When Life Gives You a Pile of Trash, Make Bayonets – Kveller
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When Life Gives You a Pile of Trash, Make Bayonets

I am having work done on my house. Nothing fancy, I promise. I don’t do fancy. Just your standard rotting wood issues in a 1940s house in the hills. It’s been very expensive and mildly stressful, but my contractor is actually my direct next door neighbor so that’s convenient and it’s actually gone incredibly smoothly.

Having work done on your house means random men in and around your house all the time all day. Fortunately, it’s generally been the same group of about five guys and they are all very nice and I bake for them and bring them cool drinks like I’m a 1950s housewife. I am just so in awe of people skilled with their hands, and this crew of painters and construction workers is fascinating to me. They can literally fix anything, they have matched the paneling of my house perfectly with fresh wood, the painter’s knowledge of color was like that of a classical painter; it’s really cool to see how hard they work and how much they seem to enjoy being skilled at very difficult and very rigorous work. There’s also been a heat wave here so many days they have been working in 100 degree heat!

My sons love having work done on the house because they get to see tools and people on ladders and grown men breaking things and building other things and I love that they get to see the details of this kind of work. So many kids today (did I just say that? I sound like such an old lady right now) don’t know the value of manual labor, and I like them learning about how things get fixed and seeing the hard work involved and seeing what goes on behind the scenes of every single building they have ever been in. It takes all kinds of people to make everything work in our society, I tell them. Painters and builders and doctors and mommies and daddies and teachers and such. I like them learning about this stuff by observing what it takes to make our house right again.

My older son is particularly fond of our neighbor the contractor and when we take tours of how everything is going around our house, he asks tons of questions and offers suggestions for his theories on how things are held together. It’s pretty neat because the contractor talks to him like a real grown-up person with real ideas and I love that they have these talks about cement and drywall and stuff. My younger son mainly asks how long we have to stay outside in the heat and when can he have some cold water and can I pick him up and why is there so much talk talk talking can I just go back inside. That’s the younger one for you.

Having work done on your house also means a gigantic pile of trash in your driveway. It’s grown by the day and it’s gnarly. And huge. And boys who are 5 and almost 8 love gigantic piles of trash because everything is a sword or a potential for creating and building and playing.

Last weekend, they selected some pieces of discarded lumber that they deemed the perfect size for swords. With a little time, three kinds of tape, and lots of direction from my little men, here’s what we made:

That’s right. A sword, two daggers, and a bayonet (don’t ask) for each boy. Apparently, they want me to make the entire cache of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles weaponry. Haven’t figured out exactly how to make numchuks yet, but I will. Because I’m their mama. It’s what we do.

Sure, I generally cringe at the notion of weapons as playthings and I have a lot of boundaries around how and where and when they brandish them, but I am glad that they will remember this time of their lives as one of workers making our house safe, learning to appreciate the hard work of those kind men, and the less hard but still challenging work of their imperfect mama, turning discarded lumber over and over in her hands, winding it slowly with my wounded hand; turning nothing into something.

As parents, turning nothing into something is what we do sometimes, right? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

I guess when my life gives me a gigantic pile of lumber, I make bayonets and numchucks. Anything for my boys.

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