Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of September 15, 2015
I was stripping again. No, not my clothes, also not my hair color or a wire, but wallpaper. One room in my house had wallpaper on the wall from at least 60 years ago. That is 40 years before my time in this house.
One might wonder why I left the old wallpaper for so long. I liked the yellow wallpaper and perhaps in the deep recesses of my mind I knew I didn’t want to strip this old wallpaper because I was afraid of what lived underneath it. I was afraid of crumbling plaster walls. Because I knew the work involved and had that fear, I thought I would be clever and use peel and stick wallpaper, along with being creative and using book pages as new wallpaper over the old wallpaper. I started my project and loved what was happening, but I was reminded by my spouse we will sell this house in the future years and someone else might not like my creativity. Imagine that?
I thought about it long and hard and knew I didn’t have the energy to do the walls twice so I acquiesced for a saner wall treatment.
I was surprised when the old wallpaper peeled off in minutes. I had the entire room peeled in 30 minutes. How’s that for stripping? Piece of cake, I thought, until — I looked at all the glue on the walls. I knew it needed to come off, and the holes in the plaster needed to be patched. Old houses have crooked walls and show the wear of time, and plaster perhaps more than sheetrock.
Tackling the glue, I used all the removers I used on the wallpaper I stripped from walls in past houses I lived in. This time these magic removers didn’t touch the glue. The monster glue was not giving up its residence on my wall. I checked the Internet. Yup, I tried all the handyman tips. Finally I saw a little tip from a natural solutions housewife. Vinegar, could it be? Would it work? I had nothing to lose.
I poured the vinegar in my bucket and it was magic. Up and down, and up and down the ladder I moved. I didn’t need to lift weights; my arms were getting exercise from scrubbing. My bottle of Excedrin was getting exercise going down my throat to soothe my aches and pains. Finally the glue was gone and I could do my final sweep with TSP.
Of course I documented my progress on my Facebook page. I received support telling me my project would be worth the aches and pains. I wondered about that advice. Maybe it was like labor pains; you forget them when you see your beautiful child, and I was birthing a room fresh and new.
As I write this, thoughts of gratefulness for my friend Donna whisper in my mind. Donna is going to go through the next part of my process with me. She is joining me to paint the woodwork so I can get ready for the next step, Venetian plaster.
Donna offered to help me through the worst part of the job, which was the glue sticking to my wall. I didn’t want her to have to deal with the muck and the mess, so I offered her a little better alternative. We will have fun slobbering paint on the woodwork. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in the redecorating of my new office.
I do think it will be the last time I peel wallpaper off my walls. When I was younger I enjoyed the rigorous activity and the messiness. It was great to get my aggressions out stripping and peeling that wallpaper. As I age, I must admit though my mind tells me I can do this, my body doesn’t always agree. I imagine as I get older I must balance the wisdom and the safety of what I can do with the limitations that age may put on my body. There is a fine balance between saying I can’t because I don’t want to try, than saying I can’t, and knowing that it might be the safest route to keep me healthy.
Asking for help during the worst part of the room renovation may have been wise. Help was there in the form of my friend, and I turned it down until the work became easier. How many times do we do that because we are stubborn and don’t want to admit we can’t do it ourselves? Or we don’t want to put others through the muck in our lives. We don’t remember that sharing the muddiness with someone else may make our journey easier. They might have the resources and wisdom we don’t have to navigate through the mire of our lives.
Underneath the wallpaper was dark green paint peeking through the top yellow paint on the walls. Underneath the wallpaper it was revealed one part of the wall had been removed and sheet rocked, probably for the purpose of putting in new windows. I was hoping I would find a secret door. Old houses have layers and when you peel the wallpaper back you see the character of those that lived in the house years ago.
If you peeled back the layers of our lives what would they reveal about our character? Would the world be surprised by what they would find?