I lived with my family in a one hundred-year-old barn of a house. The old place was solid as a rock, made of old-growth fir, double walls in some places, which was lucky because there was no insulation from the damp Pacific Northwest chill. A solitary room off of the kitchen, probably a formal dining room in days gone by, had ancient, crusty carpeting and dark green walls, paper-thin windows. It was not a comfortable room. We piled it with a comfy couch, the piano my husband’s grandmother insisted we buy even though no one was interested in playing, and a pine cabinet that held the television. In the early days, when my kids were little, I attempted to control their media intake with cabinet’s cupboard doors. This effort did not last long.

The time came to make better use of the room and do a little updating. Actually, I desperately needed one room in the house where I could think straight. With four kids, two dogs, and a self-employed husband who I now despised, there was no escape. I decided to remove the old carpet myself to save some money. We gave the piano away, ditched the lumpy couch, and moved the television to the rec room for unfettered access. I peeled back the carpet in one corner. It screeched in protest, sticking to the stained wood floor beneath. Original flooring, early 1900s, never refinished. Previous owners covered it with cheap carpet as an avoidance mechanism, and the two materials had fused in solid defiance.

I scraped the carpet from the wood, inch by inch, using a metal spatula thing from the basement, collecting rusted carpet nails and splinters as I went. On hands and knees, I peeled back the rotted carpet, exposing the floor beneath, black with grime and age. Once the carpet was vanquished, I painted the walls a bright mustard yellow and hung white cotton sheers on the windows. Plush, charcoal gray carpet with thick padding over the unsalvageable floor, a ficus tree with tiny white lights, my estate sale maple desk, and a fuchsia-painted willow chair. No dogs allowed. But the kids would come, one by one, sprawl on the floor surrounded by peace and beauty and quiet and a mother to themselves for a little while. This is the room where I began a separate life.