Julia called around nine o’clock to give me the news. The Board of Directors voted to hire me as the Head of Building and Grounds Services (BGS). She wanted to let me know that the offer would be emailed to me in the morning; she didn’t want to keep me wondering. It is a sweet job. I will be doing what I love at a place I love for a person I once loved. The salary is lower than a commensurate job in Boston or Albany - where I already have offers - but it comes with a house, three weeks vacation, ten personal days, top-notch health insurance and a retirement plan. I am forty-five. I am at my prime for income-production, but job satisfaction is what makes life bearable. I think it is good form to go back and ask for more money. I am coming in at the low end of my pay grade and with two other solid offers, I should have some room to negotiate.
I will be living in Stoddard House. Built in 1804, it is, perhaps, the least renovated, most needy property on Whately Prep grounds. I am being given a reasonable budget to expedite the work that needs to be done. I will ask for an inspection before I sign the contract. I want to know what I am getting into. Already, I suspect it needs to have its wiring and plumbing brought up to code. The foundation may be weakened by termites. The furnace hasn’t been updated since the mid-1950’s.
From outward appearances, the roof is sound and the clapboards have been painted and replaced over the years. However, the windows are tilting alarmingly. I did a rough count of over 40 windows on all three floors. I can only guess what condition the kitchen is in. The good news is that I am not in a rush. If I can allocate money and man hours over time, I will return a beautiful, restored home to the inventory of the properties that comprise The School.
There is a wrap-around porch on the front of the house that affords a view of Chestnut Mountain. The house is turned slightly away from the center of campus, and it is off the beaten path. It is the only house close to the Depot, the building the school uses to house heavy equipment, maintenance supplies and its buses. The offices of the BGS are tucked away on the second floor. It always smells like an odd medley of coffee, W-D14 and wood shavings. The proximity of my office to home is no more than a stone’s throw with a pitcher’s arm. It takes the right kind of man to tackle this job.
I will have a year-round crew of five. There is a budget to hire seasonal help for plowing and mowing. Part of the job is so familiar to me after watching my father live it for ten years that it is nearly automatic. The part that most excites me is that I will be serving as a liaison, alongside the Head of School, to Pioneer Valley Builders. The construction is slated to begin next April. I will have nine months to master my job, then...beware! A dizzyingly complex project will take over my life for two years.
I feel like I have climbed into the car of a roller coaster and I am beginning the long climb to the top. In nine months, the bottom will drop on the ride, as will my stomach. The adrenalin will pump my heart into high gear. Not unlike the way I feel when I hear Julia’s voice. Not unlike that at all.