Home Improvement

Home improvement isn't always a planned thing. Sometimes it's the result of a completely unanticipated event. It could be a kid proudly scribbling his ABC's in Sharpie pen on your bedroom wall. Or Mother Nature could do what amounts to the same thing.
In the tail end of winter, 2010, I walked through out living room and suddenly spied something new--a shell pink elongated bubble hanging from the upper molding of the wall. It looked like--oh, just use your imagination. It was, I later learned, caused by a water dam, ice that had built up in one of the valleys between different slopes of the roof and then melted on the bottom. The water had nowhere to go but between the dry wall and a few coats of paint. We let the water out and mopped it all up, but to put it mildly, the decor had been seriously compromised.

Life got complicated and we never seemed to find the time to do anything about it. Clearly, the room needed to be repainted, but it seemed more than we felt comfortable handling. Painters were expensive. But it was right out there in full view of whoever came into the house. We considered a few options: putting the Christmas tree in front of it (which would have worked at least until after New Year's) or hanging a picture over it, but even with our rather eclectic tastes, it would have looked pretty odd.

Enter our oldest daughter, who had just shipped her last kid off to college and thus had a bit of time on her hands before she needed to start sending care packages. "I'm coming down to paint," she informed us. And she did, bringing rollers, buckets, spackle--obviously she had done this before. Needless to say, we welcomed her with open arms, and a few old sheets to use as drop cloths.

The first order of business (aside from dealing with the paint bubble) was color--the bane of every redecorator's existence. Ever visit the paint department of a big box hardware store? If you've ever wanted to know what infinity was like, that's a pretty close approximation. Now, I had something in mind, but none of the little paint cards I'd already brought home seemed to work. We were dealing with a stone fireplace with wallpaper above it. Mary began picking up books and other items from the room and holding them up to the wall, the fireplace, and the light, trying to get me to see different colors. Not my strong suit, but we came up with a few ideas and went to get some small sample cans. Within hours, the entire wall looked like a patchwork quilt. We thought one looked promising, but despite his being color blind, my husband's reaction was about eleven thumbs down. Back to the big box for more samples. More patches. More samples. I almost wore the carpet out walking back and forth, squinting one eye to cover up one color so I could see another without distraction. Miraculously, throughout a fitful night's sleep, I came up with a decision--one of the first colors I'd looked at, of course.

Before the painting started, though, things got down and dirty. You know how, over the years, you accumulate things--books, pictures, bowls or figurines and the like? My daughter, a reality show aficionado, believes that if you're going to freshen up a room, you need to go all the way. Why do you have all those books? To read. When? Sometime. Haven't you got a big bookcase upstairs? Yeah. And what about that stuffed polar bear on the mantle? Uh, a gift. It's been up there for years. It's dusty. Uh, yeah. Probably.

Ever seen one of those shows where they're trying to get somebody to clean out the stuff in her closet and the poor thing is screaming and crying because she can't let go of her favorite pair of Crocs? It was a little like that. Not pretty. I let an old microwave cart go to the basement, but argued over a bookcase of the same era--and lost. I'm not quite sure where the marble bookends went, but I suppose they'll show up some day. I was essentially told to put things I wanted to put back in one box, keep but relocate in another and discards in a third. That last box has, at last count, about two items. Including the polar bear. All the boxes are still in the dining room.

So, the painting progressed. Our daughter spent three days going up and down ladders. She is one of the neatest painters I've ever seen, a Renoir with trimming brush and roller. The end result is that the room, foyer, and hall look better than they have for years. The ecstasy was definitely worth all the agony and now I'm ready for company.

Mother Nature sure has a funny way of motivating us.

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