I wrote something the other day about how it’s taken me four years to put the house back together after I insisted the whole place be stripped naked and painted off-white. This all came about in the fog of Judah’s first year on our planet. I was spending too much time in the house for various reasons and had this notion that changing the colour of the walls would magically make me feel human again. Funny how it doesn’t work that way.
Judah was an adorably affectionate baby for whom sleep was a moot point. He also tended to forget the consumption of the last meal about 20 minutes after its completion. Finally, he screamed for every single moment that he was in a car seat. Add to that the joy of an unpredictable yet ambitious gut infection and I was serving a form of maternal house arrest.
I decided a change was in order. This happens every once in a while. Poor Luke will come home to upended bookshelves, a reoriented couch, or kitchen cupboards emptied onto the floor. I can only imagine what goes through his head. Sometimes, he is understandably upset, for while I am someone who craves constant movement and change, he is someone who thrives on stability and known quantities.
Seeming to understand the precarious state of my faculties, he agreed to the painting. Taking that inch, I then strong-armed him into accepting some furniture rearrangement. My olive branch was allowing a television to be mounted on the living room wall, a concession I regret to this day.
At first, I had my heart set on brightening the place up. Think Mexican tienda. Terracotta. Sunshine yellow. Turquoise accents. An assault on the visual senses. Look at these walls and be happy, dammit! A wise decorator suggested I buy sample pots and paint huge pieces of cardboard in those colours and tape them to the walls. I dutifully obeyed, came down the next morning and immediately put that festive cardboard in the recycling bin. Off-white for the win!
Win is a strong word. It was a definite upgrade from the pinkish-grey the builder chose, but now I often feel like I’m living in a tub of french vanilla ice cream. I suppose there are worse fates. Besides, I bet it’s in now that we’re all into hÿgge.
This piece I wrote attempted to analyze why I hadn’t bothered to repopulate the walls and the bookshelves with all the proof of our pre-children existence in the years since the off-white-washing. I made some decent points, but it was a bit over the top on the armchair psychology, bordering on maudlin without the benefit of bourbon. I think I can boil those 1062 words down to something much simpler: I wasn’t ready.
Every once in a while, I’d pull all our art and memorabilia out of the storage room and wait for inspiration to strike. I could hardly decide what to feed my children on a daily basis let alone figure out where to hang the dreary painting Luke got when he left his job 15 years ago. My brain flipped me the bird and slammed the door on the way out while I put our past life back into its temporary morgue.
Then, at the start of this year, something glorious happened. A glimmer of light seeped in through the cracks in my mind and I knew it was time. The art not only came out but it actually went on the walls. I even went to Ikea - with children - to buy a bookshelf, a window bench, a few lamps, umpteen picture frames and many plants. Oh the wonder of plants! Finally, the lonely, dusty dude that was wallowing in the kitchen would have friends! Finally, our house was breathing with life.
It’s been a slow process, as anything involving Ikea furniture is wont to be, but it is coming together. Plants have been placed, children’s art has been hung and I even mounted a shelf in the bathroom after psyching myself out about the drill for two weeks. It’s slightly higher than it should be, but it’s level and square which is pretty much a miracle.
What’s more, all those photos and keepsakes from our younger life have come back out of hiding. Our history bears witness to our present, our present bears witness to our past, and it all exists together in a space that now feels like home. I just have to make sure I don't kill the plants.