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.
This made me smile. You can never have too many reasons to smile.
Thanks. Glad to have been the reason.
Yes, but just think about how nice a fresh coat of paint will look. Can you see it? Ahhh, pink. 😀 Painting discussions are going on all over the world. Feels good to know you’re not alone, doesn’t it. I like the crafty wall.
Life is too short for paint discussions.
Thanks! We like it too.
Hooray for Abby! 😀
Ha! You said it.
I can give you a very good reason not to paint the interior of your house – like you said the kids want input. Picture deep, deep purple (almost black) walls, a deep, deep purple wall to wall carpet, with mauve bedspread & drapes with huge dark purple designs on them. High noon on a bright summer’s day, you had to turn the light on. When my parents sold the house a few years later, the people made the offer conditional on them painting “the purple room.” It took 7 coats of paint!
The teenage room. My roommate in college painted his room black. He was an art student, could you guess?
One of your best, Ross. And I live in a house decorated in the same style: Early American Clutter, too.
Thanks. Honestly, I visit other homes and think, “So, how does this work?”
You won’t ask that if you come to my clutter-ful house!
Super! What time? Can I bring anything?
Sorry. I’m all out.
Thank you for putting that song in my head. “I’ll light the fire.” Great to hear from you aGAIN! I was thinking about writing something along similar lines, about how things tend to gather and collect in corners of our house like fallen leaves…and then some days (like today), I can’t find one of our 10 hairbrushes anywhere. Happy new year Ross!
Happy New Year to you as well. I took a bit of a break over the holidays and put some time into “the big project.” I’m really digging the process of genuine creation, though I fear it’s turning into a not-funny episode of Parks & Rec.
I’ve done similar (taken the break) but not devoted time to the big project. Good for you my friend! Thanks for your advice last year, to engage. Have a good day.
That’s a cool idea!
Negligence is the mother of invention.
I would expect nothing less from the man who has a fox scull on his desk.
I guess it is part of a trend.
You made me think of the time my niece went to live with my father-in-law. She painted the room bubble-gum pink and black – flat paint. My father-in-law became ill and had to move out. I was so embarrassed when the inspectors came.
Ah, the vision of youth.
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Sounds a lot like my parent’s house. I’m 25 now and still turn their house over when I go and visit. 🙂
I certainly hope they keep your old room preserved as a shrine.
Your house seems pretty great. One time I squished a bug on the wall and my dad repainted it immediately.
I can guarantee that would never happen in my house.
I’m so glad I ran across your thoughts. They’re nice and nutty like mine. And your house sounds similar to our “you can’t hurt anything” safe place for my kids and their friends. Still is and they’re young adults. Good job. Stay fun.
Thanks. We like it. The wall remains unpainted.
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