Sunday, July 14, 2013

painting with Julia

We found a new bed frame for Julia at a tag sale recently.  Julia loved it at the time, but wanted to make it a bit less formal, less fussy, a bit more her.  She asked if she could paint it.  And given its $12 price tag, we said she could paint it in any way she wanted.

She has been quietly changing her room over the past year, asking to put anything pink and flowery up in the attic.  Reorganizing her shelves.   Gifting to Elliott her learning to read books.  Changing her wall art.  Organizing her art supplies.

Walking into Julia's room has always felt to me a bit like what it must be like in her mind.  Strange scraps of paper and cloth litter the floor.  I hurt my bare feet as I step on bits of sea glass and beads, limping around her bed.  Fourteen books, all bookmarked with tissues, are piled high on her nightstand.  Battie, our cat, is sleeping on her bed.  Which is unmade.  She claims to not understand my system of putting away her clothes.  I think they should be sorted by body part they cover, she by color, or texture, or solid color versus pattern.  And therefore, her clothes often sit in piles on top of and around her dresser.  There are usually at least three things in her room that are not working, her typewriter, her sewing machine, a light.  But she does not ask us to fix them, she just stops using them.  And then, when we discover they are broken, she gives us a bit of a hard time about how long it took us to realize this.

She is truly a conundrum.

She is disorganized.  Though she loves to sort (a strange and mystifying combination.  But true).  She spends hours putting small things into small containers.  Or sewing bags to hold her small things.  In categories that I cannot understand.  Her recent tag sale purchase was a set of drawer organizers and I lost her for an entire afternoon as she sat in her room and carefully sorted her beads into them.  She invited me to come see her results.  I thought it looked a bit like Battie might have stirred them with her tail while we were out of the room.  But she was very proud of them.

She is growing.  And I have learned to listen to her, watch her, and stay out of her way when she has a strong opinion about something.

Last year I realized I needed to let her rule this room of hers.  I was cleaning her room a bit as she was getting ready for bed and reorganizing the pictures under the glass on her desk, adding a bit of fabric that she had recently chosen at the fabric store as the background.

I was quite pleased with the results.  It was a storytelling idea collage backdrop for the writing she likes to do at her desk.

I asked her what she thought of it.  She looked at it and made a terrible face and said, If anyone asks me about it, I am going to tell them that you did it.

I swallowed, breathed, and said, well, it's late.  Go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning take a look again and see what you think.

Early the next morning she walked in to our room and woke me.  Yeah, it's not any better in the light, Mommy.  


And more recently, the de-pinking.  From the girl who, at one point during her preschool years had to...needed to...wear something that was pink at all times in order to feel all was right in her universe.  Or the three weeks straight that she would only wear pink pajamas and a tall pointy princess hat.  I washed that outfit and opened the sun roof of our car so she could rock that outfit every day as we rode to pick up Nicholas from school.  Or the year that she would only wear dresses no pants no shorts no was a difficult winter.  She is wanting none of this now.

The de-pinking.  I am kind of happy about it.  This lacrosse playing girl, who does not really want to be noticed or catch the ball.  Who is currently writing a story on the screen porch with her typewriter and reading it to her brother without me asking her to.  She is rockin'.  And strong.  And kind.  And really interesting when you listen to her talk.

The bed came home with us and she said that she wanted her room to be blue.  And she wanted to paint the bed blue.  It had some damage to it, so I was happy to paint it with her.  She chose the color and a new color for her wall, a room that is definitely in need of a fresh coat of paint.

She and I, with intermittent help from Elliott, have been painting the bed on the grass.  Three coats: primer, then two coats of blue.  It has given us a chance to hang out, and for me -- chasing after her with a brush to smooth the drips, unpainted areas, and gloppy paint after she moves on to a new section of the bed, much like a distractible dragonfly -- to talk with her.  And to listen.

Her method of painting is unique.  Michaelangelo inspired?

And, with a task to keep us busy and close by one another.  It turns out she talks.  A lot, jabbering away as her thoughts flit through her head.  As we were painting the primer she said:

This bed.  If you were making it out of beads?  It's like a pattern.  The posts here are like a grooved bead with a long bead and then another grooved bead.  And then up here, the grooved beads come back, but with a different bead in between them.  And the pine cones at the top are like your fancy bead.  The ones you find at a craft fair and can only get 4 because they are fancy and expensive.  So you only use a few and put them where people will notice them.  This bed is like a necklace with a pattern that only the builder knows.

Another favorite Julia-ism while painting.

Mommy.  Look.  This color blue.  On the leg.  It is all different kinds of blue.  The really wet, the kind of wet, the dry.  All different blues.  And then, if you tip your head, squint your eyes, or you walk in a circle?  Different blues, too.  If I was going to try to paint a picture of us painting the bed?  I would need a lot of different blues.  

After dinner, she ran outside to put the second coat of paint on.  I was going to help her open the can, as I had hammered the cover on after the first coat.  

I offered to help.

No.  It's okay.  I want to figure this out myself.  

1 comment:

  1. Good Morning,
    I just love this story about you and Julia. It reminds me very much of my own little girl that has grown up into a wonderful woman with a little one, very much like her, of her own. I hope one day I can write about it as fully and heart-fully as you have. One day Julia will re-read this story and know how very much you love and admire her. Thank you for sharing this piece of your family.


we welcome comments, but please select a profile below. tree to river does not publish anonymous comments.