Something strange comes over me in the month before Christmas. A restlessness. An inability to view my surroundings with anything less than creeping dissatisfaction. The benefit of this emotion is that I get things done. Tree up. House cleaned and decorated. But there’s a less beneficial side effect. I call it the ‘Can’t leave well enough alone,’ syndrome. For example.
When my sister Cindy lived in Flin Flon, she was unhappy with her living room carpet. It was old. She longed for a clean, bare floor. One afternoon, she pulled up a corner and, lo, there was hardwood. Within minutes, (somehow, we drew my mother and sister Susan into this madness) we were ripping the carpet away from its underlay. We had it neatly rolled and were carrying it out of the house under our arms, when my brother in law came home from a long, long day at work. He looked at us with such tired eyes. I felt like a thief in the Christmas movie, Home Alone. Deserving of a slippery banana peel or brick to the head.
Other years, I’ve satisfied myself with sewing a Christmas table cloth two hours before dinner was ready to be served. Or painting our rumpus room on Christmas Eve. Though we started at eleven in the morning, I can still remember my sister Linda saying, ‘Really? But I’ve never painted.’ ‘Here’s your chance,’ I answered, shoving a brush into her hand. By four o’clock, everything was lovely. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.
I’ve done other harebrained things, but this year has been the worst. Yesterday, I got the brilliant idea that I should paint the inside of my entrance door red. I’ve always wanted a red door, and why not have it done in time for Christmas? Clarence was in Winnipeg, so there was no one to talk me out of it. Within fifteen minutes of making the decision, I was at Canadian Tire. I bought a small can of paint, and a little tray and roller. I had washed the door just before leaving home.
Filled with delight, I quickly assembled a drop cloth and small ladder. When I opened the can, the smell hit me right away. I had purchased Tremclad, since this was a metal door. It’s an oil paint, which, in my enthusiasm, hadn’t occurred to me. Within minutes of applying the paint to the door, I felt dizzy. Fifteen minutes later I had a headache the size of Montana. By the time I finished and was making lunch, I was staggering around the kitchen like I’d just drunk a forty of tequila. Volatile organic compounds. It’s tequila with a side of brain damage.
I immediately checked with our family paint advisor, sister Joni. After berating me in an appropriate fashion, she advised letting it dry, then priming it over with latex and repainting with the same. It might help, she said darkly. And, what were you thinking? Well, Joni.
Alas. I wasn’t. Enthusiasm for my latest project drove all common sense away. So today, once I’ve passed the twenty-four hour drying minimum, I’m repainting. Even if it didn’t smell so bad, I’d have to, anyway. Because, though I did a good job, it looks terrible. The door actually seems possessed. There is something menacing about it, even without the odor. A malevolence. Like killer children should be waiting for me at the end of a long hallway. Or Jack Nicholson with an axe.
The downside is, I had to redirect my bookclub to my generous friend Kate’s house. The upside is, I no longer want a red door. I’ve often admired them on other people’s houses. But in my tiny foyer, it practically slaps your face as you walk by. So, lesson learned. Sigh. Now to finish gyp rocking the basement ceiling. Just kidding, honey. You’re not coming home until tomorrow, right?