What My Husband's Secretive Trips To Home Depot Were REALLY About

Photo: Getty Images.
My husband and I have very few secrets from each other. We proudly announce boogers and openly compare post-buffet belly bloating. However, the one thing that’s always been a mystery to me about him are his weekly visits to Home Depot. It’s unclear to me why he needs to go so often, as it does not seem to correlate with actual work done on our house. Finally, one Saturday, I decide to tag along. I want to see where those multiple hours on a biweekly basis actually go.

We argue briefly about which Home Depot to grace with our consumership. The Elston branch is closer; the Kimball branch will be less crowded. We opt for Kimball. Walking in, the telltale smell of Home Depot comforts us. It is a mix of manufactured wood, ammonia, manure, body odor, and hot dogs. I stroll absentmindedly behind my husband, marveling at the towering piles of fiberglass. He searches for a drainage system, and I wander away, fingering pipe joints and chain-link. (Home Depot is oozing with opportunities for innuendo.)

He calls me back and tries to explain a French drainage system to me: “It’s a perforated pipe surrounded by small gravel or popcorn and enclosed in a fabric sleeve,” he says, again.

“French drainage. Does it eat baguettes and brie?” I joke. Normally, my husband is my best comedic audience, but this time, his eyes have glazed over. He can’t hear me. The Depot has taken him.

“Is this it?” I interrupted his train of thought, holding out a section of black plastic tubing. He looks at me patiently.

“No,” he says, gently. “It looks like a giant hot dog made of rocks.”

Embarrassed that he cannot locate drainage, he mumbles something about being more familiar with the Elston Home Depot layout than the Kimball Home Depot layout, and reluctantly grabs an orange-vested clone.

“Aisle 11,” Orange Vest chirps as he gestures vaguely to the end of the store we have just come from.

“Oh,” says my husband, as if he knew it all along. We find a French drainage tube, which does indeed look like a hot dog made of rocks.

“So how does it work?” I ask.

“You know the swamp area in our backyard?” he asks in return.

“Yes,” I say, because I can definitely answer that. Every spring, runoff from our back deck creates a Dagobah System-like marsh. This marsh attracts military-grade mosquitos and monstrous weeds. It also creates a haven for muddy dog paws. It has pissed us off for the nine years we’ve owned our house, but we have done nothing about it.

The marsh has pissed us off for the nine years we’ve owned our house, but we have done nothing about it.

Advertisement


“Okay, so these popcorn rocks filter out solids and all the rainwater goes in the tube. Then, the tube carries it away to someplace else.”

“Like where?” I ask.

“Like our neighbors’ yard,” Dave responds. I nod, having zero qualms about turning our neighbors’ yard into a Jedi training swamp.

“Okay, so are we getting it?” I ask.

“Well, no. I just wanted to look at it,” my husband says. “I’m not getting into that today.”

I pause, still unable to determine why we are here.

“Can we go look at the flowers yet?” I asked.

He sighs and nods.

But before we get to the garden center, I lose him, this time to the Altar Of The Outdoor Grill. He gently caresses the powdered steel of a high-end Weber, drool forming at the corners of his mouth. He is definitely having elaborate fantasies about blistered, blackened, chicken hot dogs.

Finally, we leave Home Depot, having purchased nothing. My husband attempts to explain why this is such a regular pattern in his life.

“It’s fun for me,” he says. “It’s window-shopping, a hobby. Like when you look up houses we can’t afford on Zillow.”

“Ahh,” I said. “I see.”

But for the first time, I did.

For the years we’ve lived in our home, we have bemoaned its shortcomings — like the porch with rotting floorboards or the turn-of-the-century windows that never open. He dreams of turning our house into a perfect urban homestead, where drainage functions properly, where there’s no rat highway across our backyard veggie garden. He imagines the Saturday when he will turn our dark, narrow bedroom closet into a sun-splashed reading nook, where he’ll sip freshly ground, French-pressed coffee while reading The New York Times.

His escape is plotting a perfect home — one that he has created himself, in a world where we have both unlimited money and unlimited time.

But I’m guilty, too. I’ll walk past our overstuffed, rickety closet and fire up my laptop, clicking over to Landwatch.com, imagining acres of Oregon land on which to create a commune with our best friends. Or, I'll search international sites for Costa Rican estates, flush with tropical fruit trees and the occasional howler monkey. After one weekend in Austin, I spent seven hours searching Zillow for the perfect cottage on the East Side.

While it started out as boring as watching paint dry (that is, Home Depot-brand Behr paint in a slightly off-white shade called Organza Peach) our DIY megastore gave me the chance to learn something beautiful about my husband. I learned that he, like me, is always imagining a more idyllic house — while still loving the comfort of the one the two of us have made ours.

We sit with our morning coffee in the cool, late-summer morning sun on our rotting porch. We pluck the final tomatoes from our tiny vegetable garden with pride (ensuring that we completely wash the rat feces off before ingesting). And we marvel at the growth of our front yard lilac tree that we planted together eight years ago. We look at what we have around us and realize that, while it will never match up to the houses in our imagination, it is absolutely, 100%, a dream home for both of us.
Advertisement