behind my shoulder

* a reflection from the first weeks in the new house *

 

As I rub back and forth, back and forth, the particles that I’m sanding flying into the air, I see them settle on my arm, noticing how much my arms look like my father’s.

He is watching me, telling me to go slowly and carefully. I need to make sure I erase the mistakes of the past – the drips of paint that were allowed to settle and roll down the molding carelessly.  This is not something to rush, it is something to do with reverence.  Patience.

As a child I watched him laying on the floor, head almost on the ground, painstakingly sanding and puttying the baseboards.  You would never guess the amount of time that went into perfecting the woodwork.  Paint, let dry, then walk around with a three inch by two inch piece of wood with the tiniest bit of sandpaper wrapped around it, correcting every little nick and drip.  Mom and I called him the stubborn German, always wanting it to be perfect.

I’ve never been good at waiting to get something done.  My husband and I have only been in this house for 18 days and I want the dining room finished.  The ugly, salmon colored tile floor will have to wait, but the dentil  molding around the chair rail and the ceiling are perfect, hardly worn considering how ill cared for the rest of the house was.

I try making quick work of the molding, but my father clears his throat disapprovingly and I switch to a smaller brush, the handle as thin as a Bic pen, and slowly, methodically, begin dipping the brush in the smallest amount of paint, working it into every groove.

This is going to take me forever.

After forty-five minutes, hunched over and hand cramping, I stand up straight and admire my work.  I’ve only done about 3 feet of the chair rail. I sigh, put my paintbrush down on a brown paper towel, and walk outside.

He does not follow me.

dad circa 1950s

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