I originally wrote this piece for CBC “Breakaway” four years ago. Abby and her tastes have changed since then but the house remains the same.
When I was a kid, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the home I’d live in when I had kids of my own. I was so preoccupied with trying to get girls I didn’t think about the long-term consequences of actually getting one.
But I never thought I’d be living in a house with plastic pink icicle mobiles hanging from my front porch.
You know the things. Sometimes they’re purple, sometimes they’re clear, chances are they sparkle. They’re spiral-shaped and spin in the wind, and they tell passersby, “Now there lives a man who shops at the Dollar Store.”
In my case, it’s more like, there lives a man who has a seven-year-old daughter.
“I thought those were going in the backyard,” I said to my wife. “You know, where the only people who’d have to look at them would be the neighbours we don’t like.”
“I know,” said my wife. “But Abby wanted to hang them in front.”
Abby is my seven-year-old. She has a unique sense of style. Think Cyndi Lauper meets that woman down the street who talks to herself. And then add pink, lots of pink.
That’s the problem with kids. You don’t want to stifle their creativity. After all, art – and apparently taste in porch ornaments – is subjective. One person’s delightfully whimsical wind-catcher is another person’s latest embarrassing addition to the house.
That’s also why you’ll find bedrooms in my house painted, in the one case, like the inside of a day-glo Halloween pumpkin, in the second case, with the greens and blues that you might find in bottles of sno-cone syrup. It’s a bit like living in Peewee’s Playhouse.
As for the rest of the house, you could best describe the design as Early American Clutter. For example, we own a beautiful vintage divan that we rescued several years ago. It is now covered with soft green leather, school bags, laptop cases and laundry baskets.
The last piece of art we acquired was Abby’s self-portrait entitled, “My Face If It Were Made Out of Fruit.”
The dining room table has been taken over by books, crafts in various stages of completion, a Christmas jigsaw puzzle, and a Harlem Globetrotters souvenir program. The last time we actually ate at the dining room table was during the Great Kitchen Table Overflow of ’05.
In our family room, dominated by crates of Barbie parts and McDonald’s toys, you’ll find the Portal of Stickers. This is a door frame that over time has been covered with stickers. You’ve got your Dora stickers, your Bratz stickers, your Tom and Jerry stickers (where’d those come from?) and you’ve got a lot of peeled paint where someone’s removed the older stickers.
But the best — THE BEST — feature of the house is the graffiti wall. This is a section of bare sheet rock in the kitchen that during a moment of weakness my wife and I allowed our children to draw on. Since then it’s been signed by relatives, friends, strangers off the street. Messages range from “I love you guys like my own family” to “Don’t ya wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” It’s hideous but charming in its way. And it’s likely to remain indefinitely.
Why? Because we’ve been saying we’re going to paint the inside of the house since we bought it 15 years ago. But what’s the point of painting when we keep having kids and animals that are going to scratch, scrape, scribble and sticker all over it?
Besides, if we paint now, the kids will want to have input on the colour choices. And I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for living in the pink… ALL pink.