2008.05.29 If you need a painter, don't go looking for me

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I recall starting a column awhile back with a 1999 Genesis song that includes lines which describe my lack of ability: “I can’t dance. I can’t sing.”

Add to that:  I can’t paint.

David is the painter in our family. He’s the one who usually does it. I painted Ben’s room so long ago, I forgot how much I hated it until I started painting our downstairs hallway a month or so ago. 

It was like childbirth: I forgot how much it hurt the first time so I had a second child, and enough time went by after Rozee was born that I went ahead and gave birth to Maddie. But I can’t imagine I will be birthing any more painting projects any time soon.

We took a lot of care in selecting colors for the hallway. I think I was the one who held up the off-white bathroom towel and said, “How about this color?” to which David said, “Sure.”

Later, I decided maybe we should try a different color for the woodwork, and held up another towel, a taupey brown color, which easy-going David thought was fine.

The original woodwork had been painted by a previous owner. We always thought we’d strip that paint, but since it involves harsh chemicals that made David sick when we first bought the house, we decided against it.

It’s really hard to apply more paint to woodwork you’d like to restore, but the nicks and blemishes caused by three kids rollerblading and careening through the hallway over the years, pretty much called out for paint and lots of it.

I often clean house at night and enjoy doing it then. You don’t notice dust and grime that you would in full daylight. I garden in the dark, too and enjoy that, too. It’s kind of interesting to see what you did when you couldn’t see what you were doing.

So, painting the hallway late at night in poor lighting was not unusual. Painting with what turned out to be a defective paint roller was a tad out of the ordinary, though.

Every now and then the roller would start to fly off, but there was never a clear indication when it would fly. I’d catch it just before it reached the end of the metal roller cage gizmo, until one time my neck hurt from tilting it backward so I could see what I was doing as I rolled paint on the nine-foot ceiling. For a split second, I dropped my head toward the floor to ease the pain.

Bad move. The roller cover flew off the cage and landed smack dab in the middle of the paint tray, splashing paint over me, the floor, the walls and the woodwork. I loudly uttered a lot of words learned during my childhood days on the streets of New York, but David never woke up.

I finished the ceiling and walls, but for days I dreaded doing the woodwork. Maddie, at the prodding of her friend Ali, I think, finally tackled the task. But then Maddie left for a month-long geology class in Wyoming—one doorway and three doors short of completion. 

She’d been using a skinny little 1 1/2-inch brush and I started with that when I took up where she left off. The going was slow on the first door, so I moved up to a massive four-inch brush. I was cooking then!

Things were moving so fast I decided to attack the next door even though it was closing in on two o’clock in the morning and I was getting tired. This was the door to the room we still refer to as the playroom since that was its original and longest used purpose.

I think I had painted two panels of the five-panel door when I set my paint container on a rung of the ladder. I knew it was a stupid move even as I set the fat bottomed gallon vinegar bottle with its cut out opening on the skinny little ladder rung.

It was a case of turning your head for a second and your baby rolls off the changing table onto the bathroom floor, only in this case the baby was filled with “Perfect Solution” paint and it’s now splashed all over the playroom rug and in a great puddle on the tarp. I have no idea how that vinegar bottle catapulted upside down onto the floor, but what a mess!

I cried for several minutes while I  sopped up paint from the rug, then said, “Oh, what the hell,” dipped my brush in the puddle and slathered it on the door. And even though I had planned to leave the last door for the next day, I figured I might as well use up all the paint in the puddle and be done with it.

I still won’t examine the doors for my shoddy workmanship. They are painted! The flecks of wood that used to show through no longer do! I don’t want to see how bad a job I did. I want to quote over and over that odd adage I used in another column:

“If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

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