Origins of orange

Work piles up. Writing projects loom, as do student papers in need of grading. Good thing I know how to prioritize activities, buckle down.

So I spent the weekend painting my house.

In her 1970s homemaker phase, my mom redecorated our home. For the entire decade. Must have been therapeutic. She enjoyed painting and approached the task with reckless abandon—attacking stairwells and kitchen walls with bright shades of avocado and harvest gold.

She was fond of the color orange. Doors turned tangerine. Handrails were accented in pumpkin. We were the only family I knew with kitchen counters the color of carrots. As a teen, this was an embarrassment.

For me, painting is purely practical. No time to putter or repaint. I planned to proceed carefully, with attention to detail. I’d select tones that would look great for years. After lingering over a family of taupes, I opted for something warmer. The paint-mixer woman at Home Depot lauded my harmonious choices: Vanilla Custard, Glazed Pecan and Chai Latte.

“You must have been hungry,” my kid said.

The colors looked swell on three-inch square swatches. Chai Latte, a light tan. Glazed Pecan, a creamy golden brown. Ah.

Prep time. I tuned my laptop to AirAmericaRadio.com for repeats of weekday shows. A computer expert from Cornell (a Democrat) was assuring Al Franken that the 2004 election hadn’t been “stolen” and conspiracy theories were distracting liberals from the Real Issues. Like an attorney general nominee who finds the Geneva Convention’s rules for treatment of POWs “quaint.”

Personally, I enjoy distraction.

I pushed piano, shelves and couches to the middle of the room. Unscrewed wall plates and unrolled drop clothes. I took down a set of vertical blinds, but the hardware seemed a hassle to unscrew. No problem. I’d just paint carefully around the silver sticking-out thingies.

I couldn’t figure out how to remove the horizontal oak blinds.

“How’d you get them in?” my daughter asked.

“Guy came and installed ’em.”

“You could call.”

You know how some guys won’t ask for directions? That’s me. I’d rather perch on a ladder, holding blinds away from the window with one hand and painting with the other.

Didn’t turn out bad.

Those silver sticking-out thingies got in the way of my roller, though, and I struggled with the tape. The theory of blue tape is that it leads to straight lines between, say, vibrant semi-gloss enamel and white ceilings.

Turns out that the effectiveness of blue tape is directly related to one’s ability to apply tape in straight lines.

I dispensed with tape, dabbing instead at tricky edges with the svelte four-inch edge of my brush.

My Adult Male Son showed up. His brow furrowed. He’d spent a summer painting homes professionally.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “You know if you taped …”

“I’m going for a rustic look,” I argued. “It’s sort of brick-esque.”

“Well, you can always go back with a smaller brush,” he said and plunked down to play a video game.

I gave the blue tape another go, unrolling long, sticky strips to affix around a door.

“What are you doing?” Painter Son asked again.

“Taping the door. It’s kinda hard.”

“It’s an art. You’ve gotta, um, square it off there.”

“Can you … hold the end for me?”

Painter Son did a great job of taping the door, then the floor molding and the ceiling.

My daughter and I painted, feeling immense satisfaction as our walls transformed into works of art, our home into an elegant showpiece.

Finally, after “fixing” brick-esque lines with a tiny round brush, I sat back to admire our work and realized, for the first time, that Chai Latte and Glazed Pecan aren’t really tan or brown. They’re actually variations on the color orange.

I am my mom.