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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stinky old work

On Monday the boy decided not to have a morning nap. After a frustrating forty-five minutes where he would fall asleep in my arms but wake when placed in his crib, I gave up. The screams of the girl being tortured in her room didn't help. Oh wait, she was safely reading books in her room. My mistake.

I managed to get us all out of the house in one piece before I had a complete meltdown, but I was determined not to suffer through a repeat performance today. Instead we left the house with the husband and walked him to work. It is a lovely walk through downtown Ottawa and we have done it a number of times now. The kids are happy to watch the world pass by them from inside the comfort of the stroller. At least on the way there. On the way home the girl likes to walk. This doubles the duration of the usually twenty minute walk but she enjoys wandering along slowly, checking out anything of interest that catches her eye. The boy usually falls asleep on the way home, just like he did today.

Instead of dropping the husband off at the door to his building and turning around like usual, today I needed to head inside the office tower to find a bathroom. I took the girl with me hoping she took would "make use of the facilities", but the public bathroom was closed for cleaning. "Why don't you come upstairs with me", suggested the husband. "I can show you stinky old work" he said to the girl.

Stinky old work. That is what he has called it ever since he returned in October after a year of leave at home with the girl. He went back to a new job in a new section with new colleagues. But to him it still stinky old work because it was what took him away from us.

I had a moment of hesitation at his suggestion, but I could see how excited he was at the idea of showing off the kids so in we went. The hesitation was solely due to the fact that I wasn't dressed for meeting new people, never mind his work colleagues. I was wearing my jogging shorts and an old t-shirt. My washed, but not brushed, hair was pulled into a ponytail under my black cap. I would have liked to make a better impression but I was dressed for the park in my grubby park clothes and not for a social occasion. Thankfully the kids were well-dressed and everyone was more interested in them anyway.

It was strange to walk into an office space after a year at home with the kids. While I am familiar with the set up, rows upon rows of cubicles and offices, I was struck by the absence of two things now so present in my life: colour and noise.

The floor we were on was so quiet. I could hear some people talking but it was a dim hum. There was no yelling or screaming or screeching. No running feet. No sounds of fighting. No laughing or giggling. I was overwhelmed by the silence.

I was also shocked by the dullness of the room. The walls were beige, the carpet was beige, even the cubicle partitions were a green beige. It was kind of depressing. It made me sad to think of having to work every day in a place without colour.

I had never thought about it before but my life now is so full of colour. The walls of our house are all brightly painted. The kids are outfitted in colourful clothes. The park is a blur of blue water, green grass and primary coloured play structures. I am out everyday in a world full of colour and noise and life. Sometimes it seems like too much colour and noise but maybe it is better to have too much then none.

The exception to the absence of colour was the husband's cubicle. As soon as I stepped into his space I could see rows of the girl's art work tacked to the walls. The cupcakes I had cut out of an old calendar and she had glued onto coloured construction paper. Blue and red paintings she had made at pre-school. Many, many pages of all kinds of stickers.

I was happy to see that even at stinky old work he is surrounded by colour. By her.


  1. I find my husband's work depressing, too. Grey cubicles, fluorescent lighting, grey people wearing shades of grey.

    I made him a painting for his cubicle :)

    I think it's not as good as a child's work covering the walls, but it'll do in the meantime.

    I sometimes forget how lucky I am to work at home, also surrounded by colour. What a difference it makes to my life. Thank you for the reminder.

    (I was certain when you started talking about stinky old work that the girl was going to blurt out this phrase to a gaggle of co-workers!)

  2. I never thought about how grey an office can be. I haven't worked in an office for over two years, instead I am surrounded by beautiful hand made products in a variety of colours, and new jewellery to try on each day. I am lucky.

    I hope my husband takes baby photos to fill his cubicle when he goes back to work, until the kid starts making artwork at daycare.

  3. What a beautiful post. I love that his cubicle is such a stark contrast to the rest of his surroundings. It shows that his heart is in the right place, always.

  4. Yep...that one is a keeper!! Sweet daddy! I haven't worked at an outside job for 7 years now!! I've never looked back! I am so blessed to be able to stay in my colorful world...and hopefully it will continue for as long as I want! xo

  5. I love when you said your life has so much color now! It's so true. Kids bring such a different perspective to your life, they help you to see things like them. LOVE THAT!

  6. What a wonderful realization. Your life is not only filled with real colour, but metaphorical colour as well. Kids just keep things interesting. Doesn't it make you feel so happy to have them in your life. I totally understand people who don't want kids, but now that I have mine I could never in a million years go back to that bland pre-kid life.

  7. Love this! I pity people who plug into their iPods all the time, and miss all the colour and sound of every day life. Personally, it is a treasure trove for my creative pursuits. Hmm... I sense an idea for a blog post.....

    When I went back to work, I was struck by the noise, not the quiet. We live on a very quiet oasis of a street, and my son was not loud and boisterous (he was only seven months old when I went back). So my quiet mornings with a coffee while I tickled a cooing baby, the sanctuary of our large treed back yard, or the afternoon walks where the trees swayed softly, the breeze ruffled gently etc etc, were replaced by ringing phones, ticka-tacka of keyboards and the hum of conversation. Not to mention being downtown made it even noisier! I lvoe working in the Byward Market, but sometimes I just want to scream "STOP making noise! AHHH!" and retreat to the quiet of my home, with my son, who makes beautiful sounds, not noise.

    But yes. Colour would be lovely. I hate cubicle grey. Hence my walls are covered with pictures and finger paintings. :)

  8. It's very true about the difference in colour from home and work, and there's a big difference in noise level, too. My workplace is usually very, very quiet for whatever reason, so it's kind of aurally beige, too.

    As a result, I find Monday mornings extremely disorienting, moving from one world of colour, noise and chaos to the other of beige, silence and calm.

    Paying the mortgage is really good, but I can't tell you how much I prefer being home in the colour and chaos!

  9. What a beautiful post - how sweet that there is colour at work.

    And 'The Husband', I love your position about it. My husband is the same, on parental until November, he returns unwillingly and only to pay for the house and food.

    I will have to send him with a care package of art when he returns to work...

    such a bittersweet post. well done