Thursday, April 20, 2006

Home, dirty home

My family and I are fortunate to live in a very large if slightly eccentric home. This home belonged to my husband's grandfather and has seen almost every member of his family live here at one time or another. This home was built somewhere in the 40s or 50s and has some very unique design features. It has a very open floor plan with a large kitchen as well as a pretty darn big living room which are both wonderful features. Some of the more "unique" design features to this home are the geometric, wood trillis which divides the entryway from the dining room, the linoleum in the kitchen which features ships with sails and windmills (all in the ever stylish and current shade of harvest gold) and the bathroom which looks like something out of a high-end vegas suite from the 60s. This bathroom doesn't have sheetrocked walls. Instead it is covered in some kind of thick plastic like substance that comes in large sheets. The lower portion is black while the top portion is the same black but is flecked with pink, peach and white paint splatters. Except for the one wall which has green plastic sheeting. I guess they ran out of black for that one. Or maybe it's a "design feature." This bathroom has generated more comments than any other room of the house. My friend's little daughter saw it for the first time and was in awe. "Wow mommy, this is like a hotel bathroom!" I'm not sure where they have been staying while on vacation since I haven't seen a hotel bathroom like this except on early James Bond films.

The other rooms feature windows of non-standard sizes which are off of the ground in non-standard measurements. The walls are sheetrock with about 1/2" of plaster over it. When my husband was attempting to do some computer networking and needed to drop a cable down a wall through the attic (before wireless networks were readily available) our friend came over to help. They drilled the hole in the attic and tried to drop the cable down. Only it wouldn't go. It was stopped. Why? Because the builder but cross beams between each stud all the way down. And I can't forget to mention the mysterious Light Switch to Nowhere. We don't care when the kids play with that one. We let them flip it to their little hearts content. They could be turning lights on and off somewhere in China for all we know.

But perhaps the single most frustrating design feature of this house are the built in planters. These are large limestone planters filled with dirt, inside the house. Yes, inside the house. When I first laid eyes on these planters while dating my husband I thought they were quaint. After we were married and I moved in I even tried to use them. I went to the nursery and bought some cute little flowers, brought them home and planted them. They really did look cute--that day. Then the next day I went to check on them and the little flowers had all turned their pretty little heads straight to the window and the sunshine that steamed in. Which looked cute if you were outside of the house looking in at them. Which of course no one can do since there is a huge flowerbed on the other side of the window. So I had all these cute flowers that no one could really see. But that wasn't so bad. At least we had cute flowers growing in the house! How cute! How Martha Stewart!

Until the aphids came. I noticed these tiny little bugs all over the plants. Ewww. Sprays didn't work and just made the house stink. People would walk into our home and were instantly assaulted by the smell of insecticide. Then they would see the strange little anti-social flowers who wouldn't even dignify my hard work to keep them alive by even looking at me. After the aphids returned again, I caved. I pulled up the plants and tossed them. This left me with the dirt. It didn't look great but there wasn't much else to do with it. We joked about it but grew accustomed to it. Eventually we had children. Now the planters are no longer jokes. They are evil design features placed here by an obviously childless architect. Every child has each, at their own time, discovered the dirt planter and delighted in playing with it. They throw the dirt on the ground, they sprinkle it on the piano, they bury things in it. They eventually learn that playing in the dirt inside the house is not allowed. The first two children (both girls I might add) would occassionally make a mess but for the most part were very careful and tried to leave it alone.

Now we have our son. He is almost two. Living in a home with a large planter filled with dirt must be his equivelent to a college age boy at the playboy mansion. If there were a tiny milk and cookie pub for the male toddlers to frequent I'm sure he'd be there everyday bragging about his dirt playland.

And really, I can't blame him. I'm sure it's a huge temptation and great fun. I'm just getting completely worn out with all the dirt and the vacumming. We've racked our brain trying to figure out how to fix this problem. We've looked for tile to tile in the middle of the planter but nothing matches. Let me describe it. It is probably around eight feet long and about three feet tall. The front is limestone and each end meets up with a wall. It's about two and half (or so) feet wide and has windows that run the length of it. The top of the planter is marble and has an opening of somewhere around 6-10" by about 7 feet which is where the dirt is.

My best guess is that the marble needs to be removed with crowbars (some of it is in bad shape) and then the dirt would be removed, the surface prepared and then we could tile the whole thing over in something nice and put some throw pillows up there. Of course this all takes time and money, both of which are in short supply. At this point I think I'm going to get a really big, ugly piece of plywood and lay it over the hole to keep the munchkins out of it.

Until then it's just me and vacum.


Sorka said...

Ahh the light switch that goes to nowhere.. we have one of those.. and.. hey it's in a closet!!
Can't you just scoop the dirt out of that planter?? keep blankets in it or something.. or how bout fish!

merry said...

Plywood, Good idea! That planter is a fish out of water. You could put sand in it and let the kids play in it only if they are GOOD!