“There’s paint on the door” said Barns, but he looked happy about it. I knew what he was talking about, having put it there myself while carrying a load of messy paintbrushes into the house after the kids had been painting in the garden. I went past the door and – oops! – adorned it with a streak of brownish blue. But my hands were full and by the time I could do something about it, I had already forgotten and when I remembered, it was already dry. I wasn’t too fussed – like literally everything in the house, the door could do with a new coat of paint, anyway. So why was Barns, possibly the least aesthetically inclined person I’ve ever met, even mentioning it?
“I was worried for a moment and then I remembered that we’re not renting anymore! We don’t have to do anything about it. And it’s just a little streak of paint, who cares?”
He looked so happy, and with those words, I too released some tension that I’d forgotten I’d been carrying, perhaps because I’ve been lugging it around with me my whole life.
This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a house that wasn’t a rental. I’ve never painted a wall. I’ve never hung a picture. I’ve never dug in a garden. I’ve never invested in my living space. And I’ve never been allowed the freedom of making a mess. I have, of course, because that’s what humans do sometimes, and it’s always been horrible and scary to sort out, the moment where, for example, in a kitchen completely devoid of usable surfaces I set a pyrex dish hot out of the oven down on a stove top element that I didn’t realise was on, causing it to explode and scorch the kitchen lino, that moment becoming not just a momentary lapse in judgement but some kind of sin, to be endlessly apologised for. To be paid and paid and paid for. I don’t mind the paying with money. I was aware that that was part of the deal. But having paid with money, it was the other ways I was also forced to pay that I resented.
I remember terrible anxiety when the kids first started to eat for themselves. We always put a sheet down to catch mess but food still made its way onto the walls and floor. I scolded the kids for dropping food, and knew it wasn’t fair, that all one-year-olds do it, that it’s developmentally important, that they literally can’t control themselves, and hated myself for telling them off for it and did it anyway, my fear of the people with so much power over us bigger than my ability to be reasonable. I remember trying not to show the kids how stressed I was as I attempted in vain to scrub out the stains they had made, because who knows what landlords will try and get you for and we could not afford to replace carpet.
And suddenly, we own a house! I literally never thought this day would come. Yesterday Nora came inside with her gumboots on and tracked damp pink chalk all over the carpet. I’m not sure if it will stain but I’m not too worried if it does. Who gives a flying fuck about a few pink stains on some old carpet? What amazing freedom! What incredible privilege to be able to think like that. We don’t want to, you know, trash the house, I mean we have enough repair work to do on the poor old place as it is without adding to our problems, but at least we don’t have to panic when things get a bit grubby. I get heady with it sometimes, thinking about the house and all the things we could do, there’s so much potential here, forgetting of course that we have no time or money or DIY skill. But perhaps those things will come. In the meantime, I’ve bought myself a few prints that I’ve been wanting for years. I’m going to hang some pictures at last.