peeling back the layers


When you live in a 200 year old rowhouse, there are a lot of layers. Most of the time, I love the layers. Thinking of what parts of the house were built when. Remembering the stories we've been told about the families who lived here over the last two centuries. Thinking about the mother who gave her husband an ultimatum. "Build me a bigger kitchen or we have to move. And that's final." He built her a kitchen, of course. He built her my kitchen, and I silently thank her for her backbone.

Unfortunately, not every layer in an old house is made of nostalgia and beauty. Some of the layers aren't so great. Some are lead paint.

About a month ago, we got Elsa's lead test back, and it was slightly elevated. I was assured by our pediatrician that she is okay, he sees these numbers from city-dwelling children, but we needed to find the lead source and contain it. Lead is scary, scary stuff. I dream every night of a life where this didn't happen. I look around my house, examining every corner. Where is it coming from? We had two lead experts come out. They both found some areas (as every old house has some lead paint), but nothing that they thought could cause the elevated number.

What we are talking about here is my daughters health. We already had all the trim scraped down and repainted, and starting this Wednesday, every upstairs wall will be peeled back to the plaster. Centuries of paint, wall paper and god knows what else. We will be staying with my parents during the work. Renovation is the most dangerous time when it comes to exposure to lead paint dust.

I hope that many years from now, this will be only a blip. Something that happened, then was quickly taken care of. But right now, it feels so, so big.