I am of the firm opinion that if a project is advertised as something you can do yourself, it should be exactly that.  Yourself.  Alone.  No assistance required.  And therefore, no possibility of discord with the significant other.

It is with this belief that, singularly, I have tackled furniture purchases from Ikea and Crate and Barrel, spending many satisfying moments on the floor with my phillips head screw driver, fitting Part A into Part B, and praying that this time, they have included the proper-sized screws in the little plastic bag with the assortment of fasteners.

When I’m finally finished, certain that I have successfully included all of the provided pieces, and have located my right leg, which has fallen asleep during the process, I stand proudly in front of my newly assembled bookcase. Yay me!

So it was without trepidation, and with the utmost confidence, that I listened to my husband inform me that on the internet he had found the perfect teak bench to grace our newly landscaped backyard, upon which we would happily sit for hours, enjoying the water view.  It was good-looking, well-priced, and, what did it say in the fine print? Assembly required? No problem for the Ikea queen.

Yes, I encouraged.  By all means, order it.  So he did.

Five days later, a large truck pulled up to our house and unloaded a massive package that had to be way more than bench parts.  “Hold on,” I told the driver.  “I don’t remember ordering a refrigerator.”  He checked his clip board, and assured me that this was definitely my delivery.

I allowed him to wheel the monster to my backyard, signed the delivery slip, and helplessly watched him leave.  Had he just wished me good luck?

I forlornly stood there, staring at this huge thing wrapped in ominous-looking black plastic. This was no slim and friendly Ikea box.  Instead, it looked like a bag of refuse from a dinner party hosted by the Jolly Green Giant!

I managed to get close enough to tear off the envelope containing the packing slip and the assembly instructions.   I started feeling somewhat better as I began to read the directions.  That is, until I came to the part that said “Have someone hold Part B while you attach Part C.”

Now real fear had struck. Husband-and-wife teams could be a little risky.   I’d heard of divorce as an outcome of couples playing bridge or tennis together.  And who really knew what went on behind the scenes between Lucy and Desi, Stiller and Meara, Burns and Allen?

In our particular case, I have considered murder more than once as my husband and I have endeavored to cooperate on accomplishing domestic tasks.

Take, for example, the time we had to install the removable pool barrier before our grandchildren’s visit.  We begin  as consenting adults, then quickly decompose.

“You’re starting in the wrong place.”

“Who says?”

“You’re supposed to start here, not there.”

“Where is it written?”

“You’re unrolling it backwards.”

“No I’m not; you are.”

“Stop pulling so hard.”

“I’m not pulling.”

“Yes you are!”

Last time I heard dialogue like this was when I took my children to the playground.  Or was it last spring when we decided to clean out the garage?  I would have considered death by drowning, but my husband happens to be a good swimmer.

So it was with considerable caution that I began to rip away at the enormous black garbage bag, the cardboard, and finally the inner plastic wrapping, to reveal the parts innocently awaiting assemblage to become our new bench.

I was ready to face the potential of adversity.  I reasoned that after this was over, even if we don’t talk for the next two days, I’ll have fodder for a new essay.

“Okay,” I timidly called out, “let’s do it.”

With each step representing a new possibility for conflict and blame, my mental notepad was ready and the pencil poised.

benchWhat a disappointment! The process went exceedingly well.  Hard to believe, but there were no accusations, not even when we put the legs on backwards and had to start over. And where did that thin slat of wood belong? It wasn’t on the instruction sheet.  But together, we calmly figured it out.

Who were these two people who had worked together so well? Do I know them? Have we reached a kinder, gentler level in our relationship, or am I reading too much into this success?

Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how it goes the next time we have to reinstall the pool barrier.

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