Like paint splotches, life’s problems eventually fade away

chrissycsmith November 20, 2014 Comments Off on Like paint splotches, life’s problems eventually fade away
Like paint splotches, life’s problems eventually fade away

Faithful followers of this column (hi, Daddy!) may recall that I recently considered some home improvement projects, DIY-style. Specifically, my husband and I planned to paint our kitchen and breakfast room.
I obsessed over the perfect shade of grey, spent hours on Pinterest, and drove all over tarnation fetching paint samples from approximately everywhere. I bought 11 samples of grey paint and slapped them all over the kitchen walls, which is what you’re supposed to do, right? So you can observe the colors in different lighting? I don’t know, I think there’s supposed to be poster board involved, but this is not a science fair project, and I can’t be bothered with things like poster board.
Thing is, the kitchen ended up resembling a science fair project, which is to say it’s kind of disastrous. (Like those paper mache volcanos that “erupt” with the baking soda and vinegar concoction–a science fair favorite, but what exactly do they teach us about volcanoes? A column for another day.)
Any good science fair project must have a purpose, a question that needs answering, so here is mine: how long must one live with grey splotches (a technical term) covering one’s walls before those splotches disappear?
Hypothesis: not long.
Method: find the perfect, custom shade of grey for the kitchen, buy two cans of it, place those cans in the laundry room. Wait.
Data analysis: the splotches disappeared! It took a few months–maybe three?–before they were gone.
Here’s how it went down:
“Let’s start cutting in tonight, after the kids go to bed.”
“Yes, definitely, let’s do that.”
Kids go to bed. We collapse into a heap on the couch. Weeks go by.
“OK, this weekend it’s ON. We’ll at least paint the breakfast room.”
“Yes, we’re totally doing it. It needs to happen.”
Kids go to bed. We clean the kitchen, which takes like 18 hours because we have the Messiest Kids in America who spill all of the food always. We again collapse into a heap on the couch.
“We’ll do it later.”
“Yes, later.”
If you are wondering why we don’t paint during the day, I would like to invite you over to hang out with my four kids. My husband and I might leave and go out to dinner while you’re here. I’m sure you won’t mind.
No, really, one cannot do things like paint with the kids around. One cannot eat a hot meal or go to the bathroom alone with the kids around. This is just how it is. I have a toddler who colored all over his face and tennis shoes with a purple Sharpie–you see what I’m dealing with. The other three have a little more sense, but not much.
And so the paint cans collect dust and the splotches remain. It’s been so long, we don’t even remember which shade we chose. Won’t it be exciting when we open the can and–surprise! Lavender! Just like on one of those decorating shows.
In the meantime, we don’t even see the splotches anymore. Funny how that happens, how things like splotches or a half-painted end table–they just fade from view. Until somebody comes over, and OH MY GOSH THERE ARE SPLOTCHES OF GREY PAINT ALL OVER MY KITCHEN WALLS.
“Oh, we’re about to paint the kitchen,” I’ll explain to a guest. And by “about to” I mean, “We’re waiting for the children to grow old enough so they can do it for us.”
Not really, but a clever idea, right?
It makes me wonder–what else in our home do we not see? Like, the cabinet doors I removed from some furniture in order to paint it, only I never put the doors back on. (I lost the hinges. And I never really finished painting, either.) Or the sheet I clipped up over a window in the kids’ bedroom–a temporary fix until I sew drapery panels, I said. (Hahahaha.) Or the crooked bamboo roman shades in the living room. Or the dried yogurt on the back door.
It’s like a Showhouse of Half Done, of Not Quite Finished, of Sticky Door Handles and Smudged Mirrors. Look for us on the next St. Tammany Tour of Homes. I’ll sell you a ticket if you want the VIP tour, because really, you’d have to pay me before I’d let you into my master closet.
“And here we have the vacuum cleaner on your right, in front of the pile of laundry on the fireplace hearth,” the tour guide would say. “Notice how the vacuum has been sitting out for three days because the owner is just about to use it.”
It’s For Real, this house, and so is the family who lives here. We’re all a little Half Done, Not Quite Finished, Sticky and Smudged. With kids under the table at dinner time and parents fussing to get off the back of the couch, and a toddler weeping mournfully because Mama dared lock the bathroom door. And the funny things is, those imperfections–the dinner-time squabbles and the showers taken to the soundtrack of whining–they fade into the background, too.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at

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