The house I grew up in was old. I don’t know how old but it was old when mom and dad moved into it. Mom told me a bachelor had lived there before them. She said he sure didn’t know anything about cleaning. Mom said when they moved in dad apologized for asking her to live in such a run down house. He told her it wouldn’t be forever. He promised to build her a new house someday. The bathroom was really in bad shape. Mom said had taken them both several days to get it clean enough for them to be comfortable using it!
Dad spent a lot of time keeping that old house looking as good as possible. I remember him making sure the screens around the front and back porches were always tacked in tightly and there were no holes in them. I remember one year he’d paint a couple of rooms inside, one year he’d paint the outside, still another he’d paint the trim or replace shingles on the roof. He kept his word to mom always trying to make that old house look as good as it could.
One day Phillip and I were taken to grandma Stevens and left while mom and dad painted the kitchen. When I left with grandma the kitchen was blue. I could hardly sit still at school, when grandma came to pick me up I thought we never would get home. From outside I could smell the paint as I entered the porch. I could see mom peering at me through the door window with a huge smile on her face. It was magical when I walked through the door. The walls were yellow and the cabinets were all a beautiful green. Mom was beaming as she bent to give me a hug. I remember being in the middle of that hug and looking over her shoulder at the beautiful new colors. I remember the look on her face and dads as they looked at one another then at me. I never wanted anything more than I wanted to grow up and be married and be as happy as they were.
Mom pointed out the even brushstrokes on the trim. She giggled when she told me the biggest problem of the day was choosing to paint the door green or yellow. She bragged about dad. Dad loved it! He started bragging about how mom kept the paint pan filled to just the right level and how she kept the brushes clean and soft so the paint would go on just right.
Later that night when mom wasn’t in the kitchen dad pointed out to me that the old countertop was still there. He said it would have to do for now and I wasn’t to mention it mom. The next morning when I came into the kitchen mom was cleaning that old countertop. It was put on in big pieces, in two foot lengths. It didn’t have grout. It had some sort of adhesive and sometimes it would kind of squeeze out around the edges. Mom was scraping at that gooey stuff. When she noticed me she said something like, “Quit a nice paint job don’t you think? The trouble with doing one thing is it always makes you want to do something else. Look at this counter. It’s perfectly fine isn’t it but now with this beautiful paint it looks a little dingy. First, I’ll scrape this stuff away then give it an extra special scrubbing. By the time you get home from school you won’t recognize it! Don’t tell daddy I said anything. I want to surprise him.”
When I got home from school everything was put back on the countertop like it was suppose to be. There were fresh flowers on one side of the sink and mom’s special cookie jar was on the other. There were four racks of oatmeal raisin cookies cooling on the counter and I could smell meatloaf cooking. Mom was right. That countertop sparkled. Between the cookie crumbs, the picture of iced tea, the bowl from mixing the meatloaf, and the other regular stuff that stayed on the counter, it sparkled.
I thought of how badly pitted that kitchen sink was, how the windows had waves and bubbles in them, how the walls and ceiling had huge cracks, and how the linoleum was so worn in some places it was completely gone. Did mom and dad not know that? I figured we all pretend at stuff. Mom and dad liked to pretend they lived in a mansion and had everything they really needed.
After a few days when the smell of the paint had gone away the kitchen wasn’t mentioned again. I could hear them talking from my room at night. They began making plans for the next project for the house. There were always new dreams.
As I think back now I understand they were right. They did live in a mansion and have everything they really needed. (they just didn't have a mansion!)