In 1997, which my fingers tell me was 15 years ago, I moved house. I was then part of a family with two adults and a pair of high-school aged kids, and part of the reason we came here was the room.
There’s now me. And the family center has shifted to the northern end of a county that gets longer with every highway renovation and tourist season. So after fifteen years here, preceded by fifteen years with small children on a farm in Watsonville, I am gearing up to move again.
The place I’m looking to buy is not only closer to the next generation, but it’s in a perfectly beautiful place. It’s a little smaller, and better, I like the layout and some of the nice touches. But there are things I will miss about this place, and because most of those things have a story about them, I thought I’d do a few posts, and talk about this house I have loved for a decade and a half.
Dick Francis had a novel called Decider where his architect protagonist mused on the reasons people fell for the houses they did. In his case, the character’s deciding factor was a tree, one broad and sturdy, that he could picture his sons climbing.
In my case, the decider of this house was the texture of the walls.
Most walls these days are of dry wall (also known as sheetrock) with a thin cover of plaster that serves mostly to hide the seams of the panels. It’s quick and cheap and in any event, it’s the paint that people see, right?
Except for people like me. This place has sheetrock, yes, but over it is a heavy layer of texture that resembles what you get when you try to spread too-cool butter frosting on a cake: you can see the pass of the trowel, the direction of the arm laying it, the effort it took to spread that stuff up there, all the way up to the apex of the ceiling.
It invites the hand, to feel it. And I know it was work, because whenever I’ve tried to have someone duplicate it in small patches, I heard about the difficulty. Oh, the grumbles and low-voiced cursing that plaster has evoked.
And more: downstairs, where the ceilings are flat and would normally meet the walls in a simple right angle, here it is curved. A job that entails a whole lot of fiddly work, and no doubt cursing and self-doubt, but makes the rooms sing.
The man who laid that plaster on the walls—and this is a big house, with high ceilings—did so as a labor of love. He knew that the effort made all the difference between walls that hold paint, and walls that hold a family.
I’ll miss the walls.