June 17, 2024

I have been married to my husband for 31 years, but didn’t realize until we retiled our bathroom that I didn’t really know him. It seemed like a simple, life affirming act. Our home of 26 years had needed a new bathroom since the 1994 Northridge quake. Far be it from us to act in haste. No we let it settle… for 13 years. We let all possible manner of aftershocks subside. We gave it lots of thought and then found a neighbor who agreed to do the highly skilled stuff, like the “tiling” for a highly charitable price, before we commited to the act. Congress moves faster than my husband when it comes to appropriating funds for home improvement.

Now you have to understand, we have watched neighbors up and down the street install pools, second stories, room additions, new driveways, and all seemed to go well. We felt ready. We could do this. We were pumped. After all we were simply retiling a very small shower….not even the bathroom walls…just the shower.

Apparently, retiling a bathroom requires some “prep” work. One must remove the old tile. Okay, that seems straight forward enough. In fact it seemed like a rather cathartic operation, popping off the old tiles and clearing away the debris. We had waited 13 years, a few days of prep seemed reasonable. Well, apparently in 1958 when this tile was installed they used steel mortar. It took a sledge hammer, a miner’s pick and a number of highly colorful adjectives to actually get the tile off the shower walls. The dust and tile pieces were onerous to haul away and when you run an inexpensive home improvement process like my cheap…I mean frugal life partner does, you fill the cans of neighbors up and down the street, so you don’t actually have to pay to have someone carry tile debris off. We lived with Trader Joe bags of tile all lined up to be “hauled” away over time. No, sir, no acting in haste for us. No tile shall be sent before it’s time.

Finally, the exciting day arrived when the prep was done. We were able to go into the garage and haul out the tiles bought on sale at Lowe’s several years earlier (don’t ask….there was this wild moment when we thought we would do the tiling ourselves…before we came to our senses and realized you apparently had to “know” what you were doing to actually make it happen). So we hauled out the tile, and realized we did not have enough of the “sale” tile to do the room. So off to Lowe’s to purchase new tile. I became dizzy with excitement. But soon sobered, if you’ve seen one white cheap four-inch tile you’ve seen them all.

We bought the tile, along with thousands of little plus signs (spacers) and goopy stuff to stick the tile down with. Frank, our neighbor, was a genius. He made the four-inch white, cheap tiles look like a million bucks. Now, because Frank has a real job, and only does charity tiling at night, the actual process of tiling took a week. Then there was the process of grouting, and cleaning the grout, and then letting it all set until you “sealed” the grout. It took a couple of weeks to achieve “tiling critical mass”.

Now at this point, you are thinking…ahh, shower time…..nope…not even close. It was a ritual of epic proportion to actually choose the “shower curtain” that would match the sherbet orange paint the bathroom now enjoyed. It may surprise you to know, there just aren’t a lot of “sherbet” orange compatible shower curtains out there. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in France, 7,000 miles away from Mr. “How much does that cost?” that I was able to match the paint and achieve shower curtain parity.

Yes, Virginia, there is now a shower in actual use in my bathroom. Of course, when the earth moves at my house now, we don’t run for the doorway, we race to the bathroom and throw our bodies against the tile walls, because the last we heard from Frank as he left shaking his head and muttering that final day was something about donkeys and their ability to fly.

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