The walls are slowly going up in my house now. For weeks there were only the wooden studs dividing the rooms, giving an open, airy feel to the house. Now that more and more walls are in place, the space has taken on some definition; they also make the house seem smaller. The spacious kitchen doesn’t appear so big after all and the dining room looks positively cramped. This is why realtors prefer showing houses with furniture. A dining room that fits a table for eight and a large wall cabinet with a hutch, as mine does, gives buyers a more realistic sense of the space. The downstairs layout is fairly open; it has a nice flow from one room to the next and visitors have often remarked how they like it. It’s only my changed perspective that makes the house feel more closed in now. What a difference walls can make!
Walls have so many metaphorical meanings, almost to the point of being clichés. When I did a quick search, I found that the connotations are usually negative: We build too many walls and not enough bridges (Isaac Newton). The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy. (Jim Rohn). Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls (Joseph Campbell). There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect (Ronald Reagan). Walls are synonymous with barriers. When talking about my son’s relationship with me at times, I’ve referred to the invisible wall he puts up between us. Metaphorical it may be, but after he’s revealed too much vulnerability, I can practically see the wall going up by looking at the expression on his face.
Then there are the famous historical walls, the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall, the German one being the more insidious. At least the Chinese wall was built to protect its people. The German one was built to prevent its own citizens from escaping. The Great Wall of China is awe-inspiring, at least from the photos I’ve seen of it. The Berlin Wall, I can testify, looks cruel and evil. I visited Berlin in the 1980s when the Wall still divided the city and country into two. Leaving the West German border, our bus drove towards Berlin along a deserted highway with barbed wire barriers on each side. Once in the city, my then German husband and I made the obligatory trip to see the infamous wall. On the western side, colorful graffiti covered the walls and people were everywhere. You could also climb up a lookout and see the other side; the difference was stark. Barbed wire, armed guards, nearly deserted – it looked menacing. It was almost as if the western side was on color TV and the eastern was on black and white.
Despite the negative associations walls often have, I’m glad the walls in my house are going up. It’s the final structural job. The inspector just needs to come out to see it was done properly and to check if the nails are regularly spaced every few inches. Yes, that’s one of the things they do, actually counting nails and measuring the space between them. Don’t you wish you had that job? It’s taken months to get this far, but once this inspection is over, the finishing work – floors, paint, cabinets – will go quickly. I’m still scheduled to move back to the house at the end of September though I won’t fully believe it until I get the move-in date from the contractor. For today, I’ll just admire the walls.