Covering the past

I’ve decided to paint my house. Well, at least the inside parts of it. We painted the house around this time of year, right after we moved in seven years ago. The house was very pink when we bought it. Pink walls, pink carpets, pinkish wall paper. The previous owner even left us a pink flowering plant as a house-warming gift, which was really sweet, even though I’m not much of a pink person.


I think seven is the perfect number of years to go between paintings and I’m actually looking forward to dried joint compound under my nails and a fine sprinkling of yellow and green in my hair, and the feeling of accomplishment when I look over the room set back to rights with clean walls of fresh color.

There’s always the small promise of mystery when I work on the house. I find bits of people’s lives embedded in the walls or lurking in the space between the floor and trim. Like when we pulled up the carpet in the little bedroom. We were sure it was a nursery at one time because there were little bears painted near the light switch on one wall and rainbow wallpaper on another. Under the carpet were the 9″ asbestos floor tiles that covered the upstairs and half the basement. As we uncovered the last of the tiles we saw that someone had decided to put new blue linoleum tiles down directly over the old gray ones.

I was sure now that the baby was a boy. The boy’s father started in one corner and was doing a fine job until something went terribly wrong. Gaps appeared between the tiles, the rows became crooked and the tiles skewed until the last few tiles were thrown down in a rage, broken and overlapping, a permanent record of tragedy long forgotten.

What could have happened? Did the father lose his job? Did the mother abandon them? Did the baby die? Or, was he a drunk and in a fit of alcoholic rage deliberately screwed up the new floor to teach the bitch a lesson?

It almost seemed a shame to cover this sorry event with a new floor, but the past is still part of the house, tucked under wood and wool. Maybe someday I’ll find out what really happened under the floor 50 years ago, but until then, the little bears are still marching under a coat of tan latex.

Leave a Reply