Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Continent on My Wall

We live in an old house. There are cobblestones on our street and the row houses date back to the 19th century. They are made of brick and are very sturdy. We love our place. 

We also have to fix it a lot. I recently wrote about one repair that I made to our kitchen. Since then the dishwasher has clogged, the cat further ripped up a chair’s upholstery and a hook that I had installed on a hollow core door came loose. There may be other repairs needed that I’m not aware of. This is a typical week. 

There was also a big bare patch of drywall exposed at the base of my stairs waiting to greet me when I came home tonight. The latex paint (I laid it on myself) came off today with the help of my children. My daughter called my wife over for the presentation. 

“Look at this big piece Mommy!” my daughter reportedly said, holding up what must have looked like the continent of Australia. 

My wife confiscated the peelings and I’ve added the painting repair to the list of things I need to understand better before I do them again. 

I saw the patch and just wanted to let fly with a rant of curses that would have been fascinating when my daughter repeated them for her pre-school teacher next week. I know I’m not supposed to curse - I do my best. 

But I think this must be par for the course with two young children and an old house; so many opportunities to lose it. There are times that I feel like I’m playing a game of house Jenga, and that each time I repair something, I inadvertently cause something else to move into disrepair in another corner of the property. In my imaginary game, I worry sometimes that I’ll repair the wrong item and the whole place will fall apart at once. 

“Kittens!” I finally muttered at the ugly wall and my son stopped his nearby playing to look up at me with interest as I uttered the non curse explicative. I was encouraged. 

“Freakin’ Australia on my frog leapin’ wall!” I added with great relish as he burst into a giggle - it felt wonderful. 

When I can remember to do it, these nonsense explicatives can be a great release. It’s a little like having a pillow fight; usually harmless and fun to do and to watch. I know there’s an argument that I am cursing and there’s little difference in the impact on my kids. There may be some truth in this. But I find that if I come up with the right image or phrase, we all laugh. This reaction to me is worlds better than staying angry.

I don’t know what the right answer is. I know my own introduction to cursing started when I was very small. I like to think it was my introductory course to English and Irish poetry. I think I turned out okay; I haven’t been thrown out of religious services yet. 

Probably I’ll be embarrassed someday when one of my kids repeats one of these salty (if otherwise sanitized) lines of verbal reaction, and I’ll be tempted change my ways. I’ll get a lecture from a teacher at parents night in a couple of years and I’ll be abashed. I don’t know. 

Until then, or until I move into a managed building, I’ll just have to use my best judgement. Tonight I judged that the patch on the wall looked like Australia. Curse or no curse, I stand by that assessment. 

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