Last week, in advance of the tornado that hit Adairsville, Ga., my mother and my brother called to warn me of danger.
It was the same phone call they'd made a few years earlier in advance of the tornadoes that ripped through Ringgold, Flintstone and Chattanooga, stripping and tearing out trees and flattening homes and buildings.
"For some reason, we think you have no awareness of your surroundings," my brother said.
It's not the first time I've been accused of surroundings blindness. I've written a whole book about a series of houses I lived in between the ages of 22 and 32 that, were it not for a load of good luck, might otherwise have poisoned me with gas fumes, flattened me under a falling roof, sent me careening through a hole in a second-story porch, then torched me in an electrical fire.
Curiously, (or not) I married a man whose housing issues take a radically different form. That is, if I am blind to what surrounds me, his eye for detail is disturbingly sharp. Just last week we argued over baseboard molding, that thin strip of nothing that serves no discernible purpose. Unbelievably, it wasn't even the first time.
The first time we had a heated discussion about molding was when I bought my house in Chickamauga 20 years ago. It was a 900-square-foot box, built (we were told) by a one-armed man. On first glance, my husband was horrified.
"There's no molding!" he exclaimed, looking wildly around the living room as if by chance moldings had been affixed somewhere besides at the baseboards and ceiling.
As I recall, I (calmly, rationally) suggested that perhaps decorative touches were not high on the list of a builder who was laying concrete slab, plumbing a toilet and roofing an entire structure literally singlehandedly.
Our latest moldings discussion concerned the bedrooms in our new house and whether the little strips of nothing should be rounded or squared off. The carpenter bought rounded. My husband wanted square. If I squinted really, really hard I could see the difference, but I couldn't, no matter how narrow my eyes got, make it matter.
"Since he's already got the rounded, let's just go with it," I suggested.
This prompted the same (horrified, edging into appalled) look my poor 900-square-foot box received upon my husband's first glimpse of the interior. Letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that A) we would not be communing with rounded molding, and B) people who have survived structural deathtraps only to inhabit small square boxes have no say in matters of decorative import.
Which is funny to me because, as we await the installation of [square] moldings, our bed is wallowing on the dusty floor in the center of the living room and the dogs are walking on our pillows. Our clothes -- the ones we can get to -- are slung over chairs, and the contents of our offices, which we moved from our St. Elmo studios to our new home, take up the bulk of the dining room table. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like a tornado went through.
My husband, with his overactive eye for detail and his distaste for all things apocalyptic, can't take these little inconveniences. Already his system has rebelled with allergies and anxiety and free-floating malaise. In a household where even the dogs seek to escape the undertow of chaos (racing for the sofa after meals and walk-time), I alone am at ease, right here in the eye of the storm.
It's just one of the benefits of being visionless.
Email Dana Shavin at firstname.lastname@example.org.