I went on toiling over wall paper for another day with minimal progress. I began to worry about how I would reach the ceiling, but I was just gonna see what happened. This was my journey to the promise land and I was gonna see how the provisions would come to me. Finally my great good friends, and my neighbors, the Usreys came to see the progress as my darling Mark Minick had left me for Paris. Chris Usrey, looked at me, he didn’t gasp because he doesn’t do such but he said matter of factly, “Go get Dif. You’re gonna punch Mark Minick in the face when you realize what Dif does.” His wife, my very dear friend, Meg, said “Wallpaper scorer. What in the world, girl? Go get it now, no further work till you get it.” I suspected I had been hoodwinked in Minick fashion. No knowledge had been given me on the ways of paste removal systems. I had not been filled in on how to get the steam up in there. Something was up, and I was starting to think that there was a little madness, perhaps method, in the way Mr. Minick had flown to France in such a hurry. But I stood by what Mark had prescribed. I declared that no weapon, including wallpaper would defeat me, and I continued to work. I worked hard. I hadn’t done manual labor in this manner since my daddy would make us rake leaves out of trees before they hit the ground. I was utterly exhausted, utterly happy over my small spots of bare wall and I would fall asleep on my mama in mid conversation at the end of the day. I slept so well. No worries could keep me up at night. But at this rate I would still be pulling wallpaper today. I flashed backed to Usrey’s wisdom and dared myself to go against the instruction Mark had given. I went to get Dif and a wallpaper scorer.
I showed back up at 8 in the morning and my craftsmen were there. When they saw I was doing wallpaper removal they were amazed. I heard comments such as: “Oh Miss Tracy, there ain’t nothing harder than removing wallpaper. “ “Oh good grief, Miss Tracy, you have the biggest job in the house.” “My word, Miss Tracy, that Mark has left you with something, you’re really doing something.” I realized my task was not without merit. These people where building rooms and creating walls where there had been none, and measuring and stuff, and I was simply exposing bare wall and they all said, “This is a task!” They had accepted me as one of them. I was no longer the person that hired them but one of their own. I decided then that I would take this honor and learn all I could. Wallpaper was important stuff y’all. And all my craftsmen knew it. On my first day, armed with my new tools, after thinking I was worth little to nothing in just about everything I touched, the paper started coming down in sheets—great huge sheets. And again I wept. And I let those tears flow, and the workers would come in and say, “Yeah girl, you cry, you have done something here.” And those provisions? They came. My tools showed up, my teachers showed up, my encouragers showed up and just when I needed it a scaffold showed up so I could reach the ceilings. I began to realize why Mark had given me this job wrapped in a riddle to be solved.
I too carried a covering that at one time was beautiful. For a season my covering had been functional but that season had passed. It was time for a new thing, and before a new thing, I needed to see the bareness. I needed to see the bones that would hold the new thing. Somehow if I could get the hunter green paper off and see the bare walls of 601, I could see the bareness of Tracy K. Hall. And I did. And it was good. Even in the rawness, especially in the rawness it was good. Mark might apply a beautiful dress to these walls, but underneath it would lie something strong, and good, and spirited, and wanting to live. I needed to see and know that before moving on.
Mark had wanted my hands not to be idle, but he also wanted me to work some demons out. The lesson was learned well. To look at Mark’s business card you see he is a decorator, an owner, a president, what you don’t see is he is also the most superb and talented friend and therapist. He realizes our homes are in fact an extension of us and he is not afraid to use them to teach us something. It’s all part of what he does.
When he returned home from Paris, I had completed my job, but I was still on the scaffold getting the tiniest of hunter green wallpaper removed. I could hear him talking to my craftsmen and my soul immediately settled. I looked around the accomplished room and my eyes once again began to water. He came in, by this time I was sobbing and I looked at him and I said, “Look at what I did. Baby, look at what I did, I did this.” He looked. I began to tumble deeper into a weep. He finally spoke. “This is what I asked you to do. Finish it up, you done good. And quit that crying, dry it up, we ain’t got time for that.”
I dried it up.
I looked around.
The walls were naked and raw.
So was I.
It was good.
So was I.