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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

Freshly Painted Walls

When I was young, my dad hung up all the pictures in the house; hammering nails into the wall was his domain, and I spent my entire childhood with just two pictures on my bedroom wall. My dad wanted to keep our newly built house nice, and he didn’t want to ruin the freshly applied paint; which made sense to him, but no sense at all to my 15 year old self. So, one day when he wasn’t looking, I taped a poster to the back of my bedroom door. I figured that tape was okay, but didn’t realize that the gluey substance holding up “The Who” must have been created for NASA or something, because despite many attempts to get it off, 35 years later, Roger Daltrey and his crew are a bit worse for wear but still clinging to the back of my old bedroom door.

Fortunately for me, my current home is old, and it has been repainted and spackled more times than I can count, but when I first moved in I thought of my dad, and the fear of making a mess on the walls paralyzed me into avoiding any contact with a hammer. Instead, I would carefully wiggle a hook or nail into an existing hole, not caring if it didn’t quite fit, or the picture didn’t look right in a certain spot.

Within a short while I had filled up all the existing holes, and my avoidance technique started to feel just a little bit silly (and I realized my dad wasn’t actually watching) so I decided to pick up a hammer and see what would happen.

The very first thing that I hung on the wall was a vintage, ostrich feather dress at the top of the second floor hallway (so that no-one else could see it – a very restrained act of rebellion against the restrictions of my childhood room). It’s a beautiful dress that I still imagine fitting into one day, and I love the look and feel of it; it is a true party dress from a long time ago, and I can imagine a lady taking great amounts of time getting ready to wear it out to a very fancy dance.

For days after I would look at the dress, and wonder how on earth I could have hidden it away when seeing it on the wall gave me so much pleasure. It was a very subdued ah-ha moment that slowly nudged me to start placing my collection of tea plates down the side of the staircase wall. A few at a time, other favorite things started to attach themselves to the wall and gradually creep down the stairs, like random decorating ninja’s peeking ahead to see if my dad was looking.

But of course there was no going back, and before I knew it I had bought even more nails, and I delighted in filling up the oddest of spaces in every single room, and putting things far higher up than they should have been. I decided that I liked seeing things on display, and the balance of shapes and texture was a game of sorts. I found that I didn’t have to follow all the rules, and not everything needed the perfect picture hook with a maximum weight limit; sometimes a push pin, or the tiniest of nails was more than enough, and other times I had to be a bit more thoughtful, warding off unexpected falls in the middle of the night.

When my dad visited he laughed at how full my house was, and he didn’t remember being so stern in the past, but I still can’t get the tape off my Who poster, and I think I will probably always hesitate before taking a hammer to a freshly painted wall ….

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