Exciting times once laid ahead on our spring calendar. 1989 had called and wanted its Master Bath back! Tony’s Honey-Do list was ablaze with high-priority home improvements ahead of our Spring dinner party for 14!  Shortly thereafter Anna Grace would arrive in Knoxville for the summer, we hoped just long enough to take drivers training before flitting off to an exciting summer internship at JPL or the Smithsonian!

Now, we are three self-quarantinees. 

Back to the calendar. I had refrained from sharing snaps of the Master Bath when we purchased the house, for good reason. Have a look-see for yourself. It is a Pure Pastel Plague, complete with the depressing dark corner in which to conduct one’s business (behind the wall!) All that was missing was the shag carpet.

T-1 day before bathroom demo the Contractor called. (He is part of a local father-son (and for plumbing, a brother) team that had come highly recommended by our neighbors. Yay, local!) His wife had received news she was being deployed for the summer. As a family they now would not be able to take a summer holiday, so Contractor asked if he could take off Week 2 of the project to go camping with his family, as it was the school spring break. Of course we wholeheartedly supported the request.

On Monday of Week 1 the Contractor arrived; By the end of the first day I could feel the ghosts of Jacuzzi’s past leaving the house.

Believe it or not the room had actually been more hideous. On a piece of drywall from behind the toilet we spied FLORAL. WALLPAPER.

Like magic, within two days the bathroom was already 100% improved!

The glorious sight of the Habitat for Humanity team carting off those bathroom cabinets, to be up cycled into something equally glorious.

Throughout Week 1 I tried to filter out not only the albeit sweet sounds of demolition but also the doomsday rhetoric and the partisan mud-slinging on the Internet in the hopes of learning real information about the Coronavirus, and had a mad crazy thought that if somehow our national security people could take out media for a couple of weeks we would all be just fine.

I better utilized my time instead hashing out our personal survival lists, and began purchasing essential pantry items each day after the Contractor departed in order to prepare to “socially distance” ourselves. We weathered (see what I did there?)  “Superstorm ’93;” the Blizzard of ’96; “Ice Storm ’99;” the “Snowpocalypse of 2009;” and “Snowmaggedon of 2010” in the land of Type A’s, so I know a thing or two about getting ahead of Hamsterkaufen. 

“Sedentary” and “Home Body” are not words friends would use to describe us.  A colleague once joked that our home was really just a “well appointed luggage storeroom.” We can think of few things worse than binge-watching television, too; so I also needed to prepare ourselves mentally for a prolonged shelter-in-place. Luckily enough, in our storage were literal thousands of family photos that we had inherited. I had been counting on another Snowmaggedon once back in the U.S. as the excuse I needed to finally organize and properly album our histories. Obviously that did not happen, and neither did the photos self-organize like I also fantasized. Yet, something told me I should procure the kinds of supplies to work on a project of this magnitude, as I just might find myself with time on my hands.

On Friday of Week 1 the President declared a National Emergency.

Moving along. In storage for seven years was our television armoire, a piece we had custom designed for our great room. On this first weekend of Social Distancing I asked Tony if he could replace the back and add shelves so that I would have a place to store all of the photo supplies to tackle the boxes of photos in those bins visible on the left.

True craftsmanship. And awful carpet, too. But let’s not look at that.

Now I needed a workspace upon which to gently tease 1970s photos from their adhesive-backed album pages (pro tip: waxed dental floss works superbly!). I also happened upon a store selling reclaimed barn wood that had been kiln-dried (to remove insects), and so brought a pile home and sweetly asked Tony if he might build me a project table.

Voila! Walnut and Cedar and Oaks, so lovely!

The “Bonus Room” (a very 1990’s thing) in our home has needed some love and attention. Most of the house needs love, we’re coming to learn. I don’t think the previous owners really loved the house, as future before-and-after posts will attest.

A rough capture of the alcove of the Bonus Room. It’s a perfect fit for the revamped armoire and my work table. With the new vegan-leather Parsons chair that arrives this week it will be the ideal workspace at which to organize photos.

Meanwhile…across the pond, Trinity College Dublin had moved to online learning (through the end of March), encouraging “those students who could go home” to do so. Anna Grace’s two Irish flatmates departed, as did another flatmate from Japan. Just Anna Grace and her roommate remained. With 75% of the student apartment building empty, it seemed wiser to stay put than to transit through three airports to reach home. Plus, there would then be the question of returning to Ireland once in-person classes resumed.

On Sunday of Week 1 Anna messaged that she and Roommate (also of Eastern European descent) were preparing a batch of ultimate comfort food, pierogies. That’s my girl.

On Monday afternoon (our time) Anna Grace rang. Trinity College was closing, and all remaining students had to vacate within 48 hours. Compounding matters was that the following day was not just an Irish bank holiday, but St. Patrick’s Day. Nothing was open; and there were no places for the girls to find boxes in which to pack.

My AmEx figuratively caught fire as I hurriedly changed Anna Grace’s May return flight to Thursday. AerLingus may have proudly announced they were “not charging change fees,” but they sure as hell were charging, “airfare price difference fees.” AerLingus sucks, but this is known.

Though there was plenty of time on paper for Anna Grace to catch a connection here to our little hamlet upon her arrival, we erred on the side of caution because of the much-hyped airport medical screenings for passengers coming from the EU zone and reserved her a hotel room. Of course, an AmEx blaze and a paperwork back-and-forth with the Dulles Airport Marriott ensued to secure an overnight for Anna Grace because she is 18 and not considered an “Adult” in America.  Sometimes, America, you suck, too.

Anna Grace landed at Dulles without problem, just 70 people on the “Repatriation Flight” as the Captain dubbed it. As for that medical screening? Ha. Her temperature was not taken; and she was just given a “pamphlet to read.” Waste of paper. And a waste of time and our resources, as she could have connected for a flight to Knoxville that evening. Instead, she decamped to the hotel for a hot shower and room service.

Our house as stocked as possible with provisions, Anna Grace arrived.

Week 2, and the first of our CDC-recommended 14-day self-quarantine had begun…