Yes, we’re trying to straighten up a crooked little house — and it’s driving Mr. H. C. bonkers. This is a man who has to have pieces meet within a thirty-second of an inch. And that level bubble? Well it has to be right between those lines, as close to the middle as it can be. Poor guy. Some days he just shakes his head. Some days he wonders aloud why we ever got into this. And some days when the bird clock whistles 5:00, he just goes and quietly gets a glass of wine.
For the record, the nursery rhyme goes like this:
There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile,
He bought a crooked cat who caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a crooked little house.*
Hmm… No mention of a crooked little wife. That’s good, I think. And we’ve found plenty of crooked little mice — all dead — thank goodness. But I was beginning to wonder if the black and white checkerboard tile I had planned was wise on a crooked floor…
If I had a crooked sixpence for every time Mr. H. C. complained about the walls not being level, and the floor not being level, and the doors not being level, I could probably buy a crooked cat. Oh wait, we have one already…
This was the weekend that we were putting down the underlayment for the floor. For those of you who don’t speak the lingo, that is 4×8 sheets of thin plywood type stuff that doesn’t bend around crooked walls or over crooked floors. It makes a nice, smooth surface for laying linoleum or tile. Mr. H.C. is a genius at making crooked things look straight, so I wasn’t too worried about how it would look — I was more concerned about his state of mind while the floor was on its way to looking good.
The first piece went down easily; the second was more difficult because it had to have many specific holes cut out for the plumbing. And then, I heard him say, “Wow, this is really pretty square.”
I made him repeat the sentence.
And later, as he was cutting the last piece and I was nailing the others down, he said it again!
Almost 3000 staples went into this underlayment, and my shoulder is feeling the pain… (I really do work sometimes!)
Now, we’re not to the point of throwing out the level, and the rest of the house may still be crooked, but the kitchen is Straight and Square.
And ready for checkerboard tile.
*“There was a Crooked Man” originates from the English Stuart history of King Charles I. The “crooked man” is said to allude to Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie, who signed a treaty that secured Scotland’s freedom. “The crooked stile” represents the border wedged between England and Scotland. The English and Scots agreement is represented within the line “They all lived together in a crooked little house.” The rhyme refers to the uneasy peace between the two countries. (Source is many websites that all give the same history.)
This illustration is from The Real Mother Goose — you know the one with the black and white checkerboard cover?
And here are some of the absolute best nursery rhyme books:
My Very First Mother Goose and Here Comes Mother Goose both by Rosemary Wells
The Original Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright
Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola