Sore Back Happy
By John R. Greenwood
What makes you happy?
I woke up during the night to write about what I’d been mulling over the last several days. I’d taken some vacation time off to get some projects done around the house before the cold weather hit. Normally we take several days around the Columbus Day weekend to go to Cape Cod. This year my wife and I decided to take that time and money, and replace and enlarge the concrete patio between our house and garage. We put the patio in ourselves when we moved in back in the early 80’s. It was beginning to show its age. The slab was cracked and deteriorating on top. I’d resurfaced it for years and was losing the battle.
I hired a local mason to pour the new pad. To save on cost I was going to demo and remove the old one myself. He got the easy part. I broke up every inch of the old patio with a large crow bar and sledge hammer. I moved the broken slabs with a steel handcart and loaded them onto my pickup. I made several trips to a local construction refuse business and unloaded them—all by hand.
This is where the “happy” part comes in.
It’s now over a week later and the new pad has been poured. I took the last two loads of old concrete away today and although I can barely move, I’m happy as a Cape Cod clam. I woke up last night because I was content and “happy”. My sore back was a physical reminder of the American Dream. I’ve written about this sense of home-ownership before but this most recent project seemed to clarify the feeling. It was intensified when I drove up North Broadway in Saratoga the other day. I passed an endless convoy of landscape trucks and trailers. The lawns were filled with men in company logo’d shirts all doing the fall cleanup-dance of blowing, raking, and bagging leaves. I’ve never looked at having someone else maintaining my yard as being a sign of success. Having my own yard to massage with a lawnmower and rake is enough for me. I look at excess as being more of a burden than a sign of accomplishment. When I look at a sprawling estate in pristine condition I have admiration for the laborer whose blisters were responsible, not the person with the thick check book. Its possible that I’m a Powerball win away from changing my perspective but I hope not. I’ve spent a lifetime fine-tuning my DYI skills. I’m still a toddler on that scale but when it comes to appreciation for doing something with your own two hands I’m high on the list.
After a couple weeks of working on the patio replacement and fall yard work my wife and I planned out a new raised flower bed for our new backyard retreat. We decided on a stone planter that would be easy to access and maintain. With some husband and wife ping-pong we came up with a design. Rather than wait until spring we took advantage of the nice weather that was hanging around and “dug” in. This was another back-intense build that came with a high degree of satisfaction. Having a full size pickup truck with a liner is a huge benefit when tackling this type of project. Having a truck that’s a “worker” versus a “looker” makes loading it with cement, dirt, and stone more project friendly. In fact, as I write this I’m thinking I might start calling her “Dusty”.
After a spring, summer, and fall filled with a bathroom remodel, patio remodel, and yard maintenance at every space in between, you’d think I’d be looking forward to kicking back and putting my feet up but I’m not. I will return to writing and walking which makes me whole, but true happiness for me comes with a sore back and calluses.
Let me ask one more time.
What makes you happy?