Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Joy of Terrazzo

Home, Clean Home blog

                My parents purchased our house in North Palm Beach when I was just shy of seven. Like most of the houses built by that particular builder in North Palm, we had beautiful terrazzo floors. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, terrazzo is a smooth, polished surface made with a lot of cement and sometimes bits and pieces of marble, quartz, granite or glass for little flecks of color all through it.  Terrazzo was originally a way to recycle bits and pieces of leftovers from other projects. Just picture a birthday cake someone went postal on and deluged with candy sprinkles in every color they could get. There was no cooler surface in the hot, humid days of Florida before air conditioning was everywhere. My pregnant mother, who was from California where there is nothing to compare to Florida humidity, often would just lie down on the terrazzo to try to cool off.
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            Marge Hartman, my fun-loving mom, was one of those moms that kids just enjoyed being around because she has never forgotten the value of acting silly. A boon for a shy, tends-to-be-too-serious child like me. I've told her more than once that she could strike up a conversation with a rock and get it to answer her.  I actually brought friends home to play with her a lot. She had, and still has, quite the sense of humor. We went together to see “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and almost died spitting Diet Coke out of our noses when “Large Marge” hit the screen. She even let me run around barefoot and get dirty. Glorious!  As I had three older male cousins and was definitely the tomboy when I wasn’t sneaking a read under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, the ability to get dirty was highly prized.
             My cousin Jack was around nine and his brother, Tom, a little bit older when we moved into the house and they were often over playing for an entire afternoon.  For a tomboy, they were the best of playmates. One of our favorite games involved the terrazzo, an old blanket, and my mother.
              She’d load the three of us onto the blanket and drag us all over that house. The slick, smooth surface of the terrazzo just begged for it. If it had a voice, it would have been whispering, "Pssst. You know you wanna. C'mon. Get the blanket." Our favorite ride of all was when she’d go to the end of the long hall and race down to the center of the house, spinning us in a wide, crazy circle in the near-empty living room. Needless to say, we clung to that blanket with white-knuckles. If we relaxed even a little bit, children’s bodies would go flying off and roll into drywall in every direction. No one ever got hurt and no dry wall was ever injured in the process, but I can remember laughing maniacally until I could hardly breathe. Now, that’s a fun day! We’d try to talk her into it every chance we got until the floor was finally carpeted. I’m sure my parents thought it was an improvement, but my cousins and I would have been happy if it had stayed naked terrazzo forever.
               I looked into getting terrazzo installed on the first floor of the little house I now live in because I had such wonderful memories of it. I also figured out I was pretty safe as my kids are grown and wouldn’t be begging for the blanket game. I was astounded at the cost. I really don’t think it could have possibly cost twenty to fifty dollars a square foot back in the early 1960s or it would never be lying underneath the carpets of thousands of homes throughout South Florida.  So, alas and alack, I didn’t do it and am living on plain white tile. Something worth saving up for though. Sigh.


  1. What cool memories! Your mom is just the kind of woman I like. I took my mom to see Pee Wee's Big Adventure and while I was spitting diet coke out my nose during his Tequila dance, my mom looked at me like I was nuts. She just didn't get it.

    We have hardwood in our downstairs and play the blanket game. Now, if we had that Terrazzo, there's nothing like a little soap and water for a grand game of slide. Too bad it's so expensive, I think I'd like to have some in my house!

  2. What wonderful memories! Hardwood sort of seems to be like that, too, where it currently costs a pretty penny (though probably far more reasonable than terrazzo), yet there are gorgeous hardwood floors buried under carpet from when it was decided hardwood just wasn't acceptable anymore. Now it's popular and costs more. I'm betting most of those people in Florida don't know what they have covered up!

  3. One of my houses when I was growing up had terrazo, too, I'd forgotten about that! Too bad I didn't learn about that game, getting dragged on the blanket!