By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Most men don’t fully understand this, but sometimes a woman walks into a room in her house and knows, with certainty, that something has GOT to change. It happened to me recently when I walked into the guest room and realized I was sick of the varying degrees of beige in that room. It felt dull, lifeless. It bothered me every time I walked by it.
So I chose a color, and Tom painted the room a cool, airy blue that I love. But repainting triggered a chain of redecorating events. The old bedspread didn’t go with the new blue, so I switched it out with one that does. Then the peeling finish on the nightstands screamed for attention. I started repainting the nightstands after Tom left for a five-day, out-of-town trip.
I recruited my dad for a little father-daughter painting project. We spread out a paint tarp in the garage and began the long sanding process. Once the hard part was done, we used spray paint to speed up the job. Nearly drunk on paint fumes, I suggested we move the nightstands onto the driveway to do the second coat of paint in the open air. It wasn’t until I started spraying the nightstand’s legs that I realized we hadn’t moved the tarp. “Uh oh,” I said. “I just painted the driveway.” “Oh well,” Dad said. “It’ll wear off.” I agreed and went right on spraying until the nightstands were a beautiful glossy white. I couldn’t wait to show the paintjob to Tom when he came home.
About 10 seconds after Tom got home and hugged me and all the kids, he asked, “Why are there white spots on the driveway?” “I repainted the nightstands in the guest room. Want to see them?” I said. “And you painted on the driveway without the tarp?” he asked, completely ignoring the bigger fact that I’d painted two nightstands. “Well, yeah, but it’s just the driveway, so it’ll wear off in time. What’s the big deal?” I said. “You’ve gotta get those spots off. It’s going to drive me crazy,” he said.
I agreed to the spot removal just to appease him and then promptly filed it away at the very bottom of my “to do” list, knowing the likelihood of me getting around to doing it was somewhere between “remote chance” and “never gonna happen.”
Fast forward one week, and the subject of spots suddenly resurfaced again last night: “You know, I asked you a week ago to clean those paint spots off the driveway, and you still haven’t done it,” he said, a bit perturbed. “Tom, it’s the DRIVEWAY. Why does this bother you so much?” I asked, wondering if the spots had, indeed, driven him crazy. “They just do! And don’t act like you don’t have weird things that drive you crazy because you do,” he fired back.
I scanned my list of personal quirks, trying to think of something as seemingly trivial as the spots-on-the-driveway issue. Couldn’t come up with a single one. “Okay, so what do I get all worked up about that seems ridiculous to you?” I asked, certain he wouldn’t be able to think of anything. “One word,” he said. “Counter tops.” Silence. He had me there, and I knew it.
I’ve got a thing about clearing the kitchen counter top, and I come a little unhinged when he leaves things out on the counter and then walks out of the room without putting them away. For me, clean counter space equals a clean mind. Counter clutter makes me edgy. But I felt certain I could defend my position, so I foolishly pressed forward. “But you have an English muffin every morning and then leave the kitchen even though your butter knife, jelly jar and crumbs are still RIGHT THERE on the counter!” I said.
“Did it ever occur to you that I might want ANOTHER English muffin so I’m leaving that stuff out on purpose?” he said. “I can’t even set a drink down on the counter without you whisking it into the refrigerator when I turn my back.”
“Well, that’s just crazy,” I said, a little flustered and painfully aware that he’d proven his point. The discussion ended soon after because neither of us could deny our own “sore spots”, irksome things that exist in any marriage. And, ironically enough, his sore spot is an actual spot – on the driveway.
So today, because I took a vow 11 years ago to love and cherish his sanity, I will attempt to remove white paint spots from the driveway. (E-mail me if you have any tips on how to do this.) But, if I come inside after restoring the purity of his precious pavement and find a jelly-smeared butter knife on my kitchen counter, I may just have to use it on him.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.