Yesterday I had a guy come over and put bifold closet doors up in our spare bedroom. He arrived, of course, while I was on a meeting for work, and I had to excuse myself for a couple of minutes when the doorbell rang so I could let him in and get him set up. For the remainder of the call I toggled mute on and off carefully so that no one would hear sawing and hammering and banging — the spare bedroom is right next to the room I use for my home office.
Late in the day, after Jennie was home and we’d eaten something, I painted the doors. Jennie didn’t want me to — she wanted to hang out on the couch and watch The Golden Girls and mess around on her phone while I sat next to her so we could idly chit-chat — but it felt urgent to me to get it done. I don’t often have energy in the evening but I went yet another day without going to exercise because I had to stay around while the contractor finished the closet. There’s a lot of stuff that ought to be in spare bedroom which is currently, instead, in our master, because we temporarily moved it out so the guy could do his work. So my thought process went like: If we move the stuff back without the door painted, then I can’t paint the door — it’ll never get painted. It’ll bother me forever, every time I look at it. So it has to be done now, because Jennie wants to immediately move the stuff back out of the master so we can again be comfortable in that room.
Jennie was like, it seems kind of white already, does it really have to be painted? I made her actually look at it. I mansplained: It’s a “pre-finished” door which means that it has some kind of primer on it but it’s not entirely smooth and even. There are marks on it, too, a greasy thumbprint, a few dings from being hit against the side of the truck as it was transported from a big box store. Plus the big raw brown stripe on the side where a full inch had to be cut off so that the door would fit the nonstandard horizontal size of the frame. Okay okay, you can stop. I agree, you have to paint it.
I’ve always liked painting. My Dad used to do a lot of it around the house growing up and when I was old enough he showed me how. It’s one of the few good memories I have of being with him growing up. I can hear his voice in my head while I prepare the room. Get the tarp down underneath the work area, weight it on the corners, no matter how careful you are, you’re gonna drip a little, it happens to everyone, don’t think you’re above it. Mix the paint carefully, a full minute, stir it up good, make sure the stick touches the bottom of the can while you stir, that’s where the color is. Work top to bottom, always top to bottom, and if you’re rolling, smooth out the edges of the rolled area with a brush so you can’t see any shapes when you’re done.
I can also hear his criticism when I see little gloopy runs that need smoothing out — this means I didn’t work slowly and deliberately enough, or I went too thick on the coat. And when I consider not painting the interior vertical runs next to the hinges which are usually obscured because the door is closed, I can hear his comments on that, too. Don’t be lazy. Do the job right — the whole job. He would probably paint the inside of the door too — the part that will face whatever junk we put inside the space — but I manage to ignore his advice on that, my own judgment drowns him out — this is the equivalent of me saying Dad look, no one is ever going to see that, who the hell stands inside of a closet and looks at the inside of the door? These are the thoughts that run through my head as I work, dipping a four inch roller brush into a tray and lightly pressing it against the face of the door, working it up and down, then side to side, then finishing with up and down again to match the grainy pattern.
I’ve always loved the magic of painting, watching the transformation, from one color to another, bit by bit, taking care to get it done right.
But what I love the most, I think, is that I get lost in it. It’s always a relief to me when I’m able to work on something engrossing enough to pull me out of my standard brain chatter which usually is telling me what I have to do, reciting lists of things that need to be accomplished or, alternately, worries about things that might or might not happen in the future, or the well being of someone in my life, where that someone could be a third party or might even be me. Instead I look at this little bit of the door and think: ok, I’ll go horizontal here. Another little bit: I missed that part, re-coat it, use the small brush. The edges: run your finger along the bottom, make sure nothing is going to drip down onto the floor, catch the runoff. I see the pattern pressed into the solid veneer and wonder who was responsible for creating the mold and how they did it — what methodology did they use for replicating the elliptical rings that slowly recede in size as they reach the edge? I work the brush into the corners of the decorative panels set into the face to fill them with paint, then go over it again with a drier brush to soak a bit up so that the layer has the same depth across the board and looks smooth, consistent.
And when it’s all done I do it again, adding the second coat.
At nine thirty Jennie comes by, curious to check things out, and I am done, cleaning up, bent over a black garbage bag, dumping the tray into it so I don’t track paint anywhere in the house. Looks awesome, she says.
Yeah I think the doors came out pretty good.
I wasn’t talking about the doors. She smacks me on my butt and laughs.
It feels good to see her happy again.