Earlier, I talked about how we discovered, in an upfront and personal way, all the lead the old-timers used in making the inside of our house look so purty.
Now that we finally knew where it all was, in excruciating, triplicate-formed detail, we had to figure out what exactly we were going to do about it. Again, there are stories out there about families spending crazy money on the process, even before you take into consideration the little things. Like the fact that you can't live in the house during the process. It becomes sort of like that scene in E.T. with the men in white suits and an air-lock instead of a front door, but no peanut-buttery Reeses Pieces to offset the discomfort.
Massachusetts law requires any house built before 1978 where a six year old (or younger) lives to be certified as "lead safe". Given the median age of a house in Massachusetts is at least, oh, 80 years old, I would think that this would mean that about every fourth person you met at the grocery store would be in some way involved in the de-leading business, wouldn't you? Wrong, mein Freund. There are surprisingly few. And, it seems, most are involved in "commercial" de-leading (I think that means old warehouses-turned-apartment blocks or some such).
Our main concern was that we find a way to make the place safer for the little tyke without either a) losing any of the historical bits or b) breaking the bank. For example, there's a place inside one of the cabinet doors above the fireplace mantle that someone graffiti'ed with the date... back in 1861. We're partial to ancient graffiti, I guess. We'd kind of like to keep that. And it's a pretty low-risk area, right? So we can do that.
The first guy we lead through the house suggested that we could put some plastic over it 'like a poster frame'. Hmm. Not exactly the look we're going for, here. Keep walking, buddy. We'll try again.
The next guy we found specializes in antique homes, and knew enough about the construction of our house to tell us where the secret room is (a small hideout in the middle of the central chimney called the "Indian room" - kind of like a Colonial 'panic room' where a family could hide if they were afraid of getting, you know, scalped and stuff). We didn't even know about the secret room. Now I know where to retreat when the Revenuers come knocking...
At any rate, between his knowledge and obvious passion for old homes, and a passing reference to his connection to the founding producer of This Old House, I had a good feeling that this guy would do a pretty good job for us. I also had a good feeling that he would charge accordingly. In the end, though, we were able to pick and choose a bit of the work to make sure the essentials were done without going overboard, and end up at a price that, while more expensive than many of the cars that I've owned in my life, was tolerable (on the other hand, we've seen the kind of cars I buy). The painful part of the whole ordeal is that we're paying extra for this guy because our goal is that the finished job will look as if he had never been there... the same finish and color paint on the walls, floors, windows, etc. In other words, if it's successful, it will look like we just paid this guy a whole bucket of cash to make our house look exactly the same as it does today.
I suggested to my Bride that we could try the John Travolta, boy in a plastic bubble route for Squirmy as an alternative. He'd only have to stay in there for a few more years, and besides, then we could take those gates on our stairs down, and just sort of roll him down to breakfast in the morning. And think of all the fun we could have at the beach. Like a really big one of those hamster wheels. She wasn't convinced.
So when the boy comes to us later with his big dreams of Harvard medical school or whatever, we're going to remind him that his college fund got eaten right along with all that lead he chewed off the chair rail as a baby.