My parents sold our house from my childhood recently. Vicky and I had visited a few weeks beforehand to gather our left-over things, reminisce, and enjoy it one last time.
It was an odd thing to walk away from something so attached to the life of my mind. The spaces and smells which gave context and meaning to most of my growing-up experience… left vacant and somehow less meaningful. I wondered how many treasured things I had left buried around that property, things I would never see again.
So I took something with me.
There is a patch of plastered wall in my parents’ bedroom that I used to look at when I lived there. It’s a small, uneven surface a few feet wide. When I was a kid, I made up stories and gave significance to its different textures and shapes. On the wall were the frescoed antics of my small alien whose blaster pistol shot large globs of green goop at his enemies, the stately ninja turtle in his collared shirt, the giant mole rat stepping into the clever trap of an angry stapler, and the rubber ducky-dinosaur falling from a cliff to help him.
Each time I saw the mural, I recounted their stories.
Sometime around my junior year in high school, however, I worked in construction. I spent the better part of a summer smoothing out concrete with a trowel, trying to remove every air bubble and streak that inevitably showed up on the surface. I would pour and smooth, pour and smooth, until the surfaces were perfectly neat.
Then one day I went back to my wall and all I saw was a shoddy plastering job.