Sealing in the flaws of a great home


“… And up those stairs, in that little back bedroom is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar. And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak my favorite dog is buried in the yard…. If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory, from the house that built me.” —Miranda Lambert

I uncovered my sense of home in a house I was ready to leave. Pulling up an ugly piece of carpet can change a space and a plan. My intuition (and a recovered penny) tells me the carpet in this room and an adjoining hallway was laid in 1973. Almost my lifetime ago.

I guess this house was as ready for a change as me. They say a coat of paint wakes up a room. Pair that with a couple coats of polyurethane over a 90-year-old hardwood floor and it screams, “I’M UP!”

I prefer the aged look. The “look what I’ve been through” look. Martina McBride said, “every laugh line on your face, made you who you are today.” Same goes for my floor. I had to do a little sanding to smooth out some rough spots, but only here and there. And for the heck of it, I went against the grain in one inconspicuous spot. Just to make it a little more mine.

It’s not perfect with its worn spots and at least one creaky board by the closet. The poly layers sealed all that imperfection in, as it should be.

I love the sound of it now. The whole experience is a little “Waltons”—if I can throw that reference out without sounding too pathetic. I love the hollowness that bounces through when my feet hit the floorboards in the morning, the way my kids tap across it into their rooms. Even my dog’s toenails click-clicking as she winds down into her spot right outside my oldest daughter’s bedroom door.

The hall butts up to the doorframes marked up with stacks of height measurements for both kids. I’ll have to use a stepstool to mark my oldest’s height sooner than I prefer. And my youngest turned the lower half of one hall wall into a canvas a few years ago after finding the magical thing that is a Sharpie.

I eventually bought a Magic Eraser after someone assured me it cleans about anything. After standing in front of the scribbles for a few minutes, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, there it stayed, waiting for my hallway completion project to begin so it can be painted over. Or framed? Not sure yet.

I made the trek from my room to my daughter’s when she was an infant. The first baby. You know…the experiment. Night after night I crossed over the hallway, through her door, and to her crib. I picked her up and traced my steps back. And then back again. Hours of a slow march, her eyes fixed on the ceilings from her room, through the hallway, to my room.

The repetition of her view settling into her memory, teaching her “this is my room, my hallway, my home.”

I write all this not because I’m leaving this house, but because one day we probably will. Because things happen, lives change, kids grow, and houses get sold. Just not today. And because this is how—if we’re lucky—we feel about our spaces.

I like to imagine all the feet that have passed through the house in the 80 years before we did. All the kids who ran the stairs and the owners who cussed the original builder for only putting in one bathroom. I bet they had some pretty good runs down the hallway, too. Even the one who originally covered up those hardwood floors in 1973. I forgive you. Because it gave me the chance to uncover them.


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