Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where a man can shed his anxieties

Listen to my wife, Elena, and you’ll come to think it has a flat-screen TV, the latest digital-surround sound, a satellite dish, reclining leather chair, and a temperature-controlled wine fridge. Plus the requisite fold-out table to put the pizza box. I hear my beloved myself whenever I grab the little key and mutter something indecipherable about yard work. Invariably comes the grin, followed by the comment. “Ohhhh,” my darling chimes in, “you’re going there.”

Some guys buy red sports cars when they hit their mid-life crises. Me? I put up a shed.

If the shed’s construction was my mid-life crisis, I have a funny way of choosing one—it probably took five years off my life. I couldn’t even have predicted the very idea of needing a shed, having spent the first two-thirds of my life in an apartment. There, I needed only a little shovel for when the plows pushed snow up against the parked car on three sides. Lawn gear? Snowblowers? Those contraptions were what those people needed to take care of the grounds. In fact, snowblowers seemed specially designed to pile up snow against parked cars on the fourth side.

During the many years we looked for a house, I understood that those people would someday be rolled efficiently into one person: myself. Still, I never thought I’d need so much equipment to take care of the property that it couldn’t all fit in the garage along with the car. All that changed two winters ago, when the little snowblower gave up the ghost after years of being grossly outmatched. The new, beefier one indeed would also fit snugly in the garage. As soon as I finished sawing the trunk off the car.

“Hey, Andrew,” I said to my son, “let’s put up a shed!” Both of us were game for the idea; there’s something exceptional about a father and son sweating like pigs together in the summer sun. Besides our smell, I mean. For an eight-by-ten-foot shed, we needed to clear a space at least a foot wider all around. Which meant removing several hundred pounds of hill, along with a mélange of stubborn roots from nearby trees. It was slow, tedious work, and eventually reason made an appearance. “Hey, Andrew,” I said. “Let’s finish clearing the site—and let someone else put it up.”

As it turned out, the most labor-intensive part of putting up a shed is everything that comes before the actual shed itself. You won’t understand until a pickup truck comes to deliver a couple of cubic yards of gravel and crushed rock you ordered, and dumps little mountains in your driveway before driving off. Forty wheelbarrow trips later, Andrew and I spread out the stone to form the shed’s foundation. And as we finished, a heavy rain came. The two of us sat for a while on our little wooden bench, drenched, and shivered as the cool rain ran down our backs. If I’d ever regretted taking on this onerous task, I’d have changed my mind as we sat together, relishing our success.

I consider the shed a win-win on several fronts. Because I can get at the mower and other lawn gear more readily, the property theoretically looks better—except for grass-scorching droughts like the one we just suffered. The site prep kept my physical therapist busy for several months. And now we can get in and out of the car while it’s in the garage. Not that I want to drive places anymore, though: I have a shed.

The one we had delivered and installed has a little window with a planter beneath, which made it good for Elena, too. My sweetheart, after all, needed something nice to look at as she peers out the back window…and wonders what I’m doing out there this time.

With such troubling news lately, I know I’d better enjoy the new addition while I can. Any day now, I expect to come home one day and go to the shed to find the lock broken and all the outdoor gear piled up in the pachysandra. I’ll open the door; a shaft of afternoon sun will reveal several puzzled faces. “Cierra la puerta,” I’ll hear a woman whisper. “The baby is sleeping.”


  1. Ed, I'm always looking for a little weekend place--I'm quiet and tidy.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anne. I'm sure there's room for one more next to the gas cans!