Posted by: alegra22 | June 10, 2011

painting lessons

Project: Tear down wallpaper!

I step into the room with good intentions. Dan’s voice is in my head as I put down the blue tarp he so proudly presented to me with the other paint supplies. “This is really good quality,” he said. I took it from him, remembering the mangled bodies of past paint tarps. Beaten, torn, old masking tape binding them together in all of the wrong places. I shoved them in our eco-friendly shopping bags with the intention to use them again.

“These are great,” I said. At the time I meant it. I sincerely believed in the vision I had of these clean blue tarps taped along the skirting. I saw myself with hair in a jaunty ponytail, a bowl-sized mug of yerba mate, and music blasting as I proceeded in an organized, mess-free fashion.

Fast forward to midnight as I stand bewildered looking at the small space I have to work in. The bunkbeds have been moved into the middle of the room, leaving me a walkway of about one and half feet. I’m not just going to be painting the walls, I’m going to be up close and personal with them. “Alrighty-O!” I declare to the kitties. I am still operating under the delusion that they will make great workmates and companions on this endeavor. I begin to spread the tarp along the first edge of the wall and immediately become overwhelmed. I blame Dan for this confusion. After all, he knows that I am good at certain things and not-so-good at certain things. For example, I know where everything is in the house but I rarely know where I am in relationship to the rest of the planet. I am good at working through the night and getting a job done, I’m not good at putting into place the necessary measures to protect things like, oh, say, carpet, furniture, and clothing. He also knows that if he is not around to supervise me, I quickly begin redefining reality. He calls this ‘making stuff up.’ I call it discovering new laws and explaining them for the greater good of all mankind.

Ten minutes into my good intentions, I discover that kitties make bad helpmates. Sally leans up against a fresh coat of paint. Ginger prepares to pounce at the brush. I am proud that I’ve figured this out all on my own. “Self,” I say, “we’re doing a mighty fine job here in the wee hours of the night!” I think how proud Dan will be to come home to perfectly painted walls, neatly folded and well-used tarps, and a clean carpet. I bend down to pour more paint into the tray and I make a discovery, the kind of truth that is just too much for some people to take in all at once. Like my husband for example. He’d roll his eyes as I tried to explain it to him. “Husband,” I’d say, “Tarps are a form of trickery. They are paints way of reproducing – they are nothing but a well-disguised breeding ground for paint. Paint takes one look at a tarp and starts dripping onto it! We should not let ourselves be used for their dirty carnal purposes! Also, painting with a tarp is like surfing with a life jacket on.”

Since Dan is not around to argue with me, I follow the bravado of this thought into brave new territory. I will do away with the tarp!  I will not be tricked into tracking paint throughout the house!

Another wall and fifteen more minutes and I’m second-guessing my decision to start painting at midnight. I’ve come to certain unflattering conclusions about undercoat. I’ve decided that it is resentful by nature. It knows it is going to be covered up by two coats of ‘colorful’ paint and that all of its hard work will be forgotten, so it rebels. When I am not looking, it grabs my paint brush by the handle and drags it in to its white undertow. It drips and leaps and clings to all of the wrong places. It has things in common with the cockroach – if you don’t kill its mess the right way, it simply lays paint eggs and multiplies.

It is nearly 2 a.m. in the morning, my nose is inches away from the wet paint, the fumes swirl around me, but I think of the chaos of this last week, the way Sol comes home and careens through the house like a free radical, knocking his brother and sister out of their natural orbit. He has no place to retreat to. The furniture is everywhere. I imagine the mess as noise in his mind, a constant honking of horns and static that crowd around his thinking. He has been anxious from the moment he wakes up in the morning to the moment he passes out at night.

I think of Zaviera sitting in the car, waving to me, blowing me kisses, and the way I had to close the door quickly before I scooped her up in my arms and brought her back into the house with me.

I finish the final wall. I throw the brushes and tray beneath the hot water. I survey the room. The paint dries without rebellion. It seems quiet now, happy to surrender to its place on the wall.

For tonight, one small room in my heart is in order. Finally I can sleep.



  1. As soon as you mentioned the cats. I was like “cats and paint don’t mix” I HATE painting with a passion.

    I like how Z has a princess dress on to tear off the wall paper.

    • The girl has a definite sense of style and how to do things!
      I now officially hate painting. I used to love it. This last venture broke me of that old belief.

  2. That is a good look that Dan needs to repeat as often as possible.

    And I’m supremely amused that you thought two cats would be helpful with anything, and by helpful I mean not causing mass chaos for their own sadistic pleasure.

    • Oh believe me, this is one of Dan’s top ten looks.

  3. Tried posting comment earlier but it would not go through so here goes…

    I should not be allowed in a home improvement store so I can totally understand where you are coming from. I get excited about working on something but I forget how unskilled and sloppy I can be. On the other side of that, there is nothing like working on the home in one way or another and listening to music. It’s a good feeling and when you are finally done, you feel so accomplished. I love the days I stay home and get things done, take my time, and have the music going. It really helps to clear the mind and bring order to thoughts.

    I wish my cats were better at helping me. I try so hard to keep them away from toxins when I am cleaning and I keep the bathroom door shut when I am in there cleaning byt my girl cat is always sniffing under the door to get a whiff of the bleach. I know this because I will be on the ground washing the floor and when I look out under the door, her little face is pressed right up against it.

    Good luck with the rest of your work!

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