Our new neighbor, Irene, is a delightful person, but a troubling influence.  Irene does not play golf, tennis or bridge.  Her sport is shopping and her new partner is my wife, Katie.  The two embark on expeditions like hunters on safari, but with less drama.  The prey, after all, is stationary.  Today’s need is to reinvigorate our master bathroom.

“What’s wrong with our bathroom?” I ask.  “It has all the necessary plumbing.”

“It lacks pizzazz,” says Irene.

“We need a magazine-holder,” says Katie.

“What’s wrong with the usual spot on top of the trash can?” I ask, knowing my question will not merit a response.

“We also need a nice mirror, a new soap dish, and some fresh decorative towels.”

“But we don’t even use those towels.  They can’t be any fresher.”

“A brighter tone will bring out the walls and trim,” says Irene, indulging my ignorance like a patient kindergarten teacher.

I look around and try to picture the walls “brought out.”  They look okay as they are, I think.  Clearly, I lack the vision that is ingrained in Irene, a vision so admired by my wife.  Considering how beautifully Irene’s home is decorated, I acknowledge she is one of those individuals with a gift for making space undeniably more appealing.  Knowing the final result will be positive, I can only protest the anticipated expenditures half-heartedly, like trying to hold back a tsunami with bare hands.

“Does our credit card have a high enough limit?” I ask.

“I took two, just in case,” responds Katie.

“Don’t worry,” says Irene.  “There is a great sale.  You will save money today.”

Ah, the coup de grace of wifely shopping arithmetic.   If the original price is $150, and its sale price is $90, by purchasing the object, one “makes” $60.  Buying three such objects “makes” $180, and so on.

“Should I expect you for dinner?” I ask.

“Oh, don’t worry about us.  We’ll get something to eat while we’re out,” says Katie.

“You’ll love your new bathroom,” adds Irene, kindly trying to reassure me.

“But I’ve never wanted an emotional relationship with my bathroom,” I think to myself.

Katie smiles confidently as she and Irene depart.

Six hours later, they enter through the garage, laden with boxes.

“Wait until you see what we have for the dining room,” announces Katie in greeting.

“Dining room?” I ask.  “I thought this was a bathroom event.”

“We did that, too,” says Irene.

“We did great,” says Katie.  “We found wall sconces.  The room will be dressed up.  One sconce will go on each side of the window.”

“We can hang them right now,” says Irene.

“Aren’t sconces light fixtures?  Don’t we need an electrician?” I ask.

“You will be happy,” says Katie.  “These sconces hold candles.  No electricity is involved.”

“Wow,” I say, impressed.  “We’re using technology that was in its heyday hundreds of years ago.”

“We knew that would appeal to you,” says Irene.

Two boxes yield metal forms that complement our chandelier.  They are surprisingly light, unencumbered by wiring.

“Shall I get a ruler and a pencil?” I ask.

“For what?” asks Irene.

“You know, to eyeball where to put them.”

Irene has an expression skirting the line between dismissive and amused.  She reaches into her jacket pocket and brings out a contraption resembling an Altoids box.  “This is a laser measuring instrument.  It will show us exactly where they should hang.”

Handling the instrument like a surgeon, she continues, patient, but firm:  “there is no ‘good enough’ in home furnishing.”

Only minutes later, we are bathed in flickering light in our newly “finished” dining room.

“So romantic,” I say.  Both women examine my expression for sincerity.  “I’m serious.  It looks nice.”

And indeed it does.  Even a long-time veteran of “good enough” home décor appreciates a job well done, and simply, and, of course, at half-price!