A Fresh Start, Part 2

ChecklistAfter a week of clearing out unwanted and unused junk from my home, I was ready to tackle Phase 2: cleaning and rearranging what was left. We started with the family room, where much of the changes were taking place.

I had emptied the small oak bookcases that flanked the fireplace to replace them with taller bookcases I had bought for my home office but ended up not using. For seven years they had resided in the garage, the cases painted crisp white but the shelves unstained. Next to the floor-to-ceiling gray stone fireplace, they looked as if they had been made for the space. My boyfriend Nate said a few strips of moulding would make them look truly built-in.

Anxious to get the books and accessories off the floor and kitchen table, I dusted everything (no small task) and arranged it on the unstained shelves, saving that project for another (warmer) day. Already the room looked brighter and fresher.

It took three passes with the carpet cleaner and a fair bit of crawling around with spot remover, but finally the off-white carpet was once again off-white. Except for the bright orange stain that had been concealed by the coffee table. I had no idea it was there.

I was scrubbing the stain for the fourth time when I muttered, “I wish I knew what this was.”

I wasn’t expecting my autistic daughter to answer, but she said, “I do.”

“You do?” I wasn’t sure I believed this. Katie is still somewhat unreliable when answering questions.

“Yes,” she said solemnly.

“What is it?”

“Vomit.” There wasn’t a hint of hesitation in her answer.

Orange puke in the family room? I tried to think of a likely scenario but couldn’t.

“It’s vomit,” Katie said and returned to her iPad.

I’m still not sure what to make of this exchange, but why would she lie? Like most kids on the spectrum, Katie rarely, if ever, lies. It simply doesn’t occur to her to do so—unless she is sneaking candy she knows she isn’t supposed to eat. And assuming it IS vomit, whose is it? Katie or the dog’s? Because either is possible.

Regardless of the stain’s mysterious origins, I only succeeded in lightening it to a deep peach, so Nate and I covered it with an area rug cast off by a friend on the move. The rug beautifully coordinates with the curtains and anchors the new seating area.

With the armoire gone, I played with furniture placement. Moving the sofa away from the window brightened the whole room. I had purchased the sofa after my divorce, and thanks to its microfiber fabric, it was still is great shape. But I couldn’t decide if I wanted to float it in the long, narrow room facing the fireplace. And what new furniture did I want? I was determined to only purchase items that 1) I loved and 2) fit my lifestyle (i.e., were low maintenance and indestructible). I also wanted to replace Katie’s worn out plaid chair with something she had long desired: a bean bag chair. This room was going to work for the life I had, not the one I had planned.

Nate offered some chairs he had in storage. “They need work,” he said, “but I think you might like them.”

Nate used to restore furniture for a living, so I knew who would fix them when the time came.

The chairs and matching settee were simple and heavy, with curved arms and legs. The mahogany finish was in good shape. What needed work was the upholstery. Even so, I loved them. They were comfortable despite the sagging springs.

When I told Nate they could stay, he said, “Are you sure? I don’t want to force them on you.” This is a statement my ex-husband never uttered.

“You aren’t,” I said. “I love them.”

He sighed with relief, and I knew I had passed some sort of test. These chairs were important to him. “I’d planned leather seats, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea here.”

“No,” I said. “Too risky with cats.”

“We’ll figure something out. I’m glad to get them out of storage. They fit here.”

I wasn’t sure if we were discussing the chairs or something else. But I knew, like most things, it would become clearer with time.

Until next time,

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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