brian

It’s the time of year when we sit out there whenever we can: Mornings for coffee in the cool shadows, work-from-home bouts made a bit more tolerable for being set in the outdoors, evenings with the lights turned on, a settling dusk, the first fireflies of the season.

We’ve been in our home for almost 18 years, our purchase date timed impeccably to coincide with the real estate implosion of 2008, when value was just starting to build.

We were planning on staying a couple years. We used the word “flip.” A timeline was set. And yet here we are.

Once we decided to stay here, the home improvements came at a steady pace, escalating dramatically after my wife discovered the Property Brothers and their ilk: a new roof, heat pump and HVAC; ceramic tiles and two rounds of flooring; many, many coats of paint on every single room in the house, plus the shutters, the front door and the garage; new switchplates and lighting fixtures, a new hot-water heater, new stainless appliances and hood and not one but two new garbage disposals.

There’s more, I can assure you, but we’re running out of space here so I’ll get to the point.

The plan came together years ago: a family friend willing to trade some concrete work for professional services brought one truck and three workers and within a day and a half transformed the dinky, 10-by-10 concrete lozenge that passed for a patio behind our mass-produced tract home into an outdoor living space bigger than any room in the house.

It happened so fast we didn’t even have time to carve our initials in it.

The concrete quickly became part of our home life: holidays and dinners, poker games and small-scale fireworks experiments, summer drinks and autumn fires. And the concrete itself has become beneficiary of the sort of home-improvement projects that bring such a gleam to my wife’s eye. Fencing. Furniture. Stain.

Unlike the HVAC, the garbage disposal(s) and the stainless-steel appliances, it relies on ancient technology, relatively unchanged for 3,000 years. There’s not much to concrete itself, just sand and water bound by a thing so pure of purpose that an entire concept is named for it: cement.

That’s the thing that holds it all together.

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