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Paint Gets in My Eyes
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I painted my daughter's room today. It took longer than i thought it would -- specifically, it took 58 nine inch nails songs (or about four hours) -- but I don't think because I was stopping every so often to complain about the fumes or to wipe up splotches of purple paint off of the hardwood floor. I was busy thinking about my family history and how, in my DNA, there is something that draws my family to painting.

My Granddad Cliff was a housepainter, in addition to being a farmer in South Dakota. I don't remember too much of that. It was back in the days when paint chemicals could cause a third arm to grow out of your forehead. In Granddad Cliff's case, I think the fumes were a contributing factor in the emphysema (in addition to smoking, of course) that finally won the battle for his lungs. I know my dad probably learned the ins and outs of painting from his dad, and I remember the summers where my dad was painting full time.

That's something a lot of people don't know about my dad. My dad was a college professer back in the days where professors were paid for their work nine months of the year, so when those dreaded three summer months came about, Dad was painting -- either in houses being built in the "rich" part of town (for you Minotians, over near Minot High) or painting dorm rooms at Minot State. This is how we made ends meet, I suppose, and with four girls in the house, there was no end to the pissy little demands that we would put on our parents.

And I would never think about why my dad was working in the summer on it until I would visit the work site and I'd see the sorts of houses that actually existed -- I would walk around the houses, picking out the bedroom I would choose if I had a choice, where I would put my bed, my dollhouse and my tape player. Eventually I would make friends and find that they lived in those rooms that I so wanted.

Today I was sitting on my porch for some fresh air after finishing the room and I looked down at my arms and they reminded me of my Dad's after he would come home after a day of painting. There were little paint speckles, perfectly rounded, as a result of the paint roller. They had adhered themselves to the skin and hair on my arms, as they did on his. Mine rubbed off easily, but I remember closely examining his arms after he fell asleep in his recliner -- the speckles had dried and hardened, and I kept trying to flick them off without waking him.

Everytime I work on getting the edge where the wall meets the ceiling just right (which rarely happens) I stop and wonder how my dad gets those edges right. Today was no exception, and at some point I have some touching up to do. Sure, I could have called him and asked advice as to how to not go past the spot where the wall ends and the ceiling begins, but I don't want to be able to do it myself. I want my dad to show up and say "Here Kari, let me do those edges." And he would do them.

And they would be perfect.

That night I posted pictures of the painted room online, just to show the world what a mom will do for her child. Shortly thereafter I received an email from my dad:

"Kari, Granddad would have been proud of you...he would not have been crazy about the color...but he was sort of a beige kind of guy. The room looks good. Dad."

I couldn't help but cry a little bit. As far as I'm concerned, it was the best thing my dad could have said to me.

end of essay
Kari Larson Portrait Kari is one of the many on CSP to have fled North Dakota for greener (or, less frozen) pastures and now resides in Minneapolis with her daughter, Abbey and husband, Dustin. She spends her time working as a Design Editor for a community newspaper (read: suburban) chain, watching movies, maintaining her blog and stalking Trent Reznor (isn't a restraining order just a really official love letter?). | more essays by Kari
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