Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Two Inches

I don't know if it's the nostalgia involved in watching Hallmark movies non-stop for hours on end, the commercials on TV at this time of year, or that I shouldn't have risked drinking the eggnog that was a week past its carton date...but I am raring to go and ready to tell another story.

Actually I was only half kidding about being influenced by the commercials and the nostalgia. M.C. Hammer just popped out of a chimney, upside down, to tell a woman hammering several nails into a fireplace mantel that she "can't touch this" and it made me laugh out loud. With all due respect to the advertising company, it probably didn't influence whether or not I was going to buy their product...but it did influence whether or not I would write in my blog again today. At the risk of alienating a significant portion of my readers I would like to give you a rare glimpse into the inner workings of my slightly odd and mostly ADHD brain and give you the formula that spawned today's musings:
MC Hammer + holes in a wall + presents = blog about my brother

See...easy as pie. Wait a minute... pie + computer / divided by surface area of a rectangular prism....You don't want to hear all the details. I'll just get started.

Years and years ago Sylvia and I took the kids to go visit my brother in Indiana. It was a hoot of a trip that started when my dad gifted us a camper. We spent time sightseeing while traveling back to California. Our first stop was to my brother's house in the land of Goshen. Until Dan lived there I suspected that "Land o' Goshen!" was simply an expression my grandfather used to show that he was surprised and amazed. "You bowled 199 when you used my old ball? Well land o' Goshen!" The trip was quick and Dan had to work so we didn't get to spend more than a couple days there. He arranged with the homeowners association that we could park our new behemoth on an empty pad that was just itching for a placeholder.

We parked "Thunder" (The name the kids gave to the camper. They were lightning rookies back then. It made an impression) and Dan took us into his house to give us the grand tour. We, of course, did all the "good to see you's" and "did you have any trouble finding the place's" in the living room. It was a pretty good sized room with a giant sectional couch for lounging around while watching TV. The kitchen was equally large and attached to the living room. There was a family room off to the side and there were doors leading into the bedrooms. We got to see their room. Nice. The daughters'. Nice. The spare. Nice...also where Sylvia and I would stay. Then we got to see the son's room. It was nice but there was a little something extra in it.

People who are familiar with me are thinking, "Knowing Jeff. It could be anything!" A giant anaconda? No. A life-sized replica of a stormtrooper? I wish. A bag of miniature antlers suitable for gluing onto the heads of stuffed Jackrabbits? Nope. The extra additions in this room were approximately 20 holes in the wall.

The holes were not angry fist sized cavities. In fact, they were kind of tiny...but they were noticeable. I couldn't take it. "Uh Dan?"
"What's the deal with the holes?"
"Oh. We tried to hang something but we wanted it to really stick so we looked for a stud. We never found one."
"Really. I never would have guessed."

Actually that is exactly what I guessed and I knew that they had never found a stud since the holes were not covered by anything. No artwork. No candle sconces. Not even dogs playing poker or velvet Elvis! Nothing! And what made the holes stand out even further is that all 20 of them were at the exact same height from the ground in a straight line across. You see, Dan had used the old tap the hammer on the wall trick to find the stud. It's a tried and true method among DIYers everywhere and many singing fish have been secured to the wall on stud mounted nails. Not this time.

I think it's time to reveal the final reason this row of holes was so striking and so memorable to me. They were somewhat randomly spaced. This was back in time before people carried cell phones and cameras still used film so I didn't get a picture of the wall and its holes. Allow me to try to paint a verbal picture. Starting at the left was a single hole. About a quarter inch to the right was another hole. Maybe half an inch away from that, another hole. This happened maybe six times to the right of the original hole, each being spaced from a quarter inch to a half inch apart. Then he skipped 2 inches. (allow me to say that again) Then he skipped 2 inches! Then he continued to poke holes in the wall until he finally gave up after 14 or 15 more tries, about 15 inches from the original hole. I could just feel the frustration emanating from the row of holes in the wall as they became less and less uniform toward the end of the row. Some even spread out to about an inch apart...but none of the spaces were larger than the 2 inch gap toward the start of the line.

For those of you not in the construction business I feel I should explain. A stud is a piece of wood framing that makes up the skeleton of the house. In order for there to be room to insulate the wooden frame it's built so that the studs are on edge causing there to be open space from the inside wall to the outside wall. That space is then filled with insulation. The standard depth of these spaces is 4 inches. The average width of these studs is 2 inches. These common pieces of lumber are called 2 by 4s. I mention this in hopes that you consider the coincidence of the width of these boards (2 inches) and the width of space that Dan skipped (also 2 inches...see where I'm going with this) when using his hammer to pound holes in the wall.

Well, I didn't say anything but I did decide to get him a house warming present the first time we went shopping. For generously allowing us to invade his home with a group of Californians I presented my brother with his own brand new stud finder! He, of course, held it up to his chest and we laughed when it squealed to signal that he had indeed found a stud. Probably the oldest joke in the construction business (although I hold my stud-finder to my head to find the stud...or large block of wood...tomAYto, tomAHto).

It's funny what triggers a memory. I lost my brother to diabetes a number of years ago and I never would have thought that of all the things there are to remember about him I would find myself laughing out loud recounting the story of the holey wall at his place in Indiana. I suppose I owe 3M a thank you for putting together a collection of images that gave me a happy thank you. I'll take all the memories you can give me.

By the way, in case you hadn't guessed...he found the stud in the wall. You'll never guess which 2-inch space was hiding a stud. Land o' Goshen!


  1. Yes, I remember this trip. I think the kids were 4 and 6. It was nice to hear you laugh out loud the other day ...... memories are good; and that sure was funny! Haha....he really skipped two inches.

  2. Land o' Goshen, that was funny!