May 27, 2018
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The only thing I’ve reclaimed is a coat from coat check

Erin Donovan
By Erin Donovan

To know me at all is to know that I despise my kitchen floor. The loathing I feel for that floor has given me much perspective into the great conflicts of the world. Just as terrorists look upon the infidels and see them with fury, I see my kitchen floor and want to chuck a pipe bomb at it. I understand why India hates Pakistan, why the Republicans and Democrats can’t call a ceasefire, why Demi can’t even make eye contact with Ashton. Each factor in these equations views the other as black-and-white checkered linoleum.

Just as seniors loudly discuss the medical complications afflicting their bridge group, I do the same when it comes to my kitchen floor. Instead of telling strangers about my gout flare-ups and my compression hose, I talk about each stain, every crack and the way its porous surface can’t hold up against tomato sauce. It eclipses every conversation so that when friends open up about the bleak matters of life they’re struggling with, like lost jobs or dying pets, I take their hands gently in mine and whisper, “Chin up; You have tile flooring.”

If we entertain at our house, I am moved to apologize effusively for the eyesore underfoot, a curious hosting concession my husband, Greg, likes to point out since I feel no chagrin over serving freezer food on paper plates. He realized there was no reasoning with a woman scarred by linoleum when his plea for me to “be more glass half-full,” was met with the retort, “Then it would spill and stain the floor.” I was a hopeless case.

Then we got into a car accident.

That everyone managed to exit the wreckage unscathed inspired in myself an ethereal optimism. Seat belts! Car seats! Insurance! Nothing was going to dampen my gratitude. I gripped the hands of my children as we pushed open the door to our home, ever appreciative to have a sturdy and warm place, and stepped across the threshold. My foot landed in a puddle. I looked down and saw the sheen of water cascading across the floor from underneath the dishwasher, a sight that left me more unhinged than the one of crunched car hoods. Blades of grass, forgotten toys and remnants of breakfast bobbed by. My kitchen was a few mullets and six packs of Coors Lite short of a Lazy River. My paradigm shift toward positivity floated away in the tributary of my kitchen as I watched from the shore, muttering, “This had better get me out of cooking for awhile.”

Like the surging force of water that cut a way through the Grand Canyon, a rivulet had doggedly forced a path underneath three layers of linoleum, each one a shocking testament to the poor taste of humans. As Greg strained against the weight of a crowbar to pry away the damp planes of subfloor, I prayed like the wife of a prospector, fervently wishing that pick would strike gold under all the rubble. Finally the dust settled and he wiped the sweat from his brow. He pointed at a spot I could barely make out amidst the demolition and huffed, “That’s wood.”

And so the process to reclaim a wood floor began. I had never considered us the sort of people to reclaim anything other than our places in front of the television. Reclaiming a floor is for people who read architecture magazines and can properly identify in the photos what is actually a chair. Before I could even recite from Google the process to follow and precautions to take, he was well into the project, leaving asbestos rattling around our lung cavities and sawdust coating the living room, which now bore a likeness to the bar in Road House. Since our appliances had to be moved, the perishable foodstuffs were relocated to coolers packed with ice in the yard. There’s a reason home and design shows put the displaced family up in a hotel, and that is so neighbors don’t have to see them in their threadbare pajamas, pouring milk into baby bottles in the middle of the yard while naked toddlers bleat for oatmeal there is no way to prepare.

The floor is finished now. Reclaimed. The food is back in the fridge and the microwave is again operational. Reclaimed. I’m working on my sanity, but there’s no quick-dry varnish for that.

Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast area where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on and on Twitter at @gonnakillhim.

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