Thursday, December 16, 2010


: the color of our dining room walls during our first eight years in this home

I finished painting our dining room today.  It was the last step in our kitchen renovation.  OK, so it wasn't directly related to our kitchen remodel.  But when we knocked out the wall between our kitchen and dining room, I found I didn't like the brick red of the dining room against the calm blue of the kitchen.  It just looked too nautical to me.  So I decided to paint it.  I picked a nice chocolate brown that would look great with the granite on the pass through between the rooms.  And I got it about halfway finished.  Until today. 

Today was the last half day of school before Christmas Break.  I had initially talked B & K into skipping today.  Their parties were both scheduled for Wednesday and I thought a half day sounded like a great excuse to sleep in, make pancakes and stay in our pajamas.  Until it snowed.  And school was canceled Monday.  Then school was canceled Tuesday.  Suddenly, I was left with almost no time without children to get the dining room painted.  I hadn't had a definitive plan, but I thought I could carve out time Monday afternoon or Wednesday afternoon after finishing school with A to get it painted.  So while I loved our snow days - complete with pancakes and PJs - I was a little worried about exactly when I was going to finish the dining room.

Why the rush all of the sudden, you might ask.  After all, the room has been halfway painted for weeks (months?) and it doesn't really bother anyone in our immediate family to have it incomplete.  Ahh, yes.  That's the problem.  On December 26th, we're having a post-Christmas open house.  This is my concession to K, who has been desperately wanting a party since the last screw was in place in the kitchen.  And I've been putting her off because I hadn't finished the dining room.  So I set a deadline by sending out invitations to a party.  I knew this would mean I would have to get the room painted.

Now the room is painted and I'll confess that what I felt as I put on the last strokes of chocolate brown over brick red was... sadness.  Not satisfaction.  Not relief.  Sadness.

The brick red that is now gone was the first color I painted in this house.  When we bought this house, I pictured that room red and decided to paint it before we even moved in.  Had I known it would take three coats of paint to get the deep, rich red I wanted, I might not have been so determined to do it pre-move.  But I didn't know how hard it would be to turn tan, boring colored walls into luscious red ones.

The transition from red to brown was much easier.  In most places, only one coat was needed.  But I felt like I was covering over dreams I had for this house, for our lives in this house, as I painted over the red.  Even more important, I felt like I was changing the one constant for what our life has been in this house.  J and I rearrange furniture with regularity.  We can't stand to leave our living room looking the same for more than twelve to eighteen months.  It's just who we are.  Our kitchen looks radically different than it did when we moved in and I've painted nearly every room at least once during our time in this home.  The only one that's always been the same was the dining room.  I felt like I was changing the heart of our house by rolling that last bit of brown onto the wall.

When I told J I was sad about finishing the paint job, he (predictably) said, "But you were the one that wanted to change it.  You wanted it chocolate brown."  And I did want it.  It looks nice.  The white trim looks great against the chocolate, it blends with the living room color and makes it feel like we actually have a color palette for our home instead of a color wheel. And let's be honest: if you're going to paint your dining room the color of a food, isn't chocolate the food you would choose?

My sadness clearly isn't about the actual color of our dining room.  It's December 16th, which makes us 350 days into a year that has brought unprecedented change to our lives.  For the most part, I am thankful and a little awed at the change we have willingly walked through this year.  It's this thankfulness and my belief that we are on the right path that has helped keep sadness at bay.  Until that last stretch of changing a dining room from red to brown.

I have recently been praying for someone who is walking through nearly unimaginable sadness.  And I found a prayer in the Celtic Book of Prayer on grief.  The prayer says, in part, not to rush through grief because rushing does not help the journey.

So I write this post not because I am likely to forget that our dining room was once a lovely brick red, but to allow my heart a bit more space to grieve.  I know that the memories we have made and will make in our home have nothing to do with the color of our walls.  I know that change has been good for our family.  But the old had good, too.  And it's not wrong to stop and grieve the good (red) in an attempt to move towards the better (chocolate).


Gigi McMurray said...

Thank you for writing about your feelings. I am often surprised when my grief chooses to seep through unpredictable, even inconvenient. I'm glad you risked sharing what that moment was like for you. So many things this season remind me of Honduras. In a moment, I am swept over the sea and 3,000 miles away to a land and people so charming and different. Grief honors the loss well. Merry Christmas!

WordGirl said...

Thanks, Gigi. What I found interesting was that it wasn't until I was writing that I knew exactly why I felt sad. It's funny how writing can help me process and articulate my feelings. And I like thinking about grief honoring the loss. Merry Christmas to you, too!