Safer at Home Stories: The Curtain of Isolation

Welcome to our first installment of Door Posts: Safer-at-Home Stories. Brought to you by The Hal Prize and Write On, Door County, these stories feature tales of those living at home during the quarantine. Find out how to submit your story at

The Curtain of Isolation

by Jane Hensge, Sturgeon Bay

During the third week of quarantine, my spouse suggested, “We should tackle the curtain rod today.”

I felt the hair on my arms rise. Even the choice of verb struck terror in my heart, but all had been going smoothly, and I really wanted the curtain rod moved.

Twenty-seven years ago, when we married, I asked him what his favorite DIY activity was around the house.

He replied earnestly, “I like to change light bulbs.”

At that moment, I made a solemn promise to myself: Never, never will I work on a home-improvement task while he is home. Until the coronavirus isolation, we were both comfortable with the unspoken plan. Our marital responsibilities often crossed traditional gender roles. 

That all changed during our lockdown.

We gathered all manner of tools and laid them out on the kitchen counter. There was every type and size of screwdriver and hammer, and something he referred to as a gimlet. However, there was no vodka or lime juice involved. We charged the electric drill. That was more for my benefit because he does not care to use power tools.

After some discussion as to which ladder should be used, he mounted the first rung. It was too late to turn back.

Our first step was to remove the brackets. He began with a really big flathead screwdriver and gradually moved through about eight more drivers of various sizes and head configurations. After multiple unintelligible mutterings under his breath, he announced, “We do not own the right tool.”

He was in charge, so he asked me to get his hacksaw and maybe the small sledge hammer. 

I had huge butterflies in my gut, but I had to ’fess up: “I recycled the hack saw several years ago, and the sledge I gave to our landscapers.”

That, of course, did not go over well.

Believe it or not, by that time, several hours had elapsed since we had embarked on this task. His plan now included the use of a pry bar. Thirty minutes later, we had freed the offending brackets from the wall. They were bent, with a sizable metal molly bolt attached and no visible way to remove them. There were gaping holes in the wall.

We jumped in the car. I entered the hardware store fully masked and purchased two brackets. It was the only solution.

We arrived home about 4:30. We had endured a frustrating day together – without a harsh word, I might add. 

We opened a bottle of wine and sat down to watch the COVID news. Clearly, we were not going back to work anymore that day.

The next morning, bright and early, before he awakened, I climbed the ladder and, with my fully charged driver, installed the new brackets.

When he awakened, he was appropriately awestruck. We drank coffee. He changed a light bulb in the kitchen. We were back to doing what we do best.