On the Threshold…

Probably the only thing duller than watching paint dry is reading the blog of a person who has been watching paint dry, so most of you will be relieved to know that the lid has been tapped back down on the cannister of “Linen White” paint I keep stashed in the basement.

But the ability to squeeze blood from turnips might be one of the names of the blog game* so we’re not quite done with housepaint yet.

In fact, now that I think about it, an ability to squeeze blood from turnips — in other words, extract nourishment from unlikely sources — might be one of the names of the motherhood game.

Slowly, slowly, the woodwork of this house gets painted. Usually by me, usually while a child is napping. We moved into this house this time of year three winters ago, when I was hugely pregnant with Younger Girleen (hugely, because even though I was only seven months pregnant at the time she was a second child and I had basically looked pregnant since before I was pregnant). That year I supervised painting rather than taking brush in hand: we did the Girleens’ rooms because there’s no way to spin a room with faux-painted brown walls to a three-and-a-half-year-old who has just had to move out of the house she’s known since birth and is about to get a new sibling, to boot.

Next, I think I painted the door to Younger Girleen’s closet during that early sleepless fugue right after she was born simply because the way it was zebra-striped with the woodwork’s 1920s era brown varnish and every subsequent decades’ layer of paint was really offending my addled aesthetic sense.

Last summer, I painted the sun porch that’s become the writing/art/junk room because of the probably deluded sentiment that if a mother must share “her room of her own” it should at least be nicely painted.

I made it through two rooms this year, a bedroom and the hallway. Or, to be more precise, I painted a portion of the woodwork in the bedroom: I lost interest before I got to the trim that would require moving the bed.

The hallway, though — I persevered. How many times a day do I walk up and down that hallway? It runs almost the length of the house. Ten doors open off it, as if this house were a boarding house, or a old-fashioned hospital or something from a fairy tale.

Lap lap goes the brush, up and down. There’s something meditative about painting. Painting doors is hard, but not too hard: you have to think about it while you do it, but you can keep other thoughts going at the same time — you’re using two very different portions of your brain.

Lap lap strokes the brush. Up and down. All this painting has always been done by hand. Eighty years worth! Who painted it in the 30s? Was it the woman of the house?

Lap lap strokes the brush. Who thought it would be a good idea, several decades ago, to paint the woodwork in this hallway coagulated-blood red?

I used one of the Husband’s worn out t-shirts to put polish to the tarnished rosettes of the keyholes and through the oily toxic smell of Brasso, the dignified glint of brass appeared.

So many doors! So many faceted glass door knobs — a miracle they stayed unbroken through the years when this house was someplace with blood-red woodwork busily being gouged … by what? Motorcycles being dragged down the hall? Indifference? Wild parties?

I painted doors, I tightened knobs and brass plates, and tested the seal of newly-covered door into its jamb.

I usually never think about that second when I pass through a door, my hand lightly on the knob. My mind is always on the room I just left or the one I’m moving into.

Lap lap strokes the brush. This year maybe a good resolution would be to focus on the doorways.

*Good God, how’s that for a train wreck of cliches?


  1. I usually never think about that second when I pass through a door, my hand lightly on the knob. My mind is always on the room I just left or the one I’m moving into.

    That’s an awesome bit there; yes. Doorways, thresholds.

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