coincided with a free work schedule just two weeks away. I can live with that. In anticipation of the completed feature, I repaired and painted the porch furniture. The weather was cooperative so I arranged the refurbished furniture on the porch, added some accent pillows and other details and enjoyed the repaired space while contemplating the future railing. It really would be like a room, with just enough privacy while allowing pleasant airflow.

The appointed construction weekend arrived, as did the rain. In between the downpours and a tornado watch, the posts and railings were constructed. Nothing is ever as simple in reality as the plan in your head.

The design called for the spindles to be set at three inches, rather than the usual four. Four inches is necessary to keep small children from escaping. Our dog is smaller. The dog requirements significantly increased the amount of time needed to set and secure the spindles.  Our son measured and attached eight of the needed 120 spindles, packed up his truck and went home.

He didn’t leave us uninformed. We have measuring blocks, the nail gun and the air compressor.  Since the incomplete railing is quite visible to the public, as well as a daily reminder when we drive in and out ourselves, we made a schedule. We will complete at least one section each day, consecutively. There are five sections, that should be five days. I will be sitting on my redesigned front porch by the weekend.

So far, we are a few spindles ahead of the plan. That’s good because we are going to lose a day due to a spontaneous get together.

Time flies. We can fight it or go with it. As long as we don’t waste it.

We could stick to the spindle schedule. But, there are many worthy uses of our time. Not the least of which is being flexible enough to enjoy all of it before it is gone.