I asked an old friend what he thought I should give Jan for our 41st anniversary—an important occasion for engineers since it’s a prime number. He furrowed his brow in simulated deep thought and suggested brightly, "Parole!"
This was actually one of the more helpful answers I got to that question. Of course, I asked only members of the exclusive Y-Chromosome Club, since other females would have undoubtedly tipped Jan off before I had even spent any money.
But this year, after about 40 near misses in anniversary gift-giving, I was positive I had a sure winner. Armed with way too much money from a forgotten half-bin of corn, when June (18th or 19th?) rolled around, I was going to wow one formerly jaded spouse. (No—my own.)
My cunning plan: Since Jan is an accomplished Master Gardener, being able to pursue her passion year-round in central Illinois would undoubtedly reduce her to sobs of gratitude. We’re talking a 16'×9' greenhouse, from a kit, which I would assemble with my notorious construction skills.
I can sense some longtime reader skepticism, so I include a photo of the fabulous finished product (see below). But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I sprang the surprise early to allow paid professionals to help me a teeny bit. Jan was enamored with the "lean-to" style, which didn’t lend itself to attachment to the south side of our house. That side was already infested with vines, hedges and flora in pots. So, tragically, there was a lack of something to "lean" the greenhouse "to," as it were.
Marriage is about giving. But as usual, I was thinking several steps ahead. I would construct a modest "greenhouse support structure" (GSS) to serve as the host for the transparent architectural parasite. This GSS would just coincidentally afford some space to install a water system and small bathroom, which would be a welcome convenience during the summer swimming season, when our grandkids traipse endlessly through the kitchen and too close to Grandpa’s cookie jar.
In addition, it would be helpful to have room for sheltering a car when visitors came—a trifling extra expense at this point. Moreover, the odd thing about such utility buildings is that as they get bigger, the cost per square foot decreases. So we were actually losing money, I figured, by not including just a little more space to house a new woodworking machine, or maybe 10. After all, my faithful old tools were wretchedly crowded in the old woodshop, which suddenly began to look like a lumber storage facility.
So, with a few clicks of the mouse, a suitable GSS was designed online, and hastily drawn contracts were signed discreetly. Jan’s greenhouse was going to be appropriately conjoined to a building that was worthy of its deeply affectionate message. It’s all about Jan, remember.
A few weeks later, three overeducated engineers made short work of erecting the greenhouse alongside the GSS. The following weekend, we took it all apart and reversed the translucent sheets, which apparently simply have to be facing rightside out. It wasn’t our fault—the guy in the instructional video was Norwegian, for Pete’s sake!
Call me a sentimental fool, but Jan’s greenhouse was worth it. It makes her happy, and if there is some tiny recreational benefit for me as a chance side effect, I just write it down to having a heart big as all outdoors.
Or about 1,920 sq. ft., to be exact.