Most years, My Lovely Wife delivers her annual holiday shopping edict soon after Thanksgiving. The directive includes, among other things, an inventory of gifts she’s already purchased along with a roster of grandnieces and nephews (ages noted) listing whatever it was we gave them the year before. It’s on this occasion that she usually tells me what to buy for her (I get to choose the wrapping) while trying her best to pry some gift request from me.
So I was pleasantly surprised earlier this month to learn that this year’s campaign would focus primarily on our offspring and their partners — and, of course, our grandson. I needn’t worry about picking up MLW’s present from the designated neighborhood retailer, nor would I have to come up with something I really needed. We’d still do a little shopping, but I anticipated a quiet season ahead.
MLW’s decision made sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which involved the aging of grandnephews and nieces. What do you buy for a college sophomore you haven’t seen since he was in grade school? There’s also the matter of the kitchen remodel.
We’ve spent much of the past six months in the throes of what we assumed would be a modest kitchen upgrade. (I know, you’re laughing with us, not at us.) A vital portion of this project involved surrounding our stove with a custom-made cupboard-and-countertop assemblage. This was rather more complicated than we’d imagined, owing to the peculiar dimensions of our 9-year-old range. Because it features an aesthetically pleasing rounded console that juts out several millimeters beyond the rest of the stove, we needed to allow enough space to let us scoot it back into place once the new countertop to its left — and new tile on the wall to its right — were installed.
MLW measured and remeasured and measured again before ordering the countertop, which needed to be an inch or so narrower at its rear than at its front to accommodate the console. It fit perfectly, leaving what we calculated to be precisely the amount of space necessary to accommodate both the range and the new tile. When the tiler finished his work just before Thanksgiving, however, we all eyed the space a bit less confidently. “Don’t try moving the stove back until the tile has set,” he warned. “Let it sit overnight at least.”
Much against her nature, MLW suggested that I might have to smash in the right side of the console with a hammer to create the necessary leeway. This antidote somehow offended my aesthetic sensibilities. Besides, the metal console seemed fairly immune to such modifications. She began searching online for a new stove.
“Merry Christmas,” I said.
I am not a patient man when faced with home-improvement uncertainties, but I left the stove sitting askew on the kitchen floor when I retired that evening, my mind wandering among various heroic scenarios. I rose well before MLW and, maneuvering the appliance toward its former position, confirmed our worst suspicions. We had calculated the width of the tile but not the adhesive that bound it to the wall. There was plenty of room against the back wall, but not enough at the front of the niche. There was no way to slide it into place.
When MLW strolled into the kitchen later that morning, I was brewing my tea and the stove looked like it had never left its home. “It fit perfectly,” I announced. “I just removed the console, slid the stove into place, and reattached the console.”
This was bending the truth just slightly. I had indeed forced the offending console from its moorings at the top of the range, but in doing so I had failed to detach a single stubborn screw from the bottom left corner of the appendage. I had simply bent it over far enough to slide the range back into the niche, then — with some effort — secured it back into place.
She surveyed the situation with what seemed to me to be some level of satisfaction until her eyes fell on a small gap between the countertop and the edge of a narrow shelf attached to the wall behind the stove. We had requested that the carpenter extend the edge of the shelf downward to meet the countertop, thus blocking items from falling behind the range. I had noticed earlier that it descended about 3 inches short of the mark, but figured it was no big deal. We were so close to the finish line, I was ready to put up with some imperfections.
This is not how MLW rolls. She called the contractor, and three weeks later the carpenter arrived to finish the job. To do so, of course, he would have to pull the stove out of its happy nesting place, which meant he would have to carefully remove the console and replace it once the range was back in place. This was a bit worrisome; I wouldn’t be at home to supervise.
I returned from the office that evening to find the stove back in its niche and the gap by the countertop artfully filled. Looking more closely, however, I noticed that the console wasn’t positioned quite properly; that stubborn screw had limited its mobility. I removed the console, roughed it up enough to dislodge the screw, and slapped it back where it belonged.
This would’ve been a happy conclusion to a fraught situation had my maneuverings not severed some mysterious connection between the console and its digital brain. I punched the button to fire up the oven — nothing. Kitchen timer — nothing.
Thankfully, MLW was not at home at the time, so I could work up an appropriate level of contrition when announcing the bad news. True to form, however, she simply leapt into action. The next day, she picked up a toaster oven at Target (“Merry Christmas”) and the following weekend, we headed to a local appliance dealer and bought each other a brand new stove. No wrapping required.