I was first drawn to construction when my father, Henri de Marne, decided our side porch would make a dandy office for himself. Then seven years old, I offered my services by hanging around until he found something useful for me to do. Soon, I could name all the nails and hand him the right ones at the right time. I learned all the tools and their functions. Iÿm sure I took a few whacks at boards in my time, but with my slight weight at that age, I didnÿt make much of a dent, much less pound in too many nails. As a reward for my efforts, Dad made me my own tool box for my little set of tools. I still have it.
It wasnÿt long before I was fixing things as well as taking them apart. I was learning this stuff. One of my early jobs was working as the Assistant Buyer of Lamps at the Hecht Co. in Washington DC. When I had enough of the office, I could be found upstairs in the back storage creating new lamps from busted parts. My one-of-a-kind specials were put on display and sold. The tough part was when a customer wanted a match. Later, I was hired by a flooring company to sell flooring. I enjoyed playing around with the merchandise and ended up running the warehouse. I furnished my first townhouse with scraps of carpet, padding, carpet samples and plywood. Sold all of it when I moved to Germany for a year when I married Peter.
Back in the States, we moved to Vermont where we ran an old Vermont farmhouse as a ski lodge for a winter. Not only did we run out of water the first day we had guests (Christmas Day), but I had to cook for them as well. (Iÿm not a cook, my sister is.) Dealing with the fix-it issues of old dryers, temperamental heating systems, cranky plumbing, mazes of "put-together" pipes and wires, wells, and chimneys was an education in survival! Our guests didnÿt starve, either.
Eventually we bought our own house. As our family grew to include two children, the house grew. We fixed electric wiring, replumbed fixtures, finished off a bathroom, added a large addition, dealt with lightning storms blowing out our water supply, electric lines coming down, days without power and water, and all manner of exciting events.