History on the Walls: A Summer Quarantine Project

When my dad first came up with the idea to wallpaper our hallway with the front pages of the New York Times, I rolled my eyes. But then, the Summer of Covid came around. As much as I wish I could say I had a whole bunch of plans, it was quite the opposite, and Dad’s crazy project suddenly seemed like an interesting diversion from quarantine. When he brought up the project again at the beginning of the summer, I resisted the urge to reject it, but seeing the hopeful look on his face made me feel like I could not disappoint him.

We have two coffee table books filled with the New York Times front page highlights starting from the first ever issue to more recent issues from 2016. For the past seven years, these newspapers have sat ignored under our coffee table until my dad had the idea to put them up on the walls of our hallway, like wallpaper. Although I enjoy small crafts, I am not big on long-term, large-scale, or labor-intensive projects. I am more of a one-hour-skirt-sewing kind of crafter, but I lacked any other plans or excuses. Even though it became really annoying, ultimately it was nice to finally get away from my useless internet browsing.

The book of front pages used. (Daria H.)

At first, it seemed like a pretty simple task: remove the pages, apply them to the wall with polyurethane, and brush a finishing coat on top. We started in April, thinking that it would only take a few weeks. Had I known the project would end up taking 5 months of on-again, off-again work, I might have put up a stronger protest.  

When I mentioned to my dad that I was going to be writing about our project for the summer snapshot, he started giving me suggestions about what to write. Every few days he still asks whether the article has been published, and he leaves with a little twinge of disappointment every time I say, “not yet.

Part of my dad’s not-so-secret plot was to make me learn about historical events, and I have to admit that it worked. Going through all those newspapers made me realize how much history I was unaware of, and how sad some of it is. As I look at the huge span of history stretching all through my hallway, I want to look back and say that humanity has improved, but I really cannot. There has definitely been a lot of progress throughout history, but many of the same issues that were thought of as settled are still coming back to haunt the world today. The battle is not over.

We finished in August, a whopping 5 months after we started. Although the project began as a chore for me, after a few weeks in, my dad and I fell into a silent rhythm; I would stack up the newspapers we needed for a row and hand them to him one by one as he put them onto the wall, carefully considering their placement. One time, he switched up the timeline to guarantee that people would see the headline, “Men walk on the Moon” as soon as they exited the bathroom. Sometimes he would take longer to decide, and our little assembly line would get backed up. Patiently, I sat criss-cross applesauce and read the headlines until it was time to hand up the next one. My dad would say, “Koolooch, hand me the next one,” using the same nickname he has called me since I was born. I handed up “Titanic Sinks,” “Scott Finds South Pole,” and my dad’s favorite — that he raves about to everyone who cares to listen — “Maniac in Milwaukee Shoots Col. Roosevelt; He ignores the Wound, Speaks an Hour, Goes to Hospital.” He laughs every time. 

The hallway with newspapers. (Daria H.)