It is what passes for very cold around here. The water in the water barrel in the garden — left undrained for the winter due to laziness, lack of horticultural hygiene and disbelief that the temperature would ever go below 32 — is for the moment frozen as solid as a once-every-12 year’s skateable Dutch canal.
The winter light is austere, formal. There’s a forty percent chance of snow for later in the week, a statistic optimistic enough that on Thursday night legions of elementary school-aged children throughout metro Atlanta will be wearing their nightclothes inside-out and backwards in an attempt to force Mother Nature’s hand.*
Inside, the stove-top demands simmering pots of soup, spicy jambalaya.
Black-eyed peas for luck, a vinegary mess o’ greens, and cornbread.
Fifteen years of Matrimony! Dysfunctional a team as we might be, at least we are one. We trade off, we pinch hit. He tackles the walls; my specialty’s become woodwork.
We’ve lived in this house for five years now and I’ve come to love me some Benjamin Moore Linen White Semi-Gloss — it covers multitudes of sins.
I crank the ipod and set to work. I wield my favorite two-inch angled brush; every year I vow I will master drawing a more perfect bead of paint along the top of the baseboards. For a day, to every query from a child I answered: ask your Dad.
And as I work — what was marred becomes, miraculously, lovely. What was scarred by scuff-marks is given back to itself, the consistency of cream.
I turned 45 a few days past the Winter Solstice, have achieved an age at which one could probably say that, metaphorically, my own woodwork could use a little touching up.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s, the New York Times contained several unexpected obits. Forty-five years old reported one; forty-two, reported the other.
O, they were at the height of their powers! I thought. I didn’t know either artist well enough to presume, to say more.
But I grieved the loss as I painted, that days had been for some too cold to bear.
It’s a liminal space, a room divested of its trappings and draped with dropcloths. Wan winter light fell in bars across the floor.
*An urban myth spread like wildfire through Elder Girleen’s school: if you wear your pajamas inside out and backwards, it will snow.