The other day, I came across a few sentences I had scrawled on an old yellow pad back in the early 1990s:
“For the last 10 years, anyone lying on his back in this bedroom has looked up at a water stain shape like Australia. I study it now, knowing that with every fresh rainfall it may grow, extending an ever-larger coastline of destruction across the plaster.“
It’s strange to find a message like this from one’s past; even stranger to come upon an old issue of a magazine from that same year and see a similar theme echoed there.
In one of this magazine’s features, then-supermodel Lawrence Hutton was asked if she would consider having a facelift.
“We must start to honor the battle,” she told her interviewer. “That’s what life is, and it shows on our faces. Plastic surgery is a way of saying you don’t believe in experience.”
This house of ours sure honors the battle. A world of facelifts couldn’t keep all the experience it has seen from seeping through.
We had already been here a while when I scribbled those notes. Several years had already passed since we had first walked inside and fallen in love. It may have been the graceful curve of the banister in the second-floor hall.
Back then, we took one of its old-lady-style bedrooms and made it over for a toddler in a jungle wallpaper with cross-eyed monkeys and zebras and toucans. During the eternities of naptime, that child had slept and talked to her stuffed animals and even, as we learned years later, wormed her way under the bed to leave crooked pencilings on the wooden slats supporting the box spring.
The little room down the hall we did over in a teddy bear motif for a baby soon to arrive.
Both wallpapers were gone by the time I wrote those notes, the teddies having given way to a paper with a repeating pattern in which Wile E. Coyote parachuted sadly to earth after his last failed attempt on the life of the Road Runner, seen zooming gaily around the baseboards in a snappy roadster.
As for the jungle creatures, they had given way to a pale peach paint, jointly chosen by mother and child, that, as the years passed, was gradually covered over by a collage of photographs: of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley and Edgar Allen Poe.
But all that was just cosmetics.
Plenty else has happened here, including two falls down the stairs, the gradual loosening of that pretty banister due to too much use by small would-be ballerinas, and a sudden deluge of water through the kitchen lights when a person who shall remain nameless turned on the bath taps and wandered off to write.
We have also seen many a mice infestation and many a bat visit.
Someone’s life ended in this house and someone else took a spectacular inadvertent dive backwards off the front porch and into the bushes.
We’ve been hit by one unforgettable bolt of lightning that in an instant took out every electronic appliance in the place.
No, you don’t have to sit still long in this life for things to begin happening to you. A great deal has happened both to us and to our house in our time here, it seems. The water stain shaped like Australia is gone now and I actually sort of miss it.
Luckily though, the kitchen ceiling has started to come slowly down in fat curling flakes – more ‘experience’ as Lauren Hutton would say.
I just sweep them up, and shake my head, and smile.