One thing that was hard to get used to when I moved to Arkansas was how people left their outside footwear on indoors. In Newfoundland and to the best of my recollection, in Canada, you leave your shoes and boots inside the entrance and either walk in unshod, or if it's a dress-up occasion, you might bring a pair of dress shoes that are only worn indoors. I guess it has to do with the climate. No floor would survive the road salt that would be tracked in during the winters. But it seems like the custom was observed in warm weather months too.
Rain, snow or shine, my dad would not comply.
If you invited my father into your home, it was understood that his brown leather workboots would remain on his feet, regardless of the season. If you didn't understand that, he didn't stay, and he didn't come back. My father could be a contrary bastard sometimes, but he was no boor: he was generally a gracious guest and could be unexpectedly fastidious about personal decorum. It was just one of his signature eccentricities that people accepted and excepted without question.
I wish I had asked him what that was about. They came off if he was planning to rest, bathe or swim, and that was it. It was as if going shoeless was to go around undressed. Only my dad could make a scuffed pair of brown workboots seem formal.
I've been remembering that since we moved in. Half the floor in our new house is covered in freshly refinished oak, and Patrick and I spent the first several days intercepting kids, workmen and visitors at the door, making them remove their footwear. In our zeal we decided to declare our floors for Newfoundland, and establish a permanent shoe-free base in the new world. We applied felt padding to every piece of furniture. We would have applied it to the kids' feet if it would have stuck. We lifted and lowered beds and dressers with the breath-held precision of a lunar landing. We were complete nuts.
"Maybe we should just take a utility knife and make a big sacrificial gouge in the middle somewhere and be done with it," I suggested after one of the boys' beds fell apart mid-assembly and nearly gave us simultaneous heart attacks. No way could we survive the flawlessness much longer.
There's a bedroom suite that came with the house, an atomic-era double bed, end table and dresser fashioned in curved modern lines from blonde wood. Before the seller, Charles, knew that buyer was us or we knew that the seller was Charles, I'd asked our agent to inquire whether he would be interested in selling it to us. She came back with the word that it was ours for free if we wanted it.
We put the bed and end table in the pre-schooler's room, but the dresser wouldn't leave enough floor space for play, so I decided to conscript it for use as a linen bureau/buffet in the dining room. Only after we got it set up, I noticed a big spot smack in the middle of the mirror where the coating on the back of the glass has corroded, an atoll of verdigris in a silver sea. My first reaction was, oh, crap.
My second reaction was, thank God.
I let my breath out after that. We put good doormats everywhere and started letting guests cross the threshold unhindered (we sweep like mad curlers behind them). My four year old spilled milk everywhere under the dining room table the other day, and we only made him sleep outside with the dog for one night. I did discover pencil scribbles on the new coffee table yesterday. Fortunately they could be erased faster than I could dial 1-800-GYP-SIES.
I've been needing to ease up in other areas too. I don't know if it's the new environment, or blogging/writing developments, or just that things are going pretty well and I'm not sure how to cope with that, but I've noticed the volume control in my head for self-criticism seems to have slid up. Maybe I thought that in the new house, I'd be the new me, and I'm put out when the old gang of character traits shows up on the doorstep.
Because I don't know if I've told you this, but I am really kind of a mess. Some parts of my personality have no manners and no sense. Some come tracking in shit. Some are wearing killer stillettos and don't give a damn. I've been going behind them, scolding and tut-tutting.
Throughout the day, I'll catch a glimpse myself in the mirror, whenever I grab my sunglasses and keys off the bureau or toss the mail in a drawer in the hope it will sort itself out. That flaw is right at eye level, literally in my face. Like my dad's boots, like my innumerable, gate-crashing imperfections, it's damn well not coming off to please me. Life is meant to be lived in, worn out, used up, it says to me. Deal with it.
Labels: soul and spirit