Curses, Blue Teddy bear!

Before I lived here, there was a family with three children, a boy and two girls. The woman was quite creative in her decorating and I’m quite happy to live, for the most part, with the choices she made. It was a deciding factor in buying the house.

In the living room there is a cool yellow colour and a soft slate blue carpet. I thought I would have trouble with the lemony yellow, but as I brought furniture and paintings into the room, they went very well. I am happy with that.

In the room off the kitchen which was their dining room, I plan to have some studio space in the winter. It is a fairly strong peach colour – or one might call it pale orange. Certainly, from an artist’s point of view, that’s how one would arrive at mixing the colour on the palette. I didn’t think I was going to live with this colour for long either, but I have a series of blue and white plates and they look outstanding on these walls, as is. I’m not in a hurry to change it, haven’t a clue what to change it to, so I can easily live with it. But the curtains have to go. They are gauzy see through, ruffled things with fruits on it. I’m just not a ruffly kind of person. I’ll find something else eventually. It’s alright for now.

In the office which was the two girls’ bedroom, the predominant colour is a cool white. Now that I have my desk set up and my furniture has arrived, it’s time for me to start putting my books in the shelving units and my files in the file cabinets. At last I can put things away.

On the first day I stayed in the house, I noticed that this girls’ room had a wallpaper border print in pink with woodland fairies and castles on it. I knew this would not suit me at all and I stripped it that same day with the exception of a bits that did not come off easily. It revealed a border pattern underneath that had been stencilled on, presumably by the mother of the house. There were pencil markings to indicate the height along the wall, ensuring that the design would not be crooked. Below this was a row of blue teddy bears lounging in crescent moons coloured purple. In between each of these languishing teddies with a confrontational stare, as if to say, I don’t have to get up! You can’t make me! were another sort of teddy bears sporting blue tutus pirouetting on one toe, brandishing a magic wand. You could tell it was magic because there was a star at the end of it, reaching for the sky. There were some other bits of stencilled stars completing the imagery, ensuring that the figures continued in a path parallel to the crown molding.

In the month of camping in this room, sleeping at night, writing and paying bills by Internet at the computer, and sorting pictures of the conference I attended in July by day, I’ve become irritated by those bears. This is supposed to be an office. I intend to have a serious art gallery on the main floor. It’s supposed to look professional and chic. The teddy bears just had to go.

Today, as I prepared to put Art books into the shelving units and in the drawers below, to hide my different kinds of computer printing paper and new file folders, hole punch, writable CDs and DVDs, and other office paraphernalia, I had a sinking feeling. If I didn’t deal with the teddy bears now before the file drawers and the shelving units were loaded up, I would never deal with them. It would be an incredible job, six months down the road, to remove all the books, supplies and files, and move all the furniture from the room in order to paint it.

It had to be done now.

Once again, there was something preventing me from putting away all these encumbrances that my possessions seem to be, these days. This time it was Teddy bears.

When would I ever get my life back from this chaos that I have been living in for the last five years, first at my Mother’s house where I barely had time to brush my teeth, much less organize, sort, cull and take care of my belongings? Now, when I had a whole house to put them in, I was still living in a chaos of packed boxes on the verge of having somewhere for their contents to go.

Reluctantly, I faced the facts. I had to paint now or live for years and years with Blue Teddy Bears, either pirouetting or pouting.

I took Mrs. Stepford with me to the paint store and chose a colour that was supposed to be “natural white” or “pale wheat”, depending on the colour chart it was picked from. In the colour mixing chart that the store associate consulted  there they were, two different names for two apparently different colours, but the mixing instructions were identical.

We three –  associate, Mrs. Stepford and myself – checked we had the right colour, matching the chip colour’s number to the dry listing of numbers in the mixing chart . The associate proceeded to dose in the colour and mix it up on the paint shaker. I bought two gallons of the stuff. I didn’t know if I’d have to do two coats, nor if the paint would cover these chubby, blue Teddies. I added some sandpaper, a bag of three more paint roller refills, a packaged selection of paint brushes at seven for ten dollars, and a new disposable paint tray to the purchase, checked out at the till, and went home.

This morning, I looked at the room with apprehension. It seemed such a daunting task. My resident nephew, however, is up-beat, a positive thinker.

“You like to be happy, don’t you?” he says to me, before my first coffee.

“Hmmmm”, I say, waiting for the kicker to come.

