If Floors Could Talk

If Floors Could Talk

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

If Floors Could Talk

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.


My bedroom floor—in the house I grew up in—holds a deep, dark secret. It lay hidden for many years, away from those who might cause repercussions if it was revealed. I know the secret came to light a few years ago, but by then no one who cared was around to witness it. For all that time my mother and I were the keepers of the secret.

I was about seventeen and a bit of a wannabe hippie. I gravitated toward the unusual. I don’t know where my decorating scheme came from, but it was pretty far out there. The strange thing was that my mother agreed to it. I thought she was pretty cool—most of my friends wouldn’t be allowed to have a room like mine. I’m fairly certain their mothers wouldn’t have helped them, but mine did despite the fact she was very picky about her house.

My mother, sister, and I painted two walls bright purple, one brilliant yellow, and the last with a purple and yellow sunrise. I remember our foray into tie-dyeing like it was yesterday. On a mellow fall afternoon canopied with an azure sky, Mother lugged huge pots of water outdoors. We poured in packets of dye, wrapped rubber bands around sheets, and twisted and dipped to create purple and yellow bedspread, sheets, and curtains.

I finished off the room with posters and some huge yellow and purple acrylic flowers in Mexican pots. Mother bought a light box to hook up to the stereo that produced multicolored, pulsating light in time to the music. What a mother—June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem rolled into one.

I still had a few finishing touches, but I could accomplish them on my own. One night I was in my room with the door closed so as not to awaken my daddy, who had an early bedtime because of his job. I had the music going and was really in the groove of things. I spread some newspaper on the hardwood floor and began to paint some bottles with crystallizing paint. I had a yellow one finished and set aside so I opened the purple paint and reached for the bottle. Somehow, I bumped the can the wrong way and over it went—beyond the newspaper. Need I mention that my mother kept those hardwood floors waxed to perfection? June Cleaver—remember?

“Oh, no. I’m dead.” I froze in horror as the purple puddle spread and grew larger than a dinner plate. I finally thawed enough to grab some newspaper and swipe at the puddle. Most of the paint came up but the stain remained. “Aaaah!” I screamed silently.

No way was I waking Daddy up. I skulked past his bedroom and headed for the den where my mother was watching television. “Mother, I spilled the paint and wiped it up, but it didn’t come up, and there’s such a mess.” My words tumbled over each other in my panic.

My mother was a quick woman, especially when the catastrophe concerned her children and house. She made it to my room faster than a speeding bullet, took one look at the mess, and bolted for a wet, soapy rag. She washed and scrubbed without saying a word. The purple faded the tiniest bit.

“Mother, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. The paint just tipped over.” I was so upset my entire body trembled.

She placed a calming hand on my arm. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Daddy’s going to kill me.”

“Let me get something else.” She went to the kitchen for a different cleanser.

I hunched over the stain, willing it to disappear. If I had known Shakespeare’s famous words regarding “a spot,” I probably would have chanted them. She tried a few more things that didn’t work. By this time I was crying. “Daddy’s going to be so mad.”

She comforted me again. “Everything will be all right.”

There was nothing to do but go to bed and wait for the morning and my reckoning with Daddy. The telltale stain glowed all night in the moonbeams shining through the window. Like Lady Macbeth, my sleep was troubled by the treacherous stain that wouldn’t go away. My mother knew the truth. Would she incriminate me? Morning finally came and miraculously, a summons didn’t appear. Instead, my mother came home from a shopping trip with a nice area rug for my bedroom.

Years after I grew up and moved away, they installed wall-to-wall carpeting. To my knowledge, up to his passing away in 2002, Daddy never knew about the stain. Mother sold the house a few years ago. The buyer told her they were taking up the carpet and going back to the hardwood floors.

When she told me this, I said, “They’re going to have a surprise under the carpet in my bedroom.”

“I had forgotten all about that,” she answered.

Daddy never knew and Mother had forgotten, but I would never forget the symbol of forgiveness from the bottom of my mother’s heart.

Sandra McGarrity

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