Friday, August 22, 2008


“You know I am going to be a pre-teen in less than two months.” She says, eyebrows arched and hand on her hip. At times, she seems well beyond her years and at other moments, fewer and farther between, I see the face of a baby.

“Exactly, so let’s focus on the ‘pre’ and not go too heavy on the ‘teen.’" I tell her in response to her latest of many recent color schemes for her bedroom makeover. “Red and black,” I continue, “seems a little drastic.”

We settle on the idea of painting some of the white furniture to create splashy pieces of art work and begin with clearing out everything she finds “babyish.” Dolls and stuffed animals are sorted into three piles; those to keep stored away for memory, bags to send off to Good Will to find new families to love and some to keep in her room. “Even teenagers like a few stuffed animal here and there.” I tell her, not mentioning, but thrilled that one baby doll has made it to the ‘keep in her room’ pile.

Prints of little girls playing dress-up are lifted down from the wall, lacey curtains adorned with butterflies slide off the curtain rod, toys and puzzles cleared from the toy shelf and soon, a new space is created. We work swiftly clearing off her desk and chair to get the project started before Dad comes home. He is resistant to the change. “Her room is beautiful, don’t change it.” He says, “I worked so hard making that room.”

I assure him his labor of love will stay intact, as we have no intention of un-doing any of the construction and vow to leave the dressing room, toy shelves etc. in place. “We’re talking paint here, Brad” I tell him.

“But it’s so beautiful.” He says, knowing he will not be able to win the argument any more than he can stop her from growing up. I am likewise saddened a bit by the evaporation of her “little girl” and startled by the energy with which she accelerates toward adolescence. With the boys, it seemed more of an evolution, slow and stumbling along; placing them on the next leg of the journey without knowing how they got there. With Cadence, it seems to be a deliberate and preplanned shift, mapped out in her head and journeyed with purpose.

Change is harder for some; near impossible even. I LOVE change and I see the gleam in Cadence’s eye as we stand before her desk. “OK, how are we going to get it downstairs?” she asks.

“Me and you.” I tell her, “We can do this.”

I tell her we need to start before her dad comes home as he is not happy that we discussed painting the desk.

“But I like that desk.” He argued.

“Just paint, Brad.” I countered.

We stand the desk up on one end and walk it out into the hallway. I brace myself under as she guides the other end, sliding it one down the stairs, one step at at time. Cadence worries that I’ll be crushed. “Watch your feet.” I tell her, “And in the future; you should never move furniture barefoot.” Midway down the stairs in our bare feet, I look at the determination on her face and see the DNA of an Irish woman; never deterred by obstacles; never saying “I can’t do it.”

After choosing from the paints we have to work with, she settles on lavender, navy blue and lime green for the base colors and we head to the paint store for the lime green. There are many lime options, but Cadence chooses the one that is most electric. “Festival Green” it is called and I lose the battle in trying to get her to tone it down a notch.

I remember choosing a similar shocking “hot pink” for the trim in my room at about the same age. My mother didn’t flinch. She believed that one’s bedroom was a personal space that should reflect the individual and allowed us to decorate as we chose. My room saw many colors and themes along the way.

When I was Cadence’s age, my room was hot pink and posters of Bobby Sherman. I had a huge crush on a boy named David and I cut every ‘David’ from the David Cassidy articles out of Teen Beat magazine and taped hundreds of little Davids to one wall.

I remember being all ‘smock top’ and ‘bell bottoms’ in my artist phase where an easel and a paint pallet were the focal points of my room. I remember having a mini office with a small desk and old typewriter where I would tap out stories on the keys in my writer phase. I once had a corner with a rug and candles and incense where I would sit by candlelight with mysterious mood music, trying hard to meditate.

As I got older, my mom helped me with the ‘black and white’ theme; white walls, black trim and furniture, a giant astrological sun on one wall and dizzying black strips on another. My mother seemed to know that change would come, with or without her and she always chose to jump right in with us. I see Cadence’s mind racing with ideas and I’m excited to be part of her experience, allowing her aura to spill out and into the very walls of her space.

The desk is detailed with abstract swirls and purple roses. I help her with the vines and leaves and soon, we are staring at a masterpiece. Finally, it is time for the chair. “Splatter.” She nods; lips spread tight and dimple flashing. As we carry the chair into the backyard and gather newspaper, I remind her of the history of the chair.

I came upon a tag sale nearly twenty years ago at an old school house and the chairs from that school were for sale, twenty-five cents a piece. They were simple, solid wood chairs with bent wood in back, most having a large crack across the seat revealing their age. They were decades old, perhaps near one hundred years and somehow, they seemed to me to have a soul. Surly hundreds of people sat in them over the years; scootchy school children in front of stern teachers. I bought eight of them and was so excited with my two dollar investment. Brad and I sanded them to bare wood, primed and painted them and they sat in our first dining room, refurbished and beautiful.

The chairs have since moved around our house, a black one in Trevor’s room, a blue one in Tyler’s. They symbolize for me the essence of change; moving; from phase to phase holding strong and sturdy.

Cadence takes a stance like a fencer on the strip and flicks her brush in the direction of the old chair; a combination of sport and art as paints fly and splatter. There is much giggling and I wonder if some isn’t coming from the chair itself as it is tickled with paint.

The finished project sits partner with the desk. They are colored the same, yet stark contrasts of deliberate detail and carefree abandon. She is thrilled with her creation and excited to see her father’s face. Brad looks at the desk and sees a reflection of Cadence.

“Awesome.” He says. “Incredible. Absolutely beautiful.”

“And it’s just paint, Dad. You can always change it back again later.” She says.

“Not a chance.” He answers.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

This post is gorgeous, from beginning to end, the content, the words, the flow, the heart and soul, all of it. Love that ending. Now I can't get out of my head the wall of Davids. LOL. You had good modeling.

Terry Whitaker said...

again, you got me.