wife. mother. teacher. recovering scaredy cat
She sat there at my kitchen counter like she had done a hundred times before. But this time was different. Her eyes were scanning the walls, floor, and ceiling as she pretended to listen to whatever it was I was rambling about.
“I say we redo your kitchen after Casey deploys,” she interrupted when I paused mid conversation. “We can surprise him when he comes home.”
My best friend, Kelly grew up with a father who is a master craftsman. As a result, she loves to rip out walls and is not intimidated by power tools. I, on the other hand, was feeling intimidated about everything in life at the time.
It was early December and the kids and I were preparing for my husband’s deployment in January. He was leaving a few days after the new year and I could barely breathe at the thought of it.
I stood there for a minute, not sure how to respond to her suggestion. She pitched a few ideas and being the wonderful friend that I am, I told her that I thought a kitchen renovation in the midst of working and having a husband gone sounded like just the thing I needed. She agreed and told me to start checking out Pintrest to get some remodeling ideas. I pinned a few of my favorites and wondered what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.
My husband was gone by the first week of January and Kelly was itching to get started. I had given her some ideas about my “vision” for the kitchen before he left and by the second week, she was rolling a fresh coat of white on the top of my ceiling. I baked cookies while she painted and we talked about nothing and everything the entire time. I remember being so thankful to have the company, but I also remember feeling so badly that she was at my house when she had a million other things she should be doing. I felt guilty, like I didn’t deserve her kindness.
You might be asking why I would feel that way. Isn’t this what friends are for?
Sure it is, but back then, I really struggled with feeling like I was a burden to other people. I had difficulty asking for help and heaped undo amounts of pressure on myself by trying to do everything on my own. I was self-reliant and never wanted to inconvenience anyone.
My sweet bestie knew that about me. She knew that no matter how close we were, there was no way I was going to let her help me. She was well aware that my plan was to hunker down during the cold winter months and do things on my own. But she wasn’t going to let that happen. So, when she sat in my kitchen weeks before and offered up a renovation, it wasn’t entirely because she was up for a DIY episode (although she could totally have her own show.) She knew that she had to find an excuse to come over and check in on me. And what better way to force your way into someone’s home than to offer up a makeover?
Looking back, that part of the story really makes me sad. It breaks my heart that she knew that I wouldn’t call her and ask for help when I needed it. It also makes me so thankful that she stuck with me despite my prideful, hard headed ways.
Another week passed and we began to paint the walls. I still remember the words she proclaimed as she pushed past me when I opened the door….
“We’re just going to enjoy the journey,” she announced, surveying the gallons of paint I had purchased.
I put on a smile and tried to believe that was true. I wasn’t really a journey type of gal. I was more about the checklist.
….. do it all by myself until he returns-double check
But there I was, watching her pry off a lid to one of the heavy cans. This was really happening. Kelly was breaking in and there was no going back.
I picked a beautiful robin’s egg blue and we smothered the walls with it. With every stroke of paint, I repeated the mantra through gritted teeth…”Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the journey.”
By the end of January we were ripping out floors. Kelly’s husband joined in to help with the heavy lifting. Two layers of linoleum and subfloor began to loosen their grip as the three of us pulled out nails and hacked away at it piece by piece. We spent the first part of February cutting wooden planks and piecing them together across my floor.
That month also brought heavy snow and with it, more opportunities to work inside. There’s something magical that happens when your entire town shuts down due to winter weather. One morning, Kelly showed up with a stock pot and grocery bags in hand.
“Let's make chicken soup and work today,” she declared.
And work we did. We pounded and cut and drilled and sanded. And with every new task accomplished, I felt more loved and more important than anyone in the world.
We spent the final few weeks ordering pizza, putting up backsplash and refinishing some of the kitchen furniture. We wrapped up by March and my kitchen looked so beautifully different.
So did my heart.
Kelly had been completely devoted to that project and me for three months straight and I was not the same because of it.
Her friendship that winter not only made my kitchen a more glorious living space, but also showed me what it was like to be loved without having to give anything in return. Every minute that she was at my house of that relentlessly cold season was a sacrifice. It was a gift of incredible support in one of my greatest times of need.
These days, we sit in my kitchen and have an occasional laugh about the stress of that renovation. I wasn’t exactly the most patient remodeler. I'm not sure if we'll take on another project together, but we both agree that if our friendship survived that season of repair, it can survive anything. Oh, and my husband? He came home safe and sound and absolutely loves the kitchen.