I have now owned a house for nearly 25 years. It has been a love-hate relationship at every step. It is old, built in 1880, and big. It is listed at 1700 square feet, but we added a 400 foot addition. It has a full basement, four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and the half-finished attic office that I now sit in.
I don’t say this to brag. I know that I am fortunate to have a roof over my head, and I feel blessed to have been able to raise my boys in a nice home in a nice small city outside of Boston. If things go well, my wife and I can retire here or sell the house, buy something smaller, and use some of the gain to help with our retirement.
No, I say this because every inch of this house is a blessing and a curse to me. Whenever something goes awry–and things always go awry–the house reminds me of all the things I am not good at. I don’t do plumbing or electric or carpentry. I don’t fix things. I don’t know how to troubleshoot pretty much anything except electronics.
It’s worse, really. I don’t know the right tool to use in nearly every situation. I don’t think before I do things so of course I screw up or make it worse. I invariably start whining. It’s pathetic, really.
So I stick to what I am good at. I like doing laundry. I like cleaning the kitchen. I like organizing things when I have time and patience. I am good at getting the yard ready for the seasons. For some reason I especially like putting things away in the fall. There is an order to the world when the yard is free of furniture and garden fencing and hoses. I like sweeping out the shed and leaving it neat, the tools in their place, the garden supplies on their shelves.
Today I got the snowblower out. First I emptied the shed of as many things as I could, lined them up outside, then swept the shed. It took me less than an hour, but when I was done everything was back in the shed and organized. That left me with the snowblower sitting on the driveway behind the house.
It is a nice machine, a hand-me-down Ariens 24 from my brother. If I bought it new today, it would be about $900. My brother even had it serviced before he gave it to me before the winter of 2014-2015, when we broke the record for most snow in a season (and that same article tells me that six of the ten worst snowfall seasons have happened since I bought this house).
I checked the oil, filled the gas, lubricated the auger. I opened the choke, primed the engine, pulled the starter.
I pulled it again.
This is where the snowblowers of the world defeat me. This is where the snowblowers of the world not only ruin the day but threaten to ruin the week, the month, the season. This is where the snowblowers of the world remind me, for the thousandth time why I should have never bought a house.
I have learned, finally, after nearly 25 years of owning a house and 27 years of marriage, to exercise at least a little patience in such moments. So I tried a few more times, double-checked everything, tried again.
I sat on my back stairs, Googled the model number, hoping to find the documentation so I wouldn’t have to rummage around inside (and likely not find it and likely get pissed off). I didn’t find the documentation right away but I found a video instead, “Ariens ST724 Snowblower Cold Start.”
My prayers were answered, but it was quite humbling. It turns out this snowblower has an electric start. I vaguely remember asking my brother about it, but I can’t remember what he said, so I hadn’t spent any time on it. It turns out that it works. You plug an extension cord into it. prime the engine, open the choke, and the freaking thing starts up.
As my friend Jake F. likes to joke, “The farm’s been saved!”
And my family has been saved from some of my whining.