I’ve always loved houses. When I was five my parents took me on a trolley ride through Eureka Springs, and I spent the duration standing, pressing my nose to the window yelling at the gingerbread houses, “Oooh! I like that one! It’s mine! No wait that one! Oooh!” I imagined the perfect rooms inside, with window sheers blowing in the breeze, shiny hardwood floors and sparkling chandeliers in the dining rooms. I fancied that I would one day live in a gingerbread house. Today I live in a 1950’s ranch, but it’s every bit as precious to me as the gingerbread houses of my childhood vacations. I love to decorate it, change things around, organize bookshelves and paint. I’m no professional, but I work at it.
But after having my daughter, Jane, I quickly realized that my house-loving life could easily be divided into two halves.
BJD: Before Jane Decorating
AJD: After Jane Decorating
BJD: Before Jane I made sure to clean the dining table each morning, because it’s black and seems to attract a layer of dust every day.
AJD: I can’t even see the dining table anymore, mostly because each morning I’m too busy crouching on all fours, my nostrils sniffing our carpet like a bloodhound to find the source of spoiled milk smell that’s permeated the house. Why, you ask? Because Jane likes to press her sippy cups into the floor and watch the contents spurt out.
BJD: Before Jane I bought fresh flowers almost weekly to put in the kitchen.
AJD: There’s no more room for fresh flowers in the kitchen because the counter-tops are full of those fake plastic grass bottle drying racks. Normal people have one. We have four.
The list could go on, from the design-deterrent plastic covered highchair on rollers that dominates dinner parties, or the brown and pink pack-n-play with vanilla wafers ground into its cushion. The ground is littered with pacifiers, there are countless bath toys in our only bathtub, and, of course, there’s the diaper genie. Last time I checked, none of these items graced the pages of my favorite decorating magazines. But at night, after Jane goes to bed, I sit on the couch and survey the damage.
There’s a brown piece of banana inexplicably stuck to the side of the china cabinet. Jane’s stack of books by the reading chair wobble precariously. Her toy chest is in the corner by the mid century console I found in an antique mall, and on top of said console are carefully arranged batman toys (my husband is afraid his world will become all-pink and he’s trying to imprint a love of superheros on her early).
It makes me smile, because these little messes, these little “blemishes” to what was once a carefully arranged house are a good thing. They’re signs that she was there, signs that Jane came and turned our lives upside down in the best of ways. Do I wish they made more stylish highchairs that middle class folks could actually afford? Yes. But I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s plenty of time in life for decorating and non-child-proof accessories. This “After Jane Decorating” phase of my life makes all those imagined gingerbread dream houses pale in comparison.