My father got things done.
He applauded us when we got things done. So last week, when I arrived in Cape May, I vowed to restore two wicker chairs my father had cared for years ago. I thought it would be quick work, as the paint was peeling. I’d just shake them off, maybe use a wire brush, then coat them with the oil-based Cover Stain primer our friend Marc Shenfield (a certified wicker nut) recommended. Marc likes to get things done, and he had lovingly restored the rocker in the painting above. I trusted his word.
He said, “Painting wicker is fun. But you have to take breaks. Work for an hour at a time, or you’ll get frustrated.”I shook pigment off chairs my father painted long ago and found connection in the work. Click To Tweet
The paint chips showered onto the patio, covering my drop cloth. I dumped them into the trash and continued. The intricacy of the weave had camouflaged the volume of paint loss as well as retention. I thought of the weavers, the painters, the sitters. Every little crack held secrets.
Paint flew off. More paint appeared underneath! I grabbed a wire brush and worked the wicker chairs over, inch by inch. Then I took a knife to the crevices and vacuumed the entire surface inside and out. Finally, I used a soft brush to tease every surface. After removing so much debris, dust, and paint chips the chairs were ready – not stripped to bare reed, but free of the loose pigment. The wicker was clean enough to paint, so I started priming — still paying attention.
Paul came along and picked up the pace.
I like to paint carefully, without too much paint on my brush. But it was going slowly . . . the project I imagined polishing off in a few hours was taking full days. Then my husband came along and helped. Paul paints fast and free. I sped up, thrilled to have a partner. The job became fun – like Marc said – it’s fun to do, but you must take a break. I would add that a partner lightens the load. I thought, again, of my parents.
My father was a rock. Steadfast, strong, and quiet. My mother made the lists and he did the tasks that men of that generation took for granted. I love the gentle joke of my mother’s title for the painting. If the popular idea of Father’s Day is slippers and a pipe, my mother’s idea was a bucket and brush.
Grateful for things that last . . .
I’m sad that he’s not here to witness the joy Paul and I have as stewards of this legacy. We love this historic house, and all that he, my mother and others have created here. That’s the message this work conveys.
That includes the wicker chairs, my mother’s paintings, and the love, fortitude, and intention that my father instilled in me. I aspire to the patience, vision, and confidence he had to fix what’s broken and to keep at it when results don’t immediately match what I had in mind, or how I thought a process would go.
In this trying time, with so much division and strife in our nation, I remind myself (and you, dear ones) not to give up. We must keep going and reap the rewards of each job well done. Let’s value work done in service to whatever we find in front of us on a day to day basis. That was such a core value for my father. He never complained about bad situations; he studied them alone and with others, found solutions, and got busy.
So let’s put our hearts and minds to work this summer and fall, my friends. Come November, we’ll elect a more just and peaceful leadership.