Ode to the Floor
Today, I’m thinking of things underfoot: the floors in our new old house. What stories that floor could tell!
The oldest floor of the house is solid heart pine. It’s darkened with age and reluctantly divulges secrets of its past. It’s in pristine condition and only needs buffing. The newest part of the old house has pine plank flooring with wild graining prominent because the pith between the grains has worn away. It cries out for restoration.
I see rusty iron foot indentations; I know a radiator once warmed this room. Did someone sprawl on the floor near the radiator with coloring books? Did crayons roll under the radiator to melt and leave that waxy ring on the floor? How many soft baby shoes began their walks through life on this floor? How many young housewives crawled on their knees mopping up after the families that walked here before us? Did happy feet kick off their shoes and jitterbug to the music on the radio, twirling across the smooth heart pine? Where’s the corner where children were sent for their transgressions? Did they kick at the molding and scuff the floor in that corner while waiting to be released? Is the watermark in the front corner from a Christmas tree stand overflowing? Is that lighter square where the new-fangled television once sat in a console the size of the icebox with a screen the size of a goldfish bowl? Perhaps the first room addition was to accommodate the viewing of that new television set. I find little threaded metal tubes poking up through the floor marking the birth of the worldwide network years ago. An obsolete wire, stapled to the molding, dangles through a hole in the floor, no longer connected to anything but the floor. How many people were on that party line, I wonder? She was an ancient edition of People Magazine known as “The Operator” and she knew who walked across this floor to answer that telephone. How many cards or letters marking life occasions dropped through the brass mail slot in the front door to land on this floor? Love letters, birthday cards, death notices, college acceptances, draft notices, all piled here on the floor beneath the mail slot.
The floors in our new old house are being sanded and refinished. The heart pine will be beautiful; the pine planks will be renewed. Centuries of grime and joy will be removed but stories known only to the floor will remain. Talk to me, Floor. I want to know your three centuries of stories.