Huge parts of my childhood were spent watching my parents rehab their home. My mother began the process by making a drawing of the room as it was. And then she began the time-consuming ritual of inserting ideas gleaned from the three-foot high stack of Architectual Digest which occupied a hallowed spot in our upstairs hallway. Then came the endless trips to the hardware stores. Then on to the paint stores. And then the fabric stores. And on... and on.

And on.

My mother also taught me to do cross-stitch at an early age. While she would spend a seemingly endless amount of time poring over wallpaper books, I worked with my own piece of fabric, making the little x's that were supposed to form a lovely image of a bunny. I poked with my needle and thread. She meticulously compared the paint sample strips to the images of birds and flowers that danced over the wallpaper images. Sometimes the exhaustion of it all made me want to just curl up in a ball on the floor of the store. I wanted her to just make a decision, any decision, so we could leave.

Once she was finally finished choosing the decorations, then came the real work. The smell of turpentine and sweat mixed together every summer as we laid siege to a room: Steaming off old wallpaper. Scraping old, fossilized paint from the walls. Rubbing decayed varnish from wooden surfaces.

While we worked, we listened to cassette recordings of the old radio shows that she and my father had grown up with, "Suspense" and "The Whistler". I still remember the opening lines of "The Whistler":

"I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, many secrets hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak…”

I was young enough to believe that there really was someone watching what went on, someone who knew everything. (Later I would understand that the non-human version of this "someone" was God. Still later, I would understand that the human version of this "someone" was the U.S. government.)

Last Monday, Memorial Day, I sat around looking at Toussaint's crayon handiwork on the walls of our living room.

"We should paint the wall," I said.
Elarryo asked what color.
I thought for fifteen seconds and then replied, "How about a light blue?"

Today, we all went over to Dunn Edwards paint store in Glendale. We had 54 minutes on the meter. In that time, we picked out supplies, picked out this color called "Cloudless", and waited for the store employees to custom mix it for us. Now, Elarryo's painting a wall and listening to one of his mix cds, various artists produced by R. Kelly.

I'm wondering exactly why and how we picked this paint so quickly. It's a lovely color. Or at least, it is so far. (It hasn't dried yet.) But, our meter hadn't expired yet when we got back to the car. Seven minutes were remaining. Is it a generational thing, with our lives being so busy now that we simply don't have the time to spend hours deciding on the exact perfect color, making an entire decorating scheme for a room? Or is it that we have lost something, the art of caring so much that we take the time?


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