We were exiting our gym drills the other day, and on our way out to the car in the rain, when my eye was caught by a lot of tile samples on masonite, propped up against a wall. Nice tile samples. Very nice tile samples. I don't know about you, but I cannot resist Free Things. And these tile samples, stuck haphazardly in the grass at the edge of the building, were most emphatically in the Free Things category if there ever was one.
I flipped through some of them and they looked right up my alley: all earthy colours and scumbly textures. Some were a bit on the Gothic side, some were on the Villa in Tuscany side. And even better, they were right opposite the car, slouching most mournfully. I took that as a sign that I was meant to have them. "Come on, kids!" I said, "help me load these into the car."
Fortunately my kids adore Free Things just as much as I do. Maybe even more. Never mind that they had shown a complete disinclination to tile projects when we were renovating the house we bought last year. Never mind that they generally do not enjoy trolling with me through Home Despot. Never mind that they are not quite as enamoured of Kaffe Fasset as I am, although FDPG does tend to do the "I want that that and that" routine when paging through his books (so do I). They do, however, flock to Free Things, whatever shape or form they might take: be they tiles, plants, or furniture. And no, I am not being facetious.
Max was first on the scene. He seemed to think we were in imminent danger of being arrested for theft and practically hurled the tile boards into the car. In fact, all the kids seemed to think I was doing something dodgy. "I hope Mummy doesn't get arrested and go to jail," I overheard Dominic saying to FDPG, worriedly. "Those tiles were being thrown out," I said over my shoulder, as we drove away, "that's what places like that do with stuff they don't want anymore, because they know someone else might want them." Dominic seemed to think that this was just too incredible to be true though, and in the rear view mirror I caught sight of him rolling his eyes at FDPG.
As we drove home, masonite rattling around beside the kids, I said "What do you think Dad will say when he sees these?" Instantly FDPG answered "He'll say 'Oh great! More junk for the basement!'" She has her father pegged, that one.
When we got home, I wrestled some of the tiles off the boards. There were several sheets of river pebbles, flat and unglazed and gorgeous. I laid them along the hearth. We were all quite giddy. "Wow!" said one. "Oh my gawd" said another. "Ooooo!" said yet another. We ran our hands along them. We stroked. We burnished. I think we even gazed lovingly; well, I know I did. I felt like Dominic when he says "I didn't know I always wanted them but now I do."
Then of course my eyes strayed to the now abandoned masonite boards, lying in a messy heap on the floor, where I'd peeled all their paper off one side. What to do with those?
Fast forward one day.
Here we are at a Waldorf Christmas Fair. If you've never been to one I highly recommend it, particularly if you happen to be visiting from other places and would like a slice of West Coast Cultchah. Here you will find most things that make us kooky Pacific North Wet Coasters tick: sensible but colourful knitted items, sensible but quirky footwear, sensible but weird food items (spirulina in your smoothie, anyone?), lots of fleece in varying shades of blues and reds, some very long braids, long-haired children of all genders, people hugging and smiling. The smell of beeswax, natural wreath ingredients, and wool in the air. And of course, a lot of recorder music.
And no, I am not in that picture, nor do I wear sensible but colourful knitted items. I tend to black and fitted. I'm going all conservative in my dotage.
Anyhow, we are in the Wreath Making room, and I am watching FDPG stuff fir branches into a wreath while coveting way too much ribbon, when suddenly I glance up at this chalkboard. It has a lovely, typically Waldorfish, chalky design on it, snowmen and santa and fir trees and snow. Swirly letters. I like the way the Waldorfs approach art. It's charming yet acutely sensible.
And then it hit me: all that masonite, all those large flat boards, would make perfect art boards for the kids. They are big. They even have handles cut into them, smooth and rounded, nice for littler hands. I could paint one side with chalkboard paint. I could get some Waldorf chalks. We could draw snowmen and fir trees. Maybe I'll take up recorder music while they draw (whoa, sheila, don't get too carried away now). I could see it all, right there, even with FDPG directing me around the Wreath Making Bins ("get me a bow, I think I need two, hold this while I cut it, wait, I want more pine cones on this side"). Even with Richard, who attended Waldorf schools for much of his school life, pretending to do his own very silly version of Eurythmy next to me, as an aid to Dominic's wreath making.
I felt, dare I say it, quite inspired.
And that, as my pal Martha likes to say, is a Good Thing. A Good Free Thing.