Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coloring my world

I've been spending most of the weekend painting rooms in our house so that they are (hopefully) more "buyer friendly" colors. Painting is one of those chores that seems so huge. But once all the materials are gathered together, the furniture moved to the center of the room and covered, the prep work completed (clean the baseboards, remove all the light switches, tape all the wood work) I'm eager to dip into a new color and the actual painting is therapeutic. With a country music station playing in the background, I'm quickly lost in thought, kind of like being at the symphony where my mind wanders from one place to another. Inevitably, the stroke of the paint brush takes me back to the summer in college when I worked on the student paint crew. We were a group of 25 or so students, hired to paint the faculty apartments which were three-story Tudor style built in the 1930s. I wonder how many gallons of white and brown paint we went through? There were two paint crews. One was headed up by a younger, rather hefty, chain-smoking guy who claimed most of the young women on the crew and took a few token guys. The other was the older, experienced painter named Carl. He had snow white hair that was neatly combed back, and wore long khaki pants and a long sleeved khaki work shirt, neatly button to the top button. He wasn't very happy that he was required to have at least three female painters on his crew. But he agreed that it might be okay to have some girls to paint the window trim on the ground floor. It was on Carl's crew that my two room mates and I spent the summer. On the first day we were all given white paint hats and brushes that Carl embossed with our initials. He gave us a lesson on how to clean them each day (and this was oil based paint, so it was no easy task). The rest of our uniforms consisted of cut-off jeans, tank tops and white Keds. . . and a big bottle of sunscreen. It was a great summer. Painting with friends during the day and at night going out for all-you-can-eat BBQ and margaritas. Amazingly, Carl never got one drop of paint on his clothing that whole summer. And he worked right beside us. However, each afternoon, the rest of us spent half the clean up time, using mineral spirits and rags to wipe down our arms, legs, and scrub our hands. After a few days, we girls got a bit tired of standing on the ground while the guys had all the fun with the 40-foot extension ladders and "cherry pickers". One day, Carl must have been off checking on the other crew, and we convinced the guys to teach us how to run the cherry picker. By the time Carl got back, we were high up in a basket, and one of us was driving the cherry picker around the building. "Are those girls up there?" he exclaimed. Then he threw up his hands and knew he'd been beat. We dubbed ourselves "Carl's Chicks" and by the end of the summer he admitted that we were some of the best painters he'd ever had.
I was painting my daughter's room this morning, thinking about all of the layers of paint that lay beneath. It was like going through our family's own archaeological dig. When we first moved into the house, Joey was three, and the little bedroom was done in pale blue wallpaper, and a chair rail with little ducks -- a cute nursery for its former occupant. I switched out the duckies for little soldiers and with a bright blue quilt on the bed, it was the perfect 'big boy' room for Joe. Then Luke came along, and I put the two boys together in the larger bedroom next door. (It was one of the smartest things I've ever done -- one room to keep picked up, and the boys had all the fun and learning that comes with sharing a bedroom with a sibling. Their friends envied them!) The little bedroom became a guest room, and I stripped the wallpaper, painted the walls a pale yellow and set up my Grandma's four-poster bed. Then Emily came along, and it was once again converted to a nursery. We eventually painted it pink for her 'big girl' room, with a princess wall border. A few years ago, we finished our basement so that Joe had his own room. Luke's room was painted denim blue and gold, with a St. Louis Ram's theme. The little bedroom was done in alternate walls of lime green and sky blue -- Emily's choice, and themed with frogs. As I was painting in there this morning, I wondered if I would have agreed to those colors had I known it would require two coats to cover them with "straw hay". I have no doubt I would have. It's just paint.


Kim said...

Oh...what sweet memories. I have to say though, that I don't envy you as I detest painting, and I think it is because of all the prep work. It just seems so overwhelming, and in our house it never is a just a one coat job.
Glad you like it and hope your house sells soon for you. The housing market up here is really bad, especially compared to 2 years ago. I don't think we would get what we want out our house right now, so here we sit. ;)
Have a great week

justabeachkat said...

I like your attitude! I've always enjoyed painting too...the walls, not the trim though. I usually put on some good music or listen to a book on tape and just have fun.


Boomeyers said...

I love painting too. And I love the thought of the history of the layers. What a sweet trip down memory lane! I was painting today too, up the stairs and in the hallway upstairs. Not to mention the big two story part that you have to turn the giant ladder backwards, have DH hold the ladder and pray as you paint!! Of course Lukes room would be the coolest!! :-) What did he think of the Rams draft picks today??

Sandcastle Momma said...

I love the idea of thinking about the layers of paint. It's funny when you've been in a house for a long time how the colors underneath tell your story. I am getting ready to paint my living and dining rooms soon. I painted them last year but the paint I thought was so pretty then is down right disgusting now LOL I don't mind the actual painting but that trim work really stinks.

Becky said...

This is a really fun post, Karen.

Happy painting.

Xandra said...

That is so true about the history of our lives in the layers of paint. I love the story about painting in college....aren't you glad you didn't get stuck on the other crew?!


Robin said...

What fun memories you have of painting. Maybe if I tried to look at painting as a positive thing like you do - I would enjoy it more.

M&M_Mama said...

I loved how you mentioned about the layers of paint. We have just moved into a brand new home and the inside has been painted just recently. My girl's room is two shades of pink with a white stripe to separate the two shades. When you were talking about your children's room colors, I wondered how many layers of paint will we have on our walls as time goes by. We need to paint the outside soon. You made painting actually sound nice instead of just another job and it motivated me to spice up the outside of our house. I'll think of you when I'm blasting the country music as I paint along!

Bill said...

I believe there can be moments of grace in repetitive work. You can take time to think, remember, meditate, and make plans.
I liked reading your memories from the paint crew. Did you go up in the cherry picker?

Jen said...

Girls Rule..way to go on your paint job awhile back with Carl.
Painting is always a chore here at our house. We try to hire it out because we end up fighting. It tests

gail@more than a song said...

Sounds like you've been busy! And loved reading about your memories of painting with Carl one summer, that was good!
I don't enjoy painting all that much and have a whole upstairs that needs it...lots of rooms if you want to come help! I was trying to get stuff cleaned out so there wouldn't be so much to deal with but the kids are bringing more home to store!

Madeleine said...

What a great story!

My dad is the same way. He wears the same uniform to do house work. Except his is blue. Buttoned to the top. And spotless.

I hate to paint.

But it beats the place looking bad. I'm glad you are enjoying it, and hope it helps in the seeling!

violetlady said...

Great post. You are moving right along. Has the sign gone up yet?

Judith said...

Everybody should get to ride in a cherry picker at least once in a lifetime.