In its first life, our home was a subdivision model, with the premium landscaping package, the white carpet and the fancy wallpaper. The homebuilder stocked it with plastic flowers, lacquered breadbaskets and portraits of beautiful people on the walls. Real couples would walk through, hating the fake folks who lived here.
The last vestige of those days is the carpet, the Great White, which once covered our floors like indoor snow. White carpet - like morning exercise, or children running the world - is one of those ideas that work best in theory. In real life, they drive you mad. Our white carpet became a damning gray chronicle of our need to walk about.
"It keeps getting dingier," my wife would say. "What are we doing wrong?"
Nothing. Live a life, you'll leave a mark. The Great White stayed pristine for about 15 minutes after we moved in. I had given Amos, our fiercely incontinent dog, ample time to air out his bladder before introducing him to the house. "Do you like it, boy?" I asked.
He did. But he had a liquid way of expressing joy.
White carpet is an indoor lawn that never outgrows your mistakes. So there's no margin of error: Pets must be washed till they squeak. Beverages must be enjoyed over the sink or in spill-proof containers. (Ever poured beer into a sippy cup?) Mornings began with our cat trying to vomit - "hooka-hooka-hooka ..." - and me, stumbling through the house, hoping to get him off the carpet between the "hookas" and the "blork!"
But our every effort fell short.
"You'll just have to shampoo it again," my wife would say.
Countless Saturdays were surrendered to the Great White, as I yanked a tiny Zamboni around our home. In time, my wife came to loathe the Great White as much as I did. When she lamented the gray spot where the dog lays down, I said: "Maybe we should trade the dog in for a dolphin. And maybe we should hop lightly about the house, like terns. Or maybe we should just admit: This carpet hates us!"
So we're pulling up the Great White now; taking our lives back, room by room. In a way, I'm sorry to see it go. Its dull gray traffic areas traced the contours of a happy life. There was the beverage stain I kept trying to hide with chair placement; the shadowy blotch where I reached the cat one "hooka" too late; and the faded beige tracks of Amos, now gone, who traipsed through a pan of indoor semigloss and wondered what all the shrieking was about.
"We could keep the carpet, if you wanted," she said, on the eve of our last purge.
"No, it's horrible."
That's okay. I'm sure we'll find a way to disfigure wood laminate.