Inside the only stall of a women’s bathroom at the hospital where I work, a garden of bright pink, flowery faces greets my every visit. On the opposite wall there is a similar bunch looking down, some smiling, some frowning, growing together in their rather strange field over matching pink tile.
The bathroom decor is clearly old, maybe from the 1960s or 1970s. Walking into it is like entering a time machine, taking a trip back to the days when nurses wore white uniforms, with matching caps, shoes and hose. It’s both cool and kind of creepy, and makes me glad no one expects me to dress like that anymore.
Mixed messages aside, I like the bathroom, love it really. Mostly because of the flower children growing quietly inside, tucked away in their own small and secret garden.
The flowers appear to be painted, but the faces look like they were added at some point after. Either they were drawn in with magic marker, maybe, or painted on, as well. It’s too hard to tell anymore. But someone clearly took their time and maybe a bit of a chance, I think, adding them to the wall.
A few of the faces are cheerful and happy, while others are sad, even downright grumpy. Each one is unique, different, apparently determined in part by the shape of the flower beneath. They appear to be either human, animal or insect, as if each blossom spoke to whoever made them of it’s true, inner nature.
Whatever their expressions, it makes me happy every time just to go inside and see them again. How many people can say the same when they head off to the bathroom at work?
I always wonder about who created the faces, gave life to the strange, magical little garden. It must have been a woman, I would think, considering the bathroom’s designation. If so, did she do them all at once on a whim one day? Or make them over a long period of time, on multiple trips to the stall? And why faces on the flowers? Didn’t she find them pretty enough on their own?
But the garden is also incomplete. Not all of the flowers have a face. I have to ask myself if they were uninspiring, left out on purpose, or did the artist suddenly have to stop her work for some reason? Did a hospital higher-up discover what she was doing and put a stop to it?
It’s a funny little mystery. I doubt I’ll ever learn what happened, how the flower children got there or who their creator was, how she completed her small, rather pleasing act of artistic vandalism in an otherwise kind of morose and sterile institution.
But the flower children may be in trouble now, too. The hospital is under renovation, and I’m worried the bathroom and it’s odd little garden are an endangered species. In the wake of a move towards a modern, sleek, Adirondack-themed decor, they may be swept away along with their retro pink, time-traveling wall tile.
The loss would be sad, really, and I keep my fingers crossed that the administration will forget about the bathroom, possibly overlook it because it’s not in a well-traveled part of the hospital. Maybe the garden can stay hidden.
Since that could just be wishful thinking, I had to try preserving it myself. I wanted to give the flower children some sort of legacy, mark their existence in my own words and pictures. I’d like to think that whoever created them would be happy about that, thankful someone years in the future appreciated their efforts, or even simply noticed.
I’m hoping, too, that someone might do the same for me and mine one day, dig us up from the past, find our worth and remember.