Home Depot

Tools Shed

I use a scissors to slit open the label covering the rigid plastic box. Once it’s removed, I can unfold the top. The box is grey, tough-looking, which is fitting for this Durabuilt 144-Piece Household Tool Kit.

With the kit spread open from the center, the box is exposed. It holds a wrench, pliers, scissors, screwdriver, hammer, and other tools. All packed in a  convenient carrying case.

The case has a handle, but when I lifted it off the store shelf, I found it too heavy, so I cradled in two arms and placed it in my shopping cart. My guilt felt as heavy as the tool kit.

It was just two days ago when I made this offer to my neighbor:  “I”m on a mission to clean our basement and rid it of  junk," I said to John. "Tommy has a wall full of dusty, old tools he doesn’t use. Would you be interested?”

“What do you want for them?” he asked.

“If you haul them out, along with all of the other clutter, they’re yours.”

Of course, I had asked Tommy first. “Honey,” I said, “how do you feel about giving John the tools in the basement? You’ve got enough in the kitchen cabinet for repairs. He plows our driveway in the winter; this would be a way of thanking him.”

Tommy gave me two thumbs up. That was enough to give me clearance for full speed ahead on the de-shedding.

It was a different scenario when we first moved into this house in 2000, two years after we were married. I was happy watching my new husband assemble his basement workroom. He mounted a peg board on a wall, inserted hooks, and one-by-one attached tools he had accumulated over the years.

And he continued to buy more, often calling out to me, “Home Depot” as he rushed out the door. He’d return with just the right-sized hammer, or perfect wrench, or saw, or some other needed implement.

I’d encourage him. “Honey,” I’d say, “I need a shelf for my office. Can you do that?” Any project  I could think of that would get Tommy down the stairs to gather materials would make us both happy.

The piles of wood that my husband accumulated -- and that John eventually packed into the recyclable can -- were stockpiled during Tommy’s alley trips. When we walked the dog, he’d pause at each opening, check to see if anyone had discarded wood, and if so, change our direction until he had the lumber on his shoulder. On the route home, he looked like the leader of a Christmas procession.

On the day of the removal, John shouted up to me, “Come down and let me know if there’s anything else you want out of here.”

“Want to help us?” I asked my husband. He put two thumbs down, put on his radio headphones, and left the house for his afternoon walk around the park.

In the basement with John, I waved a hand across the wall of tools and pointed to lengths of twine, rope, extension cords that were looped on a hook, to dusty containers that held casters of various sizes, to plastic bags filled with bits of unknown origin. “All out,” I said.

After John carted away the debris, and left the house, Tommy returned from his walk. He opened the basement door and started down the stairs. I followed.  At the foot of the stairs, we looked at the bare wall that once held the peg board and tools. We walked further in and saw the basement, junk-free with its remaining file boxes, golf equipment, gardening tools, and paint supplies neatly stacked on metal shelves.

Tommy's worktable was clean except for the TV, cable box, and tape player. He tried the devices; they were working properly. Before he turned to go back up the stairs, he stared at the blank wall. He made no gestures to tell me what he was thinking. No thumbs up or down. No post-it notes with written clues. He just stared.

I put a hand on his arm, and said, “Honey, when we go to Target this weekend, I’ll buy you a new tool kit. Okay?” He put two thumbs up.

So that’s what I did. Now the Durabuilt 144-Piece Household Tool Kit with "Ergonomic Grip, Wrench, Pliers, Scissors, Carrying Case, Screwdriver, and Hammer" that carries a "Lifetime Limited Manufacturer Warranty," sits open and waiting on the workshop’s table.

I have to think of a project that needs Tommy’s attention. A new peg board might be a start.

Green Thumb

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m at the breakfast table reading the newspaper when my eyes veer from the print to catch the sunlight streaming in the window. Tommy, who is asleep upstairs, has raised the blinds to make room for seedlings he placed on the sill.

I leave my chair to read the tiny sticks stuck in the dirt. There are three Tomato Super Marzanos, two Habanero Hot Peppers, one Cayenne Long Slim Hot Pepper, one Super Chili Hot Pepper, two California Wonder Bell Peppers, and one Cucumber Pickling.

It was yesterday when my husband sped through the aisles of the garden center with me, and a green-uniformed salesman, following after. “Tomatoes,” I called out behind me. “This way,” the man said, and reversed our directions until we ended up in the proper row. And so it went with the rest of the plants now on the sill.

Tommy has had a green thumb as long as I’ve known him. When we first met in 1996, he was living on the second floor of a friend’s two-flat with a back yard and a garden. But because he worked a full-time job, he never had time to till that soil, plant, or reap.

When we married in January of 1998, outdoor gardening was out, so my new husband started with indoor plant maintenance.

“These need watering,” he said as he inspected my sorry potted plants. Moving along the  dieffenbachia, schefflera, palm, and lily, he dug fingers deep into the soil and shook his head. He went to the kitchen, filled a pitcher with water, and after dousing, asked for a rag to dust leaves. My plants perked up. I was grateful to have a custodian assume a role not in my DNA.

As soon as we moved into this house, with its big yard surrounded by fencing, Tommy surveyed his land and staked out plots for a vegetable garden. When Burpee catalogs arrived in the mail, I’d hand them over. He’d grab them as if they were letters from a long-lost relative.

Every day my husband would tend his garden. I’d watch as he inspected, watered, fertilized, and pampered. “Looking good!” I’d call out. He’d turn to my voice, wave a spade, and grin, “Not too long now,” he’d say.

I’m not sure who was sunnier in those scenes. Me, witnessing my husband revel in a simple hobby long awaited? Or Tommy, blooming into a proud landowner?

When his crop yielded vegetables to rival a farmstand’s, he’d place a half dozen ripe tomatoes and several hot peppers in a plastic bag. “These are for the boys,” he’d say, referring to his golfing buddies who savored his garden’s output.

He’d stop neighbors.  “I’ve got tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes,” he’d say, looking as proud as a 4-H winner. “Want some?”

But this year, our idyll was threatened. When the seed catalogs arrived in the mail, I handed them to Tommy. Instead of snatching them, he pointed to the coffee table. I dropped them there.

Later, when I saw him stuff them, unopened, in the straw basket on the side of the couch, I asked, “Too much work?”

“Yes” was the nod. I wondered: had the lapses in his brain that ended his speech, also turned his cherished pastime into something too complex. I didn’t press him further.

Then, something changed. It started with the cemetery. “Honey,” I said, “we have to get plants for my parents’ graves.” This was our annual Mother’s Day ritual. We’d buy a few cubes of Zinnia, pack a kit with a kneeling pad, spade, water bottle, and Wet-Naps, and head out for Waldheim.

At Home Depot, instead of stopping at the few posies for the graves, Tommy placed three hanging baskets and several flats of assorted flowers in his cart. “Front porch for the baskets?” I asked him. “Back deck railings?” He nodded, “yes.” My heart lifted.

The next day I saw him heading out the door. “Where are you going?” I asked. Then, I wrote, “Walk” “Bike” on a Post-it. I waited for him to circle an answer. He shook his head, “no” at each.

He took the pad and pencil and wrote “herb” under my two guesses. I knew what he meant. A landscape nursery was only a few blocks from our house.

“The garden center!” I said. “You’re going to the garden center? Vegetables?” He nodded, “yes.”

“I’ll go with you,” I said, grabbing my sunglasses.

Soon, the plants that line the sill will be embedded in backyard soil. My green-thumbed husband will water, tend, and reap vegetables for his buddies, our neighbors, and our table. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.  

Produce would be nice, too.