When we moved in the walls were a vivid amethyst, sponge painted with a glittery silver on top. Many weekends were spent finding the exact shade of parchment - not cream, not beige - the color of expensive stationery, of empty pages. Stroke by stroke the non-color erased the purple, painting in reverse: layer by layer the room became a blank canvas.
Just as I have doodled on every page of every notebook of my life, I doodled on these walls too. Careful khaki-colored stripes, then freehand curves, winding along the baseboards of the entire room, up over the painted door, down under the low window, in and out around the old fireplace. I laid my growing belly on the floor and painted sideways, as I couldn't reach around, sitting up. If its a girl, I said, I'll paint little ladybugs in all of these stripes. So many months, it seemed, until I'd know if I needed to learn how to paint a ladybug.
A mullioned window looked out over the long green gardens, and it was through the divided panes I spied sunshiny faces of daffodils peering up at me, welcoming all of us to the little cottage on the corner. Through the drafty glass I watched the plum trees along the street bloom - early in February that year - as if they understood that this year everything would happen quicker, ahead of schedule.
Red and white gingham swagged cheerfully over the five feet of window. I wondered if a boychild would take issue with the cheerful gingham, with the swags, and figured I might have a few years to figure it out. Eighteen months later, as we prepared to leave this room, this cottage, only then would I realize that the gingham had never been hemmed - never quite as prepared as you think.
The scrubbed pine floor always seemed to glow, even on the rainiest days. Covered by a big square red rug, a giant Dala horse embroidered in the middle, they never felt cold - it was as if the old floorboards had absorbed the warmth of a hundred years of sunshine, of the many layers of varnish, of the abrasion of the sander we used to take it all down to bare wood. We had no idea that it would become so critical to know which of these boards creaked and where, how many minutes of our lives would soon be spent tiptoeing over the floorboards, out of the room.
A rocking chair, unfinished oak - a chair I'd insisted on over all of the plush enveloping gliders that were storming the market. All of Berkshire had been combed for what I thought was a simple request - a plain wood rocker. Maybe if I'd known how many hours I'd spend in it, how many songs would be sung, how many tears would drip onto a tightly swaddled, tiny body... maybe I would've gone for a bit of upholstery. The beauty is in the not-knowing.
A tiny wood bookshelf filled the unused fireplace, stocked with Good Night Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and Moo Baa La La La. How could I know how much more time I'd spend sticking the books back on the shelf, instead of reading them? That of a room filled with educational stacking blocks, beautifully neutral stuffed animals and a Babar pull-car, the biggest attraction would be pulling those books off the shelf?
Baskets of tiny onesies, tiny diapers, wet wipes in bulk. Bigger baskets of receiving blankets - white, red, yellow. None that would commit us to a life of pink or blue.
Giant Babar posters hung on all four walls, inviting us to adventure, to reading, to worlds where an elephant certainly could rule a kingdom. Babar in a hot air balloon was always my favorite: the one across from my rocking chair. Babar and I might've flown away at any second, away from this squalling package of sweetness.
It wasn't finished, wasn't ready, wasn't perfect, when my strangely beautiful changeling made her debut, five weeks early. Welcome to this family, I told her, where nothing will be perfect or ready or finished - where the story keeps unfolding every day, and we have to unfold with it.
I never got the ladybugs painted on those walls. But to this day, she is my Ladybug: a name earned so many months before she came to live there.
This post was written for The Red Dress Club's Tuesday Memoir feature.