Rendered Fat Content


" … what passes for ages in human-scaled terms."

Old houses serve as TimeCapsules. Pull flooring and discover clues to the past beneath. Walls hold decades-old toys somehow slipped between cracks and preserved intact. Layers of wallpaper hint at how radically tastes change and also how similar some eras seem. Not everything old seems new again, some of it just seems tacky now. The bottom layer, the presumed original stuff, showed remarkable workmanship and design. Subsequent "improvements" trended continuously downhill. Of course we believe our restoration superior to all but the original, though we have restored little beyond doorknobs, rethinking out-dated principles and employing what we think of as more aging-appropriate materials. We expect ours to last and not just cosmetically coverup, unlike some past remodels on the place.

We can date each change by the newspapers used for stuffing siding cracks and the quality of materials. The Seventies introduced a variety of then-futuristic materials that have aged about as well as potato salad left in the sun.
We banish all of that we found. The three dollar shoes advertised in the crumbling newspaper by a long-gone retailer say more than a short essay might about the world this home once inhabited. The then owners now certainly long gone, their once home survived their tenancy as it will likely survive ours. Ghosts wander the upstairs hall, perhaps searching for that newspaper we found behind the kitchen wall. The garden has yielded a pocketful of old marbles, including a few crude, handmade clay babies. I can tell where the privy once stood because the lawn keeps sinking into an apparently bottomless hole there and the grass seems just that much greener.

I've been stuffing little notes to posterity between the walls, believing that fifty years hence someone might wonder who screwed up that remodel they inherited when they bought the place. I'm leaving one of my books in there and a short essay about the remodeling effort, though I suspect that neither will prove as interesting as a newspaper might. I met another remodeler at the barber shop last week, and he shared photos of drawings he found on boards buried between the walls of the place he's updating. He figures one of the laborers or carpenters sketched as a pastime, and left bits of himself behind. He did not deign to sign his name to any of them.

It might be that we try to prolong our lives by the improvements we attempt to this property. I pulled off a window trim board to pull the window for repainting last week and found behind it a note I'd forgotten I'd scribbled there, on the back of the last trim board replaced at the end of the massive repainting effort back in '12. I named the crew, all family, and the date. One of that cast is gone now and the rest of us somehow inexplicably six years older. My scribbling remained there intact, as clear and as certain as the day I laid it down. We've sealed the newly-laid floor boards beneath layers of Polyurethane®, presuming protection against the otherwise unrelenting passage of demon time. The walls might crumble, the windows crack and dim, the light fixtures grow out of fashion, but those floor boards are there for the ages, or what passes for ages in human-scaled terms.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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