White

snowboundI thought my intensive home improvement would be done when the kids went back to school, but snow days and two-hour delays meant that Christmas break extended well into January. So I just extended my home improvement streak and scooted daughter out of the house to the flooring store to help me order the carpet and bathroom flooring that we’d had someone in to measure a year and a half ago. We picked new materials (she has an eye), remeasured, the guy and I came up with a plan to get started, one job at a time. The carpet on the stairs, which the dogs had gnawed through as puppies, years ago, will be replaced. We even picked a new color. New linoleum in the bathrooms should make them look crisper and cleaner. I walked through my very-clean-house (the break was long, much cleaning ensued), visualizing these small but significant repairs, when the walls started to look dingy. A fresh coat of paint would take care of that.

When I told a friend, she urged me to hire a painter, because some of my walls are really high. I concurred. But, alas, I found myself at the paint store, just poking around to see paint colors. I asked the guy about white. He was not helpful. Drats. I have no eye for color. Husband had a very good eye, and so my lack of talent atrophied even further after being with him for two decades. He could see what I couldn’t, and I just deferred to him. He’s gone, the paint store guy was no help, so I did what I do best–research. A quick internet search introduced me to the fraught politics of white paint. Warm whites are good. No, no, cool whites are where it’s at. There’s something to do with natural light, or with the age of the house. It made no sense to me. What makes a white cool? You don’t want cool in a cold climate…or do you? My research results were unintelligible to me, so I took the pragmatic step. I held up white paint chips to the walls and chose the one that seemed the cleanest. I ordered a gallon of Sherwin Williams Snowbound at the paint store. The paint guy was like, “Are you sure?” {raised eyebrow} The day before, he told me the shade of white didn’t matter; it really depends on the color of my lightbulbs. Now he had an opinion about my paint color. I resisted a head thunk, paid up, went home, and slapped that Snowbound on two walls in the family room. It’s a low-stakes room. If I screwed up, it’d be okay because it’s not an important space. But I’d get to see what a white paint looks like on the wall, and maybe if I saw it, I could form an opinion on white paint, or just have a reference point.

Before slapping on the Snowbound, I used my power screwdriver–like a pro (Remember when I didn’t even know how to use one?)–to remove old screws. I spackled and sanded and taped the moldings. Then I slapped the paint on. I did this in the dark, which means I couldn’t really see where the new paint was laying, and hastily, because Downton Abbey was on at 9. No problem. I finished and cleaned up in time for the show, and did an okay job. I could leave it as is, or apply a second coat, I thought, but my semester began the next day, so I wasn’t going to get back to it immediately.

Why, do you suppose, I painted a room the night before the semester started? I was in the thick of meeting a deadline for an article revision, and I’d spent the better part of the weekend in the office. I hadn’t even finished my syllabi. Why would I start this paint job and leave it unfinished? I kind of think I did it aggressively. With the return to school, for both me and the kids, we’re back to the old routine. Wake up in the dark, cook and clean, drive, drive, drive, read, go to meetings, sort of think, drive, drive, cook, clean, tend to animals and people, go to bed and hope I sleep. I think I kept the tape on the moldings so that I am obligated to pull out all the painting materials and slap that second coat on. Hey, it’s something different.

And I don’t mind it. I’m starting to feel so much better about the house. When this widowhood started, the house felt like a weight bearing down on me, a problem to be fended off. I’m starting to feel a little more agency here. It’s mine. It can be nice. And this is good, because I’m getting out into the world more, but I don’t still don’t feel at ease there. It’s better than it was, but the inevitable reminders arise–I note all the parties I’m not invited to, all the memories I’ve lost, all the pleasures I miss out on. These small discomforts nag at me, and I’d rather be home, really. Besides, I rarely get invited anywhere on weekend nights. Those can be my paint nights. There’s that second coat to be done, and a hallway, and another hallway, and although I agreed to hire a guy to get the high spots, maybe I can just rig up the outdoor ladder and get those high walls done. After all, by the time I climb that ladder, I’m going to be awfully experienced at painting.

And maybe even good at picking out a white. The Snowbound looks great in the family room–stark white against the wood frames. It strikes a kind of Scandinavian vibe. As I consider it for the hallway, though, I wonder if it’s too stark. I see, now, that the hallway has a deeper hue. Oh, the current paint in the hallway is a warmer white. I kind of get it, now that I’ve seen a cold white on a wall. I will let this all simmer. I’ll get it, eventually. That’s pretty much how this widowing has been going all along.

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One thought on “White

  1. I like pearl white or gray walls which makes me feel so old fashioned because so many younger people like the dark colors. Glad to know I’m not alone in my color choice. Can I give you some advice? Don’t leave that painter’s tape on your woodwork too long. It can damage your woodwork if you do. I friend of mine left hers on over a month and it pulled the finish off the wood in quite a few places.

    Have a good semester!

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