Fresh Paint

29 03 2019

Stories about my father and his unique and infectious personality still linger many years since he has left us. I don’t know if it’s true, but he once told me about the time he painted his apartment in NYC. He didn’t have a lot of money and it may have been during the time he worked at the doll factory where the caustic smell of plastic filled his senses daily as the newly molded doll heads came off the line waiting to be united with a body.

As the story goes when it came to painting his apartment he painted right over the crunchy carcasses of cockroaches that had died clinging to the stucco walls. Put up a fresh coat of paint and ignore the nubs.

I am this kind of painter.

At my new job as a gift store manager here in Nantucket we have been undergoing a major renovation and I’ve been watching the maintenance team carefully. Apparently this is not the preferred way to paint. Proper preparation prevents poor… something, they tell me. And it’s fascinating to watch. They tape up around the wall or item and then they spend time filling little grooves and holes where there has been damage. Then they sand all that down and then prime the item. They wait till it dries which is surprisingly not that long. Then they paint and paint maybe another coat. Voila! A blue cabinet becomes white! A wall is transformed from white to red and then back to white once more before my eyes.

I don’t think my father painted over the roaches because he was lazy, I think he just had a different way of looking at an obstacle than most would. Maybe that is how he was able to process his childhood as a migrant farm worker.

I don’t remember him ever complaining about the hard times. He was matter of fact about it. He told me that lettuces were really hard on your back because you had to lean over so far and if the foreman looked ‘cross the field and you were upright you’d get in trouble. Cotton. That was the worst. The rough husky leaves and seeds would tear into your hands and chafe and cut them.

He told me about the time he and his brother saved all their money to go to the movies and snuck into the white section of the theatre. It was a big day out when normally your dollar a day for labor would have gone towards food for your family of fourteen. My father struggled to keep up with the storyline whispering furtively to his older brother trying to understand what was going on. Someone overheard the boys talking in Spanish and they got kicked out of the theatre.

He didn’t belabor these hardships and he never seemed to carry a grudge. He just carried on. He was the only one of that generation to finish high school and then went on to the US Air Force stationed in Germany and through that he and his friend opened up Pancho Villa’s Mexican Restaurant in Manhattan eventually growing it to a chain of for restaurants.

He didn’t live as long as we would have liked, but who does I guess. Maybe his heart knew he’d be ok with a quicker paint job. If he had lived longer I wonder if all the fresh paint would have eventually chipped away leaving the exoskeletons exposed. I’m realizing that while I’m a similar painter, it may not be serving me so well. It might be time for me to learn how to paint the right way. If I prepare things the right way I am told that the new paint will stick better. Suddenly the back stairs of my childhood home rush into my mind. They were metal leading from near the garage to the back door. I remember the sound of heavy feet up those stairs when my boyfriend would come to take me on a date… We did a ton of renovations at our home, maybe that’s why I feel so comforted by construction workers and enjoy watching this process. I came home from school one day greeted by bright orange stairs. My mother reassured me, “Don’t worry that’s only the primer!”

So my point is, with enough preparation you can change yourself. You can prepare yourself to undergo a complete transformation. You can change like a chameleon as you adapt to your life. But you just have to realize that if you change too suddenly and without preparation you may find that soon you’ll need to patch up those chips. The patching and spot painting becomes tedious. Eventually, if you’re lucky enough to have the time, you can give yourself the gift of renewal. Sand down those spiky bumpy places. Appreciate the cracks and thank them for making you who you are but then fill in those fissures.

No doubt the minute you’re fresh and painted clean someone will come and scrape a huge gash across you, but that’s ok.

a year ago today I was all primed and ready. I left behind those tenets that I held to be true about myself. Things others had told me and things I’d convinced myself.

“I’m out of shape”

“I’m not athletic”

“I’m afraid of falling”

“I don’t have good balance”

“Without my contacts I’m legally blind”

“I am used to fine accommodations and have never and couldn’t possibly ever stay in a hostel.”

“I’m not a hiker”

“I don’t backpack”

“I don’t have the right clothes”

“I can’t afford to be gone that long financially”

“I don’t have time”

“I don’t want to leave my husband and dog for so long”

“I can’t be without my computer that long”

“People need me I can’t be off the grid”

“I can’t possibly fit everything in just one backpack”

“I don’t travel light”

“I don’t know how to use hiking poles”

“I will probably get blisters”

You get the idea. This monologue ran through my brain for many years without me even realizing it, it hummed there barely audible when my brain would think, “Someday I’d like to walk the Camino de Santiago!” It would murmur under its breath.

As my walk grew closer and the signs no longer allowed me to deny I was going to do it the most amazing thing happened. Those misgivings and constant naysaying “voices” got louder and louder trying to change my mind.

It takes faith to do this.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you knew you could not fail. This is what you must believe to go forward on the Camino and then for the rest of your life. So if you want to go just know that you may find peace in the process but you’ll also never paint your life the same way again.

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2 responses

29 03 2019
RoxAnne Macel

Wow! I can’t wait to read your book, you have to write one. You have quite the back story, an interesting life.

Roxanne

30 03 2019
rebeccachapa

I better get to it!!

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