Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bricks, oh my October 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:14 AM
My son and I carried all of these bricks out of our house after my husband dismantled an old chimney.

My son and I carried all of these bricks out of our house after my husband dismantled an old chimney.

Little kids are temporarily banned from our house while this cardboard wall is in place in my dining room. Lean against this wall, and you will tumble into the basement.

Little kids are temporarily banned from our house while this cardboard wall is in place in the dining room. Lean against this wall, and you will tumble into the basement.

“DR. WILLE WOULDN’T like this,” I tell my husband as I lug the 5-gallon bucket of heavy bricks up the stairs, slowly, step by step.

“Well, you don’t have to do this,” Randy says.

“Yeah,” I mutter and continue my trudge to the top of the steps, through the kitchen, down the steps, through the garage and to the driveway. There I sort through the bricks—good ones added to the stack of teetering ones and broken ones dumped onto the pile of throwaways.

Already my hip aches and we have only just begun our work for the evening, dismantling the basement level of a useless brick chimney inside our house. We are nearly done with a project, though, that began in the attic, moved to a second story bedroom, down to the dining room and now, finally, to the lowest level.

My new right hip, the one I got 16 months ago, is getting a good work out.

With my physical stamina dwindling, so is my enthusiasm for this endeavor. Whose crazy idea was it anyway to remove this chimney so duct work for a new furnace can run through the vacant chimney chase area?

Originally, this seemed like a good idea. But I never realized that so many bricks comprise a chimney. I underestimated the weight of the bricks and just how many bucketsful my son and I would need to carry.

And then there’s the soot. I didn’t even think of it. The further we progress down the chimney, the blacker the bricks become with years of sooty build-up. With each swing of the hammer, dirt and grime sail into the air.

We don our face masks to keep from breathing in the particles. My glasses fog up and I labor to breathe. “I would hate to be a coal miner,” I tell Randy. “That would be the worst job.” He doesn’t respond, just keeps scooping dustpans full of grimy soot from the chimney.

All the while I am hounding my son to close the basement door. He complains, says it’s too hard to open and close the door constantly. But I am adamant. I have just spent all day yesterday washing every inch of my kitchen and dining room. The evening before, Randy had removed the chimney in that area, leaving a film of grime on every surface. I am bone tired and grumpy and determined to keep the soot confined to the basement.

By 10 p.m., we have finished this portion of the project. Randy cracks open a beer. I think he expects me to celebrate by chugging down half his brew. But I don’t. I take a sip, just enough to wash away the soot that has filtered through my mask. All I want is to shower, to lay my head on my pillow, to rest my sore hip and forget about the bricks piled on the driveway, the holes in the floors and walls, and the work that still lies ahead of us.

Bricks with character, soot and all.

Bricks with character, soot and all.

Finally, we reached the bottom of the chimney in the basement. And, yes, the red carpet has to go too.

Finally, we reached the bottom of the chimney in the basement. And, yes, the red carpet has to go too.

(If you are looking for bricks say to build a fire pit or for landscaping, or need bricks for fill, contact me. I’m into recycling, but mostly I want these bricks off my driveway.)

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling