I’m painting the house beige, again.
It was always beige on my mother’s watch, because she liked things to match and be nondisruptive.
I do not do beige. I used to do all the painting for her because my father refused to do anything on the interior of the house. He’d rather have felled a tree than oil a squeaky door hinge, and thus it fell to me to build scaffolding out of step ladders and two-by-fours, risking life and limb in high stairwells as I broke every building safety code. My mother would clutch me around my calves, begging me to be careful and telling me I’d missed a spot.
I stared at a wall of paint chips a few days ago, a realtor’s words ringing in my ears: it’s not for you, keep it basic. When he’d first spied my place, his eyes had widened.
“Oh, I can see you’re artistic,” he said with a straight face.
I know now that is realtor code for “so that’s who buys that.”
My walls are fierce with colour and yes, I know it makes rooms look smaller, but they’re my rooms and I paint with love and emotion. I looked at the beige array before me now, small chips taunting me with their nothingness.
I spied one in the middle, slightly darker (or less beige) than the others, called Saskatchewan Prairie. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to buy this paint. I wanted to lob one last blast from Dad into this house, to sell off his life’s work with a nod to his birthplace.
I dutifully bought the more beige sampler, something called Buckskin, but still clutched the Saskatchewan Prairie paint chip hoping I could talk my painter into seeing it my way.
I’d forced Mom out on a limb once, convincing her we could lean a little green when her furniture had delicate uses of the colour. She eventually agreed, though the colour was more like a vat of white paint with a breath mint dropped in it.
When we were young, my Dad only bought paint that was robin’s egg blue for our bedrooms. If our rooms got repainted, it was the same colour. Over and over. I can still see tiny glimpses of it deep in the closets sometimes, and it reminds me that if Dad actually had done a little more inside, maybe my crazy colours wouldn’t seem so foreign.
So my walls are going beige — sorry, buckskin — as we speak. It’s boring, but I’m keeping in mind my imaginary nonartistic buyers who won’t know nor care what lies beneath, or maybe one day will scratch the surface and gasp in horror.
We slapped up the buckskin on a few walls to see how it looked, and I said it looked beige. Jeff, my painter, pointed out the differences in tone from hallways to rooms depending on the time of day and lighting. He said a bunch of other things, but I was still holding Saskatchewan Prairie and making a crabby face.
“I’ll do what you want,” he began, but I stopped him.
I knew it would be too dark, and I knew I’d be wrong to choose now to flex my painting expertise. I ran around holding Saskatchewan Prairie from wall to wall, as if the few square centimetres would tell me a different story in a different place.
It didn’t. There is a time and a place to paint with love and emotion, and this isn’t it.
Maybe I’ll leave a small speck of robin’s egg blue in a bedroom closet.