A Tribute to Those Behind the Scenes
May 20, 2021 § 1 Comment
After thirteen months, tomorrow we will begin the process of moving back into our renovated house. It’s not completely finished—the punch list is long—but we are more than ready to bid goodbye to our temporary digs and move more easily around one another in fresh, open spaces. It feels like we are reuniting with a dear old friend, while at the same time embarking on a new chapter.
Nearly every expectation we had going into the renovation process—the good and the bad—was exceeded. It was more expensive. It was more stressful. It was infinitely more fun.
What we vastly underestimated was how many hands would go into creating our dream home. Our core team of superstars—two architects, two carpenters, a project manager, and an interior designer—will draw most of the well-deserved recognition from our community. But their vision would never have been possible without the hard work of many, many others—some of whom I know by name and many of whom I never will.
We had a crew who showed up the first week for demolition—and returned months later to frame out the addition. We had arborists who took down trees and fought to save others. We had electricians, plumbers, house painters, and heating and cooling teams. A mason and his son poured the foundation, then came back to do the stone work for our patio. We had glass specialists and specialty painters, a shop of carpenters who built our kitchen cabinetry, and another who built bookcases and window seats. We had wizards who carved intricate backsplashes out of marble and others who created a beautiful bar top from a single tree in Maryland. We had a magician of a wallpaper installer and another who installed handmade, irregular tile so seamlessly around a new fireplace that you’d think it had been there all along.
We had graders and drainage trench diggers and even a guy who, according to our contractor, is the most adept person at installing front door hardware that he has ever seen.
And then there were folks we never saw. The ones who went into dilapidated barns and pulled down the hundred-year-old hemlock beams that now grace the ceiling of our family room. The ones who made our gorgeous windows and doors, or worked in the factories that made our appliances, our faucets, our decorative lights. The ones who packed boxes, loaded them onto trucks, and loaded them off.
There was no shortage of things that went wrong. But there were many, many more that went right, including all the creativity channeled into course correction. When new built-in bookcases in the old part of the house didn’t sit flush with the plaster wall, our contractor brought in a plaster expert, who feathered the wall to close the gap seamlessly. When the kitchen cabinets were delivered wrong…and then wrong again…our contractor stopped waiting for a new batch and reconfigured them himself, even though everyone said it couldn’t be done.
As the house nears completion, people stop by to congratulate my husband and me. It feels strange, honestly, and not a little bit disingenuous, to accept praise for something we largely didn’t do. We wrote checks. We worried over people. We made lists and sent emails like it was going to alter the fate of the universe when, in actuality, things would have probably gone along just fine without them. At the end of the day, we are indescribably grateful for the end product. But while we had the initial vision, it wasn’t our sweat equity that built it. The real credit goes to all the folks behind the scenes.
In their new picture book collaboration, Someone Builds the Dream (Ages 3-8), Lisa Wheeler and Loren Long have created an ode to the teams of people who toil behind the scenes to bring about the buildings, bridges, and books that enrich our lives—including and especially folks who are often invisible in the final product. It’s a book that showcases sweat equity. That celebrates trades and crafts. That values hard work and collaboration. It’s a book with perfect read-aloud rhyme, sweeping acrylic paintings, and a whole lotta tools and trucks.
“All across this great big world/ jobs are getting done/ by many hands in many lands./ It takes much more than one.” The book opens on a team of surveyors overlooking a swampy site at the edge of a city, an area of felled trees and abandoned buildings. As a parent of a once truck-obsessed four year old, I have a special appreciation for stories about diggers and bulldozers that are visually beautiful and thoughtfully told. (My child was never choosy, but I needed to be if I hoped to keep my sanity.)
As we turn the page, we pan to an architect at work in her studio—“she’ll draw, re-draw, measure, and trace”—though the “but” at the bottom of the page quickly signals that this isn’t a story about the architect, whose name may one day grace the walls of her design. This is about the people who take her vision and turn it into a reality.
This time, when we turn the page, we are greeted by muscle. By sweat dripping off foreheads. By big, burly hands. By hard hats and electric saws and towering trucks. Across four pages, a house takes shape from the ground up. “Someone works to guide the saws,/ plane the logs, lead the team./ Someone needs to pound the nails./ Someone has to build the dream.”
The pattern repeats. This time, we flash on a solitary engineer, surrounded by models of bridges and an enormous chalkboard scrawled with mathematical equations. But, when the initial math and science is finished, “Someone works to mine the ore,/ smelt the iron,/ pour the beam./ Someone needs to weld the steel./ Someone has to build the dream.”
The book cycles through the construction of a fountain in a park, wind turbines along the ocean, and an amusement park (dinosaur-themed, no less). Each time, teams of people are shown executing the vision of a particular artist, scientist, or designer. Loren Long’s illustrations not only feel expansive and glow with sunlight, but they showcase a diverse range of skin colors, gender attributes, and religious affiliations.
The book concludes with a nod to the book-making process, first with an author and illustrator at work in their own studios, and then with a crowded room at a printing press. “Someone worked to set the text,/ run the press, load the reams./ Someone had to make THIS book!/ Someone had to build this dream.”
Yesterday, my husband relayed a conversation he had with our lead carpenter, Dave, who has worked on site overseeing our project for all thirteen months. Dave told him every sub who walks through the door exclaims how beautiful the house is. But my favorite part of the story was hearing that Dave himself—a quiet, modest guy—beamed with pride. I hope every person who had a hand in our future home feels pride for the part they played. We’ll be extending our gratitude by enjoying their work for many years to come. As Someone Builds the Dream reminds us, “remember all the someones who/ helped make a dream come true.”
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Review copy from Dial Books for Young Readers. All opinions are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through the links above, although I prefer we also shop local and support our communities when we can.