16 April 2013

How Sloshed Paint Became My Madeleines (à la Proust)

After getting a dose of today's morning news, I, like so many other people in the Boston area as well as nationwide needed an escape.  I did not want to minimize the horrifying course of events that happened at yesterday's Boston Marathon, but was in dire need of a mental escape if only for a few hours. 

What to do?  Exercise?  Yard work?  Bake?  Binge stress eat?  While the thought of a chimichanga washed down with a pint of Ben & Jerry's at 9:00 AM sounded quite appealing, I turned to the mindless and yet cathartic task of repainting all of the white trim in the main downstairs section of our house. 

Supplies gathered, I began to prep the paint.  As I was stirring it, some sloshed over the side of the can.  Automatically, I grabbed my paintbrush and brushed the excess paint up the side and over the rim back into the can.  And voilà, a Proustian moment emerged.  I was transported back in time to my early teens, on a bleak Saturday in late winter/early spring.  I was helping my dad paint a room.  I was often dragged into such projects when he was forced to take on menial chores during the winter months that did not permit him to be out in his gardens, puttering endlessly.  My present-day self clearly remembered him showing me how to hold the brush and drag any excess paint back up into the can, just as I had done not a few seconds ago. 

Back in my kitchen as I worked on the trim, my brush strokes brought back different memories of other techniques he had taught me, though now I take them for granted as if they were an innate part of me.  Things like giving the brush a wiggle when the bristles aren't moving where you want them to.  Or how to remove a lone bristle from a wet painted surface with the tip of your brush.  Or how to fan your fingers across the ferrule to get better control.  How to paint with confidence.

And he was suddenly here with me, giving me comfort on a day when we all could use some.

Cleaning up, I mused at how, when teaching me his painting tricks, he probably never thought they'd resurface in my adult mind some thirty-odd years later.  I'm sure to him, they were just ways to make the job easier.  But for me they resulted in a fond and nostalgic memory. 

He's been gone from this life now for twenty-two years, and yet because of a rainy afternoon of painting so long ago, he was here today.  The small, insignificant things we do can touch lives just as much as the eventful, grandiose ones.  Let's hope we all give a warm memory to someone when we don't even realize we're doing it.  You never know.  You may have already done it many times.

And finally, on a lighter note:

Guess who helped paint today?

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