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Friday, December 5, 2014

The only thing I’d ever painted was a house

I paint almost every day, sanding and prepping first before I apply that first coat of beautiful paint.  I can't imagine what I did before finding this addictive hobby of mine I love so much.  Here's my latest creative - an antique buffet done up in Paris gray.  

But, before shabby chic furniture, I was somewhat of an outsider.  To be quite honest, the only thing I'd ever painted was a house.

Well, that’s not entirely true if you count the paint-by-number and watercolors from my Barbie coloring book when I was a kid.  My first real painting experience with a grown-up home-improvement store paint brush was when I was 25 years-old and a week before my wedding. 

I decided long before becoming engaged, I wanted my wedding reception at my parent’s house. My childhood home was on an acre of land with dozens of orange trees and giant pine trees that were somewhat out of place in the middle of the Phoenix desert.  Thanks to the monthly irrigation turn that left the yard flooded for almost an entire day, this property was green and blooming.  The problem was my parent’s house was a bit dated; a bit saggy and creased in places because of age.  There was the broken foyer window my dad had carefully pieced back together with duct tape years earlier not to be outdone by the outdoor lighting fixtures kindly dating themselves in the form of 1970’s yellow glass balls.  We didn’t let the leaning mailbox bother us (my teenage brother backed into it with his car five years earlier); heck if a the leaning tower of Pisa could stand like that for hundreds of years we knew our mailbox wasn’t going anywhere.  The spare tires stacked in the carport didn’t need to be moved because that’s where the kittens played.  The large pile of chopped wood near the swing set had just been sprayed, so I knew the hornets nest was empty. I had no doubt my wedding reception was going to be perfect.

Truthfully, my parent’s house was beautiful all on its own.  Rows of wild grape bushes stretched their vines; intertwining in and out of the rusty pool fence as if trying to reach the pool water.  The property was an organic jungle where my family shared long thoughtful talks and countless games of baseball.  The grass never seemed to stop growing, wild flowers sprung up where the oranges had dropped last year’s crop and a large juniper bush had grown big enough to invite my younger siblings inside its branches to build a fort.  Sure, the other yards in the neighborhood were manicured by professional yard crews, but not my parents.  Oh no, it was all done by hand, literally because none of the power tools worked well enough to actually function on a regular basis.  I learned the beauty of clipping a mile long hedge with hand trimming sheers wasn’t the fact the blisters eventually turned into calluses, it was you knew every square of the yard.  Pushing a lawn mower row after row put me into a strange sort of trance; calming and meditative.  As a teenager, when I was frustrated I worked in the yard.  It always had something for me to do that felt significant.  The reward of all that work was a giant tree swing my dad made and a lazy hammock Mom picked up at a garage sale that offered rest and relaxation.

A week before my wedding reception, my parents had most of us, their children, out there working for the big event.  My brothers trimmed trees while my sisters raked dead leaves.  We were like a fine-tooled machine, composting and trimming away.  That really only lasted about an hour before someone ran off and another complained they were hungry, but I appreciated every bit of it as much.  The yard was my happy place; it just needed to be cleaned up a bit.  It was the place I would hold hands with my soon-to-be husband and celebrate the start of our eternity with several hundreds of people and a giant wedding cake.

A week before the big event, I started to notice a few not-so-perfect things about the house.  It wasn’t that I expected things to be perfect for the big day; after all I was a hippy girl with waist-length hair that hadn’t been cut in a while too.  Still, I knew hosting an event with hundreds of my closest friends, family, and co-workers was a big deal I needed to prepare for.  So I started a conversation with my dad that went a little something like this: “Dad, what do you think about the paint trim on the house? Should we touch it up for the reception?”  My dad’s reaction was like asking a car mechanic driving an old beat-up Datsun what he thought about the suspicious sound coming from under the hood; it was no big deal. I could tell my dad wasn’t getting it, so I tried another idea:  “If you bring home some paint, I’ll do some touch up on the trim?”  His eyes lit up.  I had offered my dad a suggestion; just a little nudge - you lend me your house for a day and I will make it beautiful for years to come. 

I had done it.  I convinced my dad it would only take a gallon of paint, maybe two to get the trim of the 3,500 square foot home up to date.  My dad pulled a ladder from his workshop and we positioned it so I could start.  Finally, there in my hand was my first experience with a paint brush.  I slathered that forest green paint right onto that wood like frosting on a cake.  The dry-rot wood sucked up the paint like a dehydrated athlete to Gatorade.  I smeared a bit more paint on, half expecting it to look perfect, but I think deep down I knew better.  The flaking trim needed to be prepped and fixed in many places, but I would just have to do my best because doing something would look better then doing nothing.

Later that day at my request, my dad went back to the hardware store for another gallon of forest green paint.  I remained optimistic about the task, but painting for hours with my head faced upward kinked my neck.  Really, how long could this take?  Had I only moved a few feet since starting that morning?  Reality set in when my beloved family came to the rescue.  My brothers offered to help.  My dad pulled out a long paint stick with a roller on it and invested in a 5 gallon bucket of paint.  Things turned serious and the house trim slowly turned from a dingy sierra brown to a bold forest green.  For three long grueling days alongside my dad and brothers, I craned my neck, stroking and applying pressure as needed, as paint took to wood. 

            The morning of the wedding I took one last walk around the property as a single lady; my mind whirling like water forced down a drain.  I was still a girl, yet I would be a wife; his wife.  I had saved myself for this day and I wondered what he would be like as a husband.  My heart was his, as was my absolute trust.  Never had I tasted the flavor of love he radiated.  He was my perfect secret. 

An unexpected morning rain left the muggy September air with a mist of cool and the cool grass rubbed against my bare feet.  The sun wouldn’t stay hiding behind the clouds forever so I relished the few moments I had to dream about my big day. My fiancé Derek was my best friend wrapped in a 6’5 perfect masculine frame.  His ability to love completely shocked me and after four amazing weeks of dating (and a three month engagement), he reeled me in like a fish on a line.  We were both somewhat misfits of society; a shy hippy I would later call him after I got to know him better, but somehow we had found one another.  I bent down underneath the giant orange tree and collected an arrangement of wildflowers worthy for a bride.  I was getting married in just a couple of hours. 

I rushed inside and jumped in the shower, scrubbing the left-over paint still on my hands and underneath my fingernails when I felt a strange burning on my arm.  That’s when I noticed a deep gash running along the back of my arm.  Where had that come from?  Then I remember just yesterday while mowing the lawn I had walked into the gnarly branches of an unforgiving orange tree.  Paint stains and scars on my wedding day – no sweat! 

And, that is why I wore long gloves on my wedding day.
(no, it wasn't just to be coy!) 

 Covered the paint under my fingernails, 
paint on my hands
 and most of the scab on my arm.  

Playing with my darling flower girls in my parent's orange patch.

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