Tim and I were engaged on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1984. We planned the wedding for December 25th, Christmas Day — after all, nobody does anything after dinner that day, except lay around and digest their turkey, right? Maybe watch a football game or something? Nothing important. They could come to our wedding!
Tim lived in an apartment at Creekside, but he owned a house on Hobart Drive which he rented out. The tenant moved out of the house in the summer, and my son Paul and I went ahead and moved in.
Tim wanted to remodel part of the house, basically enclose the carport to enlarge the kitchen and living room. His cousin Harvey was a building contractor and he drew up the plans for us, promising to get started right away so the house would be finished in plenty of time for the wedding. Sure.
Harvey’s crew didn’t arrive until after Thanksgiving. Most of the construction work has thankfully faded into vagueness in my mind, but there were several very memorable events…
First, no water. The outside laundry room was dissassembled; the new laundry room would be in my new kitchen. In order to do all that, naturally the workers cut off the water. And left it cut off for days. I came home from work one day to find — no kitchen water. No bathroom water. No commode water! No workers, either. They’d all gone home. They didn’t even leave any bottled water!
We had to lug in jugs of water and eat burgers and pizza for what seemed like forever. It was only a week or so, it just seemed like forever. But we did have lights, we did have heat, and the microwave, and the refrigerator, and the television. We could rough it for a few days… I only threw a little temper tantrum.
But before the water was back on, I came home from work one day to find — no electricity. No lights. No heat. No microwave. No refrigerator. And no television! I could make do without a shower and without a microwave (remember the burgers and the pizza?) but I could not make do with NO heat, and NO television! A major temper tantrum set in this time, and I’m not sure how long it actually was, but the electricity was back on pronto. Toute suite. No time flat. You get the picture.
Of course, the crew began building a nice new outside wall where only metal posts had been in the carport, and installing a nice new raised floor, a nice new outside door, and nice new steps. At the same time, they proceeded to tear out the old living room wall. But there was no heat in the new part yet; the new heating system had yet to be installed.
Naturally, about the time they got the new wall half-way up and the old wall half-way down, the coldest cold snap of the year hit. There was only a flimsy sheet of plastic between us and the freezing temperatures outside. That part of the house couldn’t be shut off, since there were no real doors, only doorways, between it and us. We piled on coats, hats, gloves, ear muffs, extra blankets and quilts, everything we could to keep warm at night, until the workers finally got those last blessed bricks in place. Space heaters were plugged in, and we had relative comfort in the new section until the new heating system was finally installed.
What a glorious day that was, when we flipped the switch on our new thermostat. There was just one, little bitty problem… when you wanted cold air, you got hot. When you wanted hot air, you got cold. It only took a few tears to get that fixed… in the meantime, we just knew, if you wanted air conditioning, simply push the thermostat up to 80. Pretty soon it would be 60 degrees in the house.
Christmas Day was on a Tuesday. The weekend before that, the construction workers still weren’t finished. I threw them all out anyway. Most everything was done, we could manage.
Since the entire house was covered with a layer of sawdust, Tim’s family and mine all came to help clean up. They “dusted” the sawdust off the sofas, off the chairs, off the piano, off the bookshelves, off the kitchen counter and off the stove top. They vacuumed the sawdust off the carpet, off the linoleum, off the tile floors in the bathrooms and out of the bathtub. Tim’s mom had made beautiful new drapes for the living room and came over to hang them up. Of course, first we had to dust the sawdust off the windows, off the window frames and off the window sills.
We worked all day Saturday and Sunday. Finally things in the new kitchen and living room looked presentable. It had to! See, although the wedding would be down at the church, the wedding reception would be there at the house!
Now, the only place our guests could park was the front yard. Sunday afternoon I stood outside telling everyone thanks and goodbye as they left when my eye caught a little glimpse of something here and there in the flower beds and in the lawn. Nails. Roofing nails. Siding nails. Construction nails. Little nails and big ones. And carpet tacks, wedges of wood, slivers of siding, and broken blocks of brick. There were bits of shingles, fluffy fiberglass, cigarette butts, nails, and more nails. In my mind’s eye I could see flat tires everywhere on my wedding day.
I could feel a killer tantrum coming on, but there was no-one left to yell at, and no-one left to help pick all that mess up. Even my son Paul had left to spend the night elsewhere. So I did the sensible, reasonable thing. I made myself a cup of coffee, cried into the kitchen sink, and went to bed.
The next morning I gathered up a pair of work gloves and a big pasteboard box and headed back outside. I cried and flung nails. I cried and flung shingles. I cried and flung cigarette butts, and carpet tacks, and broken bricks into that box, until I had the yard clean enough. The flower beds were still littered, but they’d have to stay that way. By then I had a headache, and a sore throat, and muscle aches, and a fever.
What I had was the flu. It was Christmas Eve, the eve of my wedding, and I had the flu. I could barely talk, but with healthy helpings of Tylenol and cough syrup, I managed to get myself to the church on time Tuesday afternoon. And this was just the beginning…
The story gets sort of funnier, really. More later about reception with winter-type food (BBQ and hot apple cider) reception in the summer-type heat. It was over 80 degrees outside that Christmas day and the house was 90 degrees inside with the AC running full blast! Seems we’d neglected to vacuum out the heat pump filters and they were clogged up with sawdust.
And more later about our honeymoon in Charleston, where the hotel booked the only two occupied rooms next door to each other – and the other fellow ran his TV at full blast the whole time.
More about our “trip” tripping down the ship’s stairs into the Yorktown aircraft carrier engine room and Tim’s ambulance trip to the MUSC emergency room to get a cast put on his broken arm. (I didn’t know my left leg was fractured, the bone cracked from the knee down, until the next week when I finally had a doctor back in Florence x-ray it.) Tim and I shared his pain pills the rest of the time, as we toured the harbor, toured the old Market, and toured Old Charlestown in a horse-drawn carriage.
All that was followed by a surprise welcome-home party at the Kingstree Inn, where the most surprised folks were the guests when Tim showed up with his arm in a cast. You can imagine the joviality. It was a weird week, to say the least!