Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fresh Paint

I love the smell of fresