When my grandchildren ask me about the 2020 pandemic, I'll tell them I made tough calls. Choices that would have me scratching my head and querying friends' opinions.
Ever since level 3, I've been considering options.
Laminate or engineered stone?
Turf or pavers?
Thirty-three ounce-weight carpet, or 55oz?
Then there's 50 shades (plus another 6234) of white.
Does anyone need this many non-colours from which to choose?
During lockdown, we've had too much time staring at the same four walls. Extra hours to notice gouges, pen marks, peeling wallpaper, threadbare carpet and so much more ... The kitchen, scene of a dozen trips per day between the worksite and the snack bar, got extra scrutiny.
Mine is beige with rimu trim - a functional ugly duckling born during the time of jelly shoes, feathered fringe and overalls. Beige was apparently huge in the 90s, at least for Pāpāmoa kitchens.
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We moved into our new old house a week and-a-half before lockdown. Like so many of our neighbours, we stocked up on DIY supplies the day before the world stopped. I started staining my fence during one bright, sunny quarantine day. Across the street at night, I could see the silhouette of a man on a ladder, rolling paint onto interior walls.
My teenagers and I have bonded during projects. We stripped wallpaper in mid-March, whirring with productivity and anticipation. We relished sounds of tearing and marvelled at how satisfying ripping thick paper can be. We fantasised about smooth, white walls without seams or cracks.
Then everything shut down.
Unprepared and uneducated in the art of priming and sanding, we stared at bare Gib more than four weeks before New Zealand re-opened. Days later, our painter arrived. An imaginary angel choir sang as he carried primer, rollers and paint into the lounge. Maybe I had succumbed to fumes but I was deliriously happy to be free of cardboard-coloured walls.
Then there are the floors. Though carpeted, ours are so hard underfoot, you can bounce a basketball and watch it travel to head-height with ease. New flooring's on the list, too.
Hang on. Who renovates during a global pandemic?
If contractors I've spoken with are any indication, plenty of us are making over our homes during uncertain times. One consultant told me a couple's new kitchen was replacing an annual trip to visit grandchildren overseas.
"The kitchen wasn't a priority when they could travel to see family," she said. "They figured they may as well renovate if they're not going to be flying abroad."
Another contractor said not a single client who was booked pre-lockdown had cancelled his services.
We got familiar - maybe too familiar - with home during isolation. Minor annoyances pre-pandemic became eyesores after seven weeks of home confinement. And that's if you're fortunate enough to own a home. Whether we're renters or owners, we want to make our castles as refined and comfortable as possible, knowing the next deadly scourge could send us back to our sofas.
Funding these luxuries is like rolling dice. Experts predict a drop in home values following economic effects of lockdown and lingering losses due to closed borders. The fact much of the world is still hanging at home buying less stuff than they used to doesn't help the Kiwi economy, either.
I'm fortunate to still be employed, so my half-full glass is topped up by a regular pay cheque Others in our community aren't so lucky - the pandemic cost them their livelihoods. They're job hunting while applying for the next round of wage subsidies. Some are visiting the foodbank for the first time. They're struggling to pay rent, let alone buy furniture or choose new tapware for the kitchen sink.
That's where the still-employed can pick up the spending slack.
Like any consumer happy to part with her money for perceived gain, I rationalise my spending. I'm helping support a flock of local tradespeople and business owners. Plus, I have a focus beyond panic-scrolling social media, reading the latest Covid-19 stories. There are quotes to organise, brochures to read, samples to scan.
I've found a silver lining. Or maybe a Sea Fog (shade of white) lining. Or a Mount Aspiring Half (another shade of white) lining. Infinite linings in infinite shades.
So much is beyond our control. It always has been, but we often don't realise this until our lives are bisected by crisis, cleaving into "before" and "after". One of my favourite truisms, by writer Joan Didion, is "life changes in the instant".
One minute we're free, the next we're told to stay home. One day we're employed; the next we've been made redundant. One week we're healthy, the next, we're sitting in a chemotherapy room wearing a headscarf.
We save money for a rainy day while acknowledging our earthly stint is brief. We do good where we can, try to keep calm during anxious months and make cheerful choices while they're still available.
Laminate or stone? It's not the material that matters as much as the freedom to choose.