Who Says Bigger Is Better?

Our house was not large enough for both of us. We had run out of storage areas. Closets were overflowing. Shelves were buckling from excessive weight placed on them. Halls and stairways were cluttered, and space under couches and beds no longer existed.

When Mighty Marc moved in with his worldly possessions, storage space in my home had already been assigned, not only to my belongings, but to everything left to me by my deceased parents and brother. I didn't have a single drawer to offer him. They were all filled to capacity with treasured items such as waist cinchers, neckerchiefs and dickies left over from high school days because one day, I'll fit back into those 22-inch belts, and some day, beaver fur collars with furry ball ties will return to the fashion world and I'll be ready.

We decided to look for a house with trees and a pool, like we already have, but larger and with more closets and no stairs. My arthritis makes stair climbing increasingly difficult and we have to prepare for the future. We found several lovely places but when we figured out what expenses would be, we realized we'd never be able to afford to do anything more than sit in the house and stare out the window.

We opted to expand.

After nearly two years of discussion, drawing architectural plans and dealing with town bureaucracy, construction -- or should I say destruction -- began on our home.

An army of men descended upon us, each in his own vehicle, so most of this first week was spent directing traffic toward a goal of getting out of my driveway.

"If you move that forklift over here and the tractor over there, and Jose drives the bulldozer onto our neighbor's lawn, John can squeeze his pickup truck into that spot between those two boulders he just unearthed. Marc, you can drive your SUV onto the front porch so Javier can park his van over there, on our newly-seeded lawn. That should leave enough room for me to back out onto the street and barely escape getting rear-ended by oncoming traffic."

We couldn't decide how to resolve the stair problem; should we put in an elevator or a chair lift? An elevator would have worked best in the speed department, but required spending a chunk of money and using a chunk of space in one of the rooms. Stair lifts are more space-friendly, but they don't travel nearly as fast as elevators, so I would be spending the better part of my remaining years staring at stairwell walls. We went with the chair lift and hung pieces of Marc's artwork up and down stairwell walls to make trips more pleasant.

Although architectural drawings were completed and sanctioned and work had already begun, every day brought fresh ideas to my over-active, mercurial mind -- most of which included moving more walls, adding windows and, generally, ignoring permit-approved drawings. Mighty Marc smiled through it all and explained to the contractor, "My wife had another dream last night. This one includes lifting the roof and sliding it over about eight feet. I hope that won't inconvenience you. Her job is to be creative; mine is to keep her happy. But, you'll see, when the job is finished you'll want to take pictures."

My husband was no dummy. He knew how to appease me during those critical times, to preserve his own sanity. He knew how cranky I got when I had to enter and exit my house through windows. He understood why I went berserk when a construction worker on a scaffold smiled at me through my second floor bathroom window. He hugged my quaking body after I endured eight hours of jack hammering. And, he gently restrained me when I explained my need to hurt someone each time I pulled carpenter's nails out of my car's tires.

I have no doubt that the contractor looked forward to completing this project. His before and after pictures were not likely to be of our house, but of the transformed woman living in the house. Her disrupted routine, nocturnal visions and non-stop decisions changed her from perky and cheerful to jerky and tearful.