For those of you who regularly read my blog, you may have wondered where I’ve disappeared. As I wrote in my blog on May 25th, we started the summer season working on deferred maintenance projects around the ranch in preparation of a family reunion later this month. We’ve been at it since then and only recently did the list shorten. In fact, I think this morning at breakfast Pete and I caught sight of something glimmering at the end of the tunnel.
But in short, the answer to the question is, I’ve been at the end of a paint brush. I started with those fuel tanks, then it was high temperature paint for a grill, thick shiny metal paint for the trampoline, sticky stain for an arbor, redwood stain for the deck for my garden bench and the decks, and cedar stain for the house. The other night I sat down after dinner and told Pete I felt like the inside of a paint can.
I’ve found, however, painting akin to mediation, particularly when I don’t have to move my ladder very often or when the detail of a small area or door frame requires greater concentration. In the meditation I find myself wandering through memories of this house and my children. While kneeling down to cover the aged front porch with redwood sequoia stain, I thought you know there were some important events that occurred on this porch over the last twenty-four years.
One image came quickly to mind. It was the photo of Cassidy’s first day of kindergarten. She was wearing the blue calico dress I had made for her, the collar stenciled in flowers and vines. Much to her dismay, she had to wear a large sign around her neck with her name spelled in large letters. Holding the strings attached to the sign, she looks up at the camera with one eye squinting and her smile anxiously hopeful. Looking back, I think she wondered if she would survive the attention each time someone greeted her and pointed to the letters in her name and said, “Good morning, Cassidy. We’re so glad you’re here.” She did survive that first day in the hands of a very loving and supportive teacher; and that blue calico dress is stored away in case there’s another little girl whom it might one day fit.
In the next moment I remember standing on the edge of the porch telling my son, Andy, he was a dumbs… as he walked out to get in his truck and head to town. Pete and I had told our children all their growing up about the dangers of cigarettes and alcohol; but at sixteen, Andy was naturally trying the world out and I’d found chewing tobacco in his laundry. I was surprised that what we thought of as enlightened parenting had resulted in a soggy bag of Red Man in my laundry room. I wasn’t one to let loose with my children very often, but when I did, they knew the conviction with which I spoke. So, to this day Andy describes the moment I followed him out the door, stood on the edge of the porch and called him a “dumbs… for using chewing tobacco, an indelible and defining moment in his growing up.
Making my way around the house with my paint brush, the memories frequently come and go. And when I get impatient about the work and hoping that all the projects hurry up and get done before the reunion weekend, I tell myself to slow down. This house, this place has given us so much. Wouldn’t I be better served to consider the acts of repairing and refinishing an offering of thanks and recognition for the shelter and security of having such a place to call home? For our house and the enduring landscape of this ranch provide not only physical shelter, but an intangible sense of self and history; one which we have internalized and has become a part of who we are and always will be.