Like ants swarming a cake at a picnic, the tiles were everywhere. 

These 4-inch by 4-inch tiles covered our kitchen. Normally, the prospect of renovating our kitchen would excite me, but these tiles showed up years before our current kitchen renovation was even a twinkle in my eye.

No, these tiles were very much a thorn. They were for a large project my artist wife was fortunate to be working on with dozens of other artists alongside residents of communities across Canada.

When we bought our house, one of our criteria was that my beautiful artist wife would have space for an art studio. Little did I know that using the studio would be optional, which rendered moot my main reason for our criteria. 

“I never agreed to keep my work in my studio,” she would later say.

As my frustration with the kitchen clutter increased, I became certain the tiles were exponentially reproducing on their own. There seemed to be more every week. 

In reality, I later learned that while I was at work she would load the kids into their carseats and drive 45 minutes on a rural highway to a sideroad. Located north of a small Alberta city, this road stretched for miles – the city in one direction and vast expanses of canola fields in the other. 

There, she would meet the main coordinator of this massive project and he would hand over more of these ubiquitous tiles. 

It was probably a good thing she never told me about these rural, roadside rendezvous our kids tagged along for. I would’ve had a few questions on my mind. You know, things like:

  • How far east can you travel before you’re travelling west?
  • Does a staircase go up or down?
  • Can you cry under water?
  • Oh, right, and also: Why are you taking our kids on a 90-minute round trip to the middle of nowhere and back?

Despite having these questions that have never been answered, every roadside rendezvous brought more tiles. And every tile brought more frustration.

Our kitchen was crawling with ‘em.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I used one as a plate for a bologna sandwich at one point.

Nonetheless, she was being paid. She received payment for each tile she completed and returned. So, how could I argue? 

Back then, she struggled to bring in any revenue from her art business. So these tiles were a boon to her revenue. She was determined to complete as many as time would allow and, it would seem, in spite of the lack of space.

It was for this reason that I swallowed my frustration. When you’re married to an artist, especially an artist who is starting out, remaining supportive is paramount through thick and thin… and tile infestations.

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