HomeWork II: Plumbing

We are using the same plumbing HVAC contractor we’ve used before, but the plumber himself is not Dean, whom we’d worked with for years (who had already retired and then returned to work once.)   Josh, a long lanky plumber with a good sense of humor, Dean’s assistant if the job needed one,  left the contractor to start his own plumbing business a few years ago.  Alex (I think) is new to us but also seems cheerful and competent.

The larger bathroom at the other house (the one guests use, whether overnight or come for a meal)  has a bathtub with a ’50s style tile surround (and, inexplicably, no shower curtain rod holder inset in the tile or above the tile.  Mostly it’s not used.  Our son uses the front master bedroom and shower-only bath, and that’s enough to keep its plumbing going pretty well (almost weekly use).   The not-used fixtures got older, and older, and began to decay from the local water supply’s very limey, but also with spurts of non-limey but acidic, as the city wells began pulling up water from a deeper aquifer as the Edwards petered out; the deeper aquifer is contaminated with just enough petroleum to leak methane (one well house so badly when an unfamiliar workman walked in with a lit cigarette, it…um…kind of blew…not exactly blew up, but flamed at him, after which the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to ventilate the well-house enough to pass a state inspection.)  This combination had pretty much eaten chunks from the tub fixtures.

Also, sometimes the sink fixture leaks down into the cabinet.  Though the toilet and sink are used more often than the tub, we suspect some problem there, too.  So, with a house guest due in May, I decided it was way past time to fix all that and have it ready for her to take a bath or shower in.  And that’s what’s happening today.

To do this with the least difficulty with the old tile, it’s necessary to access the wall the plumbing is against.  In this case that’s through the small pantry closet in the kitchen.  The pantry closet has built-in shelves, which were all full, mostly of casual plastic dishes and inexpensive tableware for outdoor use, but with a few less casual (punchbowls, big oil lamp, two small teapots that were my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s) , and some food items.  Um, yeah.  Plus rolls of aluminum foil, waxed paper, clingfilm, and plastic bags.  All of which had to be emptied out, along with two brooms…this morning, because I hadn’t checked yesterday to see if it had been done.  (Why do you have two glass punchbowls, you ask?  Because I had one (then stored at our house) and then when my mother moved up here from my hometown, she brought hers.)  Since that house is better for larger-group entertaining, both ended up in that pantry closet on the top shelf.  These are not fancy-dancy cut-crystal or silverplate (or sterling) punchbowls, but molded glass with simple patterning…I think Mother’s was something she got with S&H Green Stamps back when Herb’s Grocery back home handed them out.  I don’t remember when I got mine…probably from a yard sale in Austin or San Antonio.

I’m beginning a slow process of discarding things I know M- doesn’t want.  Neither house is a good site for a garage sale (and having done one with a friend–combining our stuff–I know I do not enjoy being the vendor of things I have had for a long time unless I didn’t like them AT ALL.)    I’m thinking how to do this.   Mother had some lovely bits of china, some of which (that I like using, but she only displayed) I’ve moved to this house where I use the hand-painted plates for dessert plates.  But some pieces just don’t fit; they belonged originally to either her grandmother, her aunt, or her mother (or all three in succession…I don’t know the stories of any of them) and are floral or fruit designs that could be used for serving if you were having a big do, but I’m not doing a giant T-day dinner again and I’ve always used the cut-crystal for that.  There’s the big chocolate pot and its dainty little chocolate cups and saucers, decorated with swans and lilies…looks lovely as a centerpiece and you can make hot chocolate in it if you have a chocolate stirrer, but it’s finicky to wash, and when I make hot chocolate I drink a big mug full, not a little bitty cup full.  But I love looking at the shapes and the swans and the lilies.  Unfortunately not hand-painted, but an appliqued design (with a magnifying glass you can see the tiny dots rather than brush strokes.   The two small teapots (one cup size) have a story attached that I do know.  When my grandfather had to sell “the big house” he’d built for his first wife in the 1920s after his second wife died of cancer (big medical bills, even in the post-WWII late ’40s) he gave a lot away, and more disappeared when friends of his wife showed up and just took things, sometimes claiming “too keep them from being sold” with a semi-promise to return them to the family.  Those little teapots were in that group.  So were some of the books in the library.  The lady who took them “kept them safe” (while saying she didn’t have them, even though Mother knew she’d taken them) and then gave them to me as a wedding gift, NOT to my mother.

Interesting times.  Do I need two big oil lamps?  Probably not, though Mother and I both used them, one big and one small in each house during electrical outages.  When I was a child, we had oil lamps in the house for use during hurricane and other power outages, and kerosene lanterns for outdoor use including camping at the beach.  Lots of people still did.  I remember learning to clean the glass chimneys and adjust the wicks.  We also use candles, which the emergency stuff now tells you not to use.  Our house had a small fireplace and otherwise gas space heaters (a window near each one was kept open a couple of inches to prevent CO buildup) and I learned early rules for safe use of candles.  You can cook on a gas space heater if you’ve got the gas pressure, at least heating up a can of soup or enough hot water for coffee or tea.   And of course even a small fireplace with a very small hearth can cook food, though it’ll be messy (a change in wind direction can blow ash into an uncovered pot or pan.)  I miss having a fireplace of space heaters that provide that local warmth.  (I also learned to cook outdoors on a fire no bigger than a spread hand…both because fuel was mostly twigs and dry grass in the S. TX plains, and because wildfire was a constant danger.  We’d go out and cook breakfast over these tiny fires in a shallow hollow of sand; the frying pan on its folding grill covered the fire and a bucket of water was always handy.)

Oh, well, time for another check of progress on the plumbing front.

7 thoughts on “HomeWork II: Plumbing

  1. One wonders at the stories of items that have been around for awhile. Sorting stuff out and deciding disposition is never easy. Hopefully the plumbing repairs will be wonderful for you. I love the insights of how you used some of the items in the past.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, and belated Happy Easter. Did you happen to see that photo of Queen Elizabeth II posing with her two beautiful grey(white) Fell ponies for her 96th birthday? CJ Cherryh just posted a version of it, via ABC News, to her Facebook page, along with some interesting comments from her readers. https://abcn.ws/3vuq77a

  3. Hi Elizabeth, and belated Happy Easter. Did you happen to see that photo of Queen Elizabeth II posing with her two beautiful grey(white) Fell ponies for her 96th birthday? CJ Cherryh just posted a version of it, via ABC News, to her Facebook page, along with some interesting comments from her readers. https://abcn.ws/3vuq77a

      1. I didn’t know Fell Ponies were ever grey and could turn white…they’re *beautiful* (but what a lot of horse-cleaning to make them photo-ready!!!) I’d seen the black ones she rode, but these are perfect “magical pony” ponies.

  4. Oh, Elizabeth it helps so much to know that someone else has things from mother and grandmother. I don’t have children and live a long way from any family members so trying to decide what to do with stuff that dates back to early 1900’s is tough.

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