“If you don’t paint it, you won’t be happy. Really, it’s only a little room. I’ll help you. It wont take you more then ten hours. ”

My heart sank a little lower. Ten hours! It was only a little room, maybe ten by twelve, without measuring. Could it really take ten hours?

We both worked at shifting furniture so that I could gain access to the walls. I didn’t want to remove it from the room. I had a large piece of plastic to protect the floor, but nothing to protect the furniture.

“Wait!” I said. I took off up the stairs and rummaged in the linen closet to find an old sheet and actually did find one. When I returned, I spread that over the bases of the shelving unit, Nephew having removed the top shelving part to the living room. Boxes of files and boxes of supplies were stacked like a pyramid in the centre of the room. There was no need to protect these from stray paint blobs. They were still in their packing boxes.

The bed I have been sleeping on, until now, had been dismantled during my trip to the linen closet. The sheets had been tossed into the laundry hamper.

“You are going to sleep in your new bed tonight, ” he said with a bit of a parental chiding in his voice. “Or, what was the use of buying it if you weren’t going to sleep in it. You don’t want to keep sleeping on a mattress on the floor.”

Truth be told, I’d made a little nest in this room that I had slept in every night since I’d taken possession of the house. At first, I was nervous being in the house alone. Then later, when all the family/guests came, it was better planning for my sister and her husband to have the large master bedroom and me to have the smaller one, since there is only one of me. It made better space sense.

Once they were gone, and there was no bed up there, it was still more familiar and comfortable to stay where I was. I’m a creature of habit. Someone is trying to make me change my habit. It’s uncomfortable. I was cosy here. Would the brand new bed from a major bed-making, bed selling store be as cosy? How could a brand new bed with brand new sheet and brand new pillows and pillow cases be cosy? It would be akin to that Leslie Caron movie where a couple hid in the department store until after hours in order to have a place to sleep and ended up trying out all the floor sample beds. Or was that Charlie Chaplin. I saw it when I was so little that now I can’t remember who were the stars of it.

But now my nephew had removed and dismantled my nest and I was in for it. I would be sleeping upstairs now. Perhaps it was the stairs that made me recalcitrant. With my arthritic knees, how would I manoeuvre the stairs in a sleepy state if, for example, at four in the morning I decided I needed a cup of coffee?

The furniture having been looked after and the other boxed items piled up out of the way, we divvied up the tasks at hand. I opened the paint tin. I got out the paint tray and filled it. I cracked open the set of new paint brushes and selected a three inch. In anticipation of this eventual task, the previous night, I’d sanded down three crescent teddies and two pirouetters.

The stencilled paint had been covered over with some kind of shiny varnish. Maybe oil based, or varnish. I wouldn’t be able to just paint over it with latex; it wouldn’t stick. It had to be sanded, and not just cursorily. The Teddies really needed some roughing up. I assigned this task to Nephew.

I haven’t mentioned the stars yet. High in the firmament of this room with twelve foot ceilings, there were random stars stencilled in silver, lots of them. Each of these had to be sanded as well, and it couldn’t be me. Me on a ladder is not a good idea.

I started to paint. Well !

“Houston, we have a problem!”

The paint would not cover the blue teddies that persisted in pouting and pirouetting through the transparent-seeming paint. I was already not enthusiastic about this forced project. This was not good news.

After some consideration, I returned to my stock of paints in the basement and selected a flat white that would do as a primer, cover coat. Now I needed to paint the teddies over until they no longer showed through with this priming coat, give them time to dry to the touch, and then recommence with the eggshell paint.

Further frustrating the job, the paint went on lighter and warmer than the coat below, but was supposed to dry a little darker. The paint was not the colour I thought I had bought, and it didn’t get darker. Neverthless, it was a fine neutral colour. It would do, but it was darned hard see where I had painted. As it dried, it looked like I had missed spaces. I’d go back and recover it and it would look all even, then ten minutes later as it dried, look as if I’d missed areas again.

Seven hours later, after more furniture displacements to do the other side of the room and a partial dismantling of the computer to move it out from the wall, I declared the job done.

I must say that it looks beautiful. It may be almost white and neutral, but it is clean and pattern free. I’ll be able to hang paintings up once the goods and files are put away. With Nephew’s help, all the furniture is back in place waiting to be filled, but that can wait until tomorrow morning. I can see where paintings can be hung. I’m thrilled.

Well, that’s one more thing done.

But you can’t know how many times I said to myself, as things did not go according to painting plan:

“Curses, Blue teddy bears!”


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