‘I’ve been raking all my life,’ was the old man’s pathetic justification as we fought physically, tooth and nail, over the garden rake last Saturday.
Selling your house can do that. It has the power to trigger marital warfare and make a couple regress back to the behaviour of two toddlers in a ballpark.
Selling your house is apparently one of the most stressful events in marriage; or even life.
We’d been calling it ‘teamwork’, before last Saturday.
For in the relentless pursuit to make our house look as appealing as those properties in makeover shows at our weekly open for inspections, we spend EVERY WEEKEND fluffing and titifying. Last Saturday, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and for a moment we forgot that we were the A team.
The ‘straw’ was probably the rain, but then again it might equally have been the hangover.
Then there were the leaves.
It has rained every weekend since the house went on the market, (in spite of reaching the high twenties Monday to Friday), so getting up at 7am to drive the hour to the old house to ‘fluff’, is not really the best start to the weekend.
Even so, generally we’re a good team on these trips, quickly slotting into our house and gardening responsibilities as soon as we get there. We share the raking and leaf collection and the old man cleans the pool while I beautify the interiors; removing any tell-tale signs of mould, cockroaches and rising damp. We work together like one of those go-getting teams off The Block, perhaps a bit older, a little slower, unarguably less enthusiastic and certainly more intolerant of each other.
Deadlines are never good for stress.
Of course, if the house wasn’t located in its own Arctic micro-climate and wind tunnel, I think that our weekly makeover would be a breeze. But the combination of special climactic conditions, and the forest of deciduous trees that inhabit both gardens, creates more raking than Fall in Central Park.
The leaves have been a key factor in our decision to sell the house. We have spent more money on upgrading leaf blowers than all the renovations put together and there have been several occasions in our local DIY store where I have had to tell the old man to, ‘PUT THE ELECTRIC SAW AND NIGHT GOGGLES DOWN, NOW!’. If you illegally cut a tree down in our area, you can be fined up to $20,000. At times, we have considered that the crime might actually be worth the fine.
So what bought about that little outburst this morning? Why did the old man finally reach his ‘leaf’ tipping point?
Rain affects the old man.
This is a man who has moved half way around the world in search of sunshine, and spends Monday to Friday in a constricting suit and air conditioning.
So when we arrived at the ‘property from hell’ to be greeted by a bed of leaves the height of Kilimanjaro AND it was pissing down, the ‘team’ floundered. There were so many f*cking leaves, you couldn’t see the lawn, let alone the intricate sandstone landscaping. It was the fallout from yet another freaky cyclonic weather pattern sent down from Zeus up north.
And we were late. And we had a deadline.
The ADHDer had dropped the bombshell on us at breakfast that morning that he was intending to go to his first ‘proper’ (drink and drugs) party that night and I had wasted far too much time trying to convince him not to; resorting to lengthy scaremongering tactics about mixing drinks with his medication, dangerous Sydney suburbs, date rape and loose women. I then spent the hour drive to Armagheddon hyperventilating in the car.
By 10 O’block, the pressure to dress the house in time (and con some poor buyer that by some miraculous trick of nature, our deciduous trees do not shed their leaves), was really on.
It was pouring, and the old man had won the paper, rock, and scissor competition on the way to wear the only raincoat we own. This was no shower either. Rain was pouring down the back of my trousers via the crack of my ass and seeping into my undies as I raked and collected, raked and collected; while the old man, snug as a bug in his raincoat was farting around with the connections on the hose.
I asked him politely what he was doing. ‘What the f*ck are YOU doing exactly?’ I squealed like a Banshee, as he stood watching me pour my millionth armful of soggy, decaying leaves into the garden bag.
He picked up on my questioning tone, immediately. ‘Why don’t I rake the front?’ he suggested, attempting to dampen my anger, (like I wasn’t damp enough already), while trying to extricate the precious rake out of my red, calloused hands.
He pulled; I pulled.
‘I’M raking,’ I argued, pushing him away. ‘I’m a much better raker than you. You rake the same space over and over again, wasting time. I’m much more accurate than you.’ I went on, realising just how lame and petty I was beginning to sound.
But he persevered childishly, a look of grim determination on his dry face, forcefully trying to prise the rake out of my hands, pulling each of my fingers off the shaft one at a time, while I clamped them back forcefully on the handle even more tightly, refusing to let go.
‘For f*ck’s sake, Lou, just grow up, will you?’ he dared. ‘LET GO OF THE BLOODY RAKE. (wait for it) You know I’VE been raking my whole life….’
How proud he must be.
I suppose you could call it a seminal moment in our marriage.