Tuesday, April 10, 1984
At the playground my son meets another boy his age. Immediately, they hit it off. I chat with Jennie, the boy's mother. As any parent knows, your social network is formed by your children. Jennie, it turns out, lives just down the street from me.
We visit Jennie's house so the boys can continue their play. Jennie and her husband live in a shell - a house frame with a relatively complete exterior. Inside, they've been camping out for several years, completing rooms as time allows. Just like my wife and me.
Camping in an unfinished house, you learn your priorities. First, running water. A toilet, a sink. At least one functioning electric outlet. Each little improvement is a quantum leap in comfort. Then heat. What luxury! Some kind of stove. Then hot water! A bathtub or shower. Life is good.
Privacy came just about last. Neither Jennie nor I had given much thought to it, but talking together we realize that in a close family, you can live a long time with stud walls. Eventually, you put up drywall. Even then, with young children there's little that's private, not even your bed.
Jennie says, "We didn't put doors on our bathrooms for about three years." She laughs. "Then my mother came to visit, so we finally got around to it."
"Same here!" I say with surprise. I'd never thought about it. "Except it was my father-in-law."
It seems odd, looking back. Maybe it was a generational/counterculture thing. We may have hung a blanket over the doorway from time to time to accommodate guests. But for the in-laws, by golly, you need a door.
Once you have a roof to keep the rain off your head and walls to keep the coyotes from wandering through, what are your priorities? Here were ours:
2. Toilet and sink.
4. Heat. (In a colder climate, heat would rank higher.)
6. Hot water.
Then came insulation, permanent lights, a kitchen sink, drywall, a comfortable chair, a shoe caddy, a shelf for toy trains and little stuffie bears. And finally, for Jennie's family and mine:
100. Bathroom door.