Tag Archives: painting

Metaphor Monday: The Painted Closet


Metaphor Monday is a new thing we’re trying out around here. Every week, I’ll pick a thing and compare it to another thing. Probably writing, since that’s what this blog is about, but who knows? Metaphors are awesome. Alliteration, doubly so. Got a suggestion for next week’s metaphor? Drop it in the comments. And yeah, I’m a day late today — you’ll see why below.

We’re moving (finally!) and as a result, most of my thoughts bend in that direction. The whole affair got delayed and postponed and we ran out of time this summer to deal with it the way we would have liked, and now we’re having to rush through things. Instead of two weeks to sort our lives out before we got back to work, we were left with more like two days, so it’s a frantic rush of movers and building furniture and unloading boxes and the house looks like a war zone if the war were fought between rival manufacturers of styrofoam peanuts.

So we’re hustling to get the kids’ rooms painted (because if we don’t do it now, it’ll never happen), and I catch my wife sort of staring into the closet. Hands on hips. Thoughtful frown on her lips.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“I don’t know if I can handle these closets,” she says.

I look. While most of the rest of the house is immaculate, the closets are not — especially the ones in the kids’ rooms. They were obviously occupied by kids before, and bear the scars of it. Dings and chips in the drywall where toys or sporting equipment were chucked heedlessly in. Aimless, careless scribbles in crayon and marker — not a design or an attempt at artwork, just an outburst of uncertain creative energy.

I shrug. “It’s a closet.”

“I know, but it’s going to bother me.”

Really? I’ve got bunkbeds to build and a rain forest in the backyard to trim down and about a bajillion boxes to haul up the stairs and you want to waste time painting a closet? Why? Who’s going to see it?

Come to think of it, I mean, when’s the last time you saw the back of your own closet, let alone anybody else’s? Leaving the closet in that state is a crime without a victim; literally nobody will ever know. I begin to protest, but I don’t get very far.

“No, I really want to paint over them.”

Happy wife, happy life, they say. So I go down to the basement in search of the primer. We crack it open and go to work with the rollers, and the job is done in less than an hour. We don’t even do a good job, really — the color’s not a perfect match to what’s in there already, and some of the really dark marks show through — but the closets look miles better.

And my wife is smiling a little more.

And so am I.

So, what’s a painted closet have to do with anything? Well, it’s exactly what it is: a lovely little detail that nobody else knows is there. It’s Van Gogh’s signature twisted into the whorls of a sunflower. An authorial flourish added, not for the well-being of the observer, but for the well-being of the author.

An oft-quoted bit of advice for the writer is “kill your darlings.” Generally, it means that those weird little things that you stuck into the work for your own benefit? Because they made you laugh, or amused you, without serving the story as a whole? Those are things which distract from the narrative, that seem to stand for bigger things and thus demand the reader’s attention, and then frustrate the reader when they don’t. They’re a waste of time, in other words. Everybody involved has better things to do. So they deserve, to butcher syntax in a way I feel rolls right off the tongue, to be got rid of. (Diagram that sentence, Ms. Finch!)

But a closet doesn’t take that much time to paint, and there’s the odd house guest who might poke their nose into the nooks and crannies of the place; wouldn’t we rather give them a nice, finished closet to look at rather than a pockmarked and graffitied (graffiti’d?) hidey-hole we hoped would never see the light of day?

By the same token, a story needs a few diversions. A few rabbit holes for readers to dive into, even if there’s nothing hiding at the bottom.

And, after all, a happier wife is worth an hour’s worth of work with a paint roller.

 

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A Fresh Coat of Paint


This post is part of SoCS. This week’s topic: Attachment.

We’ve spent the past 48 hours fixing up this old house, the wife and I.

That’s 48 hours of parent time, which is measuredly and markedly less efficient than regular human time, because parent time is punctuated regularly by appointments with a baby who is hungry, a baby who is sad, a baby who is upset, a baby who is angry, a baby who wants attention, a baby who is attempting to pull all the sharp things off the table and into her mouth, a baby who has somehow figured out a way to deepthroat the remote control that’s twice as big as her head. We even got her big brother out of the house and off to the grandparents’ for a couple of nights to buy us extra time, and we still spent the day scrambling. As a result, in 48 hours we got three bathrooms painted.

It’s a chore which, we realized after just a few hours, was about four and a half years overdue. (We’ve been in the house for five years.) For all that time, the walls have remained the same bland, inoffensive taupe, plus or minus the scribblings of our two-year-old and a few decorative pictures and photos. They say taupe is soothing, but what it is, really, is invisible and characteristic of nothing. Which I guess makes it the perfect color for a house you’re trying to sell: it’s a blank slate for prospective owners to color with their own hopes and expectations. Somehow, we never got around to filling it with those things for ourselves. We can blame it on the kids a little bit, but ultimately, we just hadn’t taken the time to do it.

And therein lies another realization. Why were we able to let this little thing go so long without being done? Why have we stared for five years at the same bland, inoffensive walls, without being overcome by the surge of frustration at the vacuous sameness of it all? Because we’ve never been particularly attached to it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love our house. It’s a weird kind of wonky style with lots of open space and plenty of room for us and all of our stuff. It’s been the empty husk in which germinated the pale little seedlings of our tiny family. It’s in a nice enough neighborhood, away from traffic, and with pretty decent neighbors. But I also hate our house. That wonky style is born of the 70’s, which is when the house was built, and you can tell, because parts of the house are starting to fall apart as you might expect things built in the 70’s to do. Underneath the taupe paint we’ve discovered layers upon layers of horrible — and I mean really quite atrocious — wallpaper with nausea-inducing patterns and colors. I’m talking about gold-and-green flowers on chocolate brown background. It’s buried behind the light fixtures and air vents, and any time I undertake a home improvement project, I’m always discovering the stuff, like little breadcrumbs leading me back to the house’s horrifying past.

At any rate, my wife and I are both feeling that it’s about time to move on. Our family has grown, and like a snake growing too big for its skin, we need to leave our old trappings behind. We need a basement. I’d like a study that doesn’t double as a guest room. It’d be nice if we could find a place that comes with insulation in the walls. It’d be peachy if the pipes in the new place don’t explode at the slightest glance from the gods of winter.

Our little project this weekend has shone a sharp light on just how ready we are to move. All of a sudden our heads are full of all the little things we need to do to get this place ready to sell: fixing up the porch, replacing carpets, painting rooms and walls and doors… the list is growing by the minute. That said, we handled three rooms this weekend, which is not bad for a sleep-deprived couple with a nine-month-old who still isn’t sleeping through the night.

Not that I’m complaining. That little girl, unlike the house, I am actually quite attached to.


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