Hurry Up and Paint

by Shalagh  Hogan

Postponed once by a snowstorm, my ladies luncheon was now mere days away.  I was seated on the kitchen floor, paintbrush poised in mid-stroke for a second coat on the woodwork, when my husband strolled in and remarked, “We should have people over more often”. I was caught in “hurry up and renovate my real estate” mode.  Why do I do this? Do I throw a party to complete unfinished projects? Or do I need an excuse to start new projects? Do I seek my guest’s approval or do I hope to avoid their pity?  Either way, my to-do list becomes a “Ta-Da!” list when “company’s coming” is written on my calendar.

 Suppose your mother-in-law accepts your casual offer to host a Thanksgiving dinner, as mine once did.  Moments prior, you could stand to live in and look at your home. Yet sudden panic will give you hoity-toity-3D-designer-vision. You’ll see the ugliness of it all. To avoid your imminent shame, you’ll need to make immediate and confident decisions everywhere.  You will make a note to rent a steamer to remove the obnoxious wallpaper in the dining room. Your keen eye will see the dangling wires from a hole over the dining table and the bucket in the hallway under the mysterious drip. Your new facial tick will kick in. Humbug your sweetheart’s ego. You will now be so ready to hire an electrician and a plumber.  

 Sometimes our sweet little weekend “honey do” doesn’t.  Blame lack of time, perfectionism, or the now apparent need to have hired a professional well before the work stoppage occurred.  Now abandoned, this once cute little idea can cop a big attitude and become grumpy. And where this little incomplete project merely irked you at first, you now avoid the entire floor it occupies.  If you avoid eye contact or wear goggles tinted with the color ‘lazy’, you may be able to tolerate cohabitation with your proof of failure. Then you can mutter reasonable sounding excuses like, “It was a busy year” and “We ran out of home improvement credit”. My built-in bookshelves had become one of these projects.

Expecting our first child, I was in the throws of nesting when this catastrophe began. First the built-in bookshelves went over budget and landed us in court with our neighbor/contractor. “Time and materials” were to blame. Then my psychotic pregnant self added insult to my husband’s injury by asking him to paint the built-ins monkey-poop brown. He hates to paint. As I attended to the constant needs of my new pint sized guest, I became too busy to mellow that brown with an intended glazing technique. For five years those ominous bookshelves mocked me.

I finally chose a green for my transformation. I had hope in a can. I planned to repaint as a reward for a stressful spring committed to other people’s causes.  But now I worried, “What if I get paint on the carpet?” and “Is there an ideal day to do this?” Heck with that. The kid was in daycare one of only two days. There’s no better time than the present. Even though the forecast called for more typical muggy summer days, I opened the windows, left the air conditioning on, and uncorked the highly anticipated gallon of “Ripplin Ridge”. And I protected the carpet with wide masking tape. I selected an old Crowded House CD to play and I began to reclaim myself, my style, and my present with every paint stroke. Permission not panic had put that paintbrush in my hand.

I have failed to mention my estranged father was due to visit in a couple weeks. It wasn’t like I was doing this project because of him. When my Dad finally arrived, he was 24 hours too early. I gave him a hug hello in a tank top with my bra-straps hanging out, assured him his mistake was alright, and showed him in to my disaster area. My kitchen furniture and cookbooks were displaced into my dining room as I waited for the polyurethane to dry on the kitchen floor. That was the project.  

Although I will always remember my Dad’s visit and the kitchen floor that caught me, I can not remember the projects I completed prior to that supposedly memorable Thanksgiving dinner I mentioned. The projects are forgotten in the aftermath of those numerous social events. I never notice a clean house, just a dirty one.

I can feel the need for change somewhere soon gnawing at me. Do I smell a cookout simmering in my brain?   The deck stain needs completion and outdoor curtains would be as cool as that chic “succulents only” planter box I read about somewhere. A new fire pit would certainly help light the fire under my derrière. If I make it a potluck, I’d have a few extra bucks for a couple throw pillows. I could create a sculpture for that white wall. Hey, Honey, don’t we have a jigsaw somewhere?

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