Monday, October 24, 2005

Archaeology at Home

As I look at my yearly budgets (yes, I am that nerdy--what did you expect?), I notice a distinct trend: every three months my "home repair" expenditures spike. Like clockwork, four times a year, I find myself jonesing for a project. On this occasion, my long weekend has turned longer, longer, and gradually all-consuming as my family continues on their vacation of sorts, and I stay home uncovering artifacts in the successively ancient strata of my kitchen floor.

It's something that's not failed to fascinate me in all my efforts over the past several years. Digging into the walls and floors invariably reveals some gems of previous occupation, or some brief windows into the minds of previous contractors and amateurs. (Evidence of the latter is in unfortunate abundance in my house, but on the plus side, everything I have attempted has resulted in a substantial improvement.) It can be interesting to discover writing on the insides of walls, and try to determine to what the measurements refer. As I work, I produce similar leavings for the next renovator, from dimensions to clever notes to myself, such as "you installed this upside-down, dumbass," some of them assuming that the next person is myself, on the off-chance that my scrawlings direct me on some future effort.

My kitchen floor had three layers, two of which I removed forcibly; and judging from the patches in the lowest floor, I could piece together where the former appliances and cabinets were, back in the days before the wall was knocked out and the big reformatting occurred. The care we spend on perfecting the details that no one will ever know. And the emotional investiture: for my own patches I tacked down some boards that had formerly been the toy box my daughter helped me paint. Who will ever lament this but me?

Artifacts rise up from all levels of the food chain. The lowest of them are the tiny coprolithic offerings of my invisible worshippers, for whom I exist as their aloof god, keeper of Pumpkin, the devourer of mousy souls. Dog damage permeates everywhere in my house, and a lot of my motivation to feather my nest rose out of an attempt to erase the canine wreckage. Children too have left their mark. I've found evidence of boys and girls from babies through adolescence, from tiny forgotten toys to inexpertly scrawled admonitions of propriety ("my room, keep out") to crappy metal shop projects and even a suspicious corked test tube buried deep in the insulation that I've been meaning to take to work and analyze some day.

I discover that as I've been digging down, I have likewise been planting my own evidence. It's a perspective that I don't relish, as I silently join hands with the many, many humans that have come, and gone, before me.

1 comment:

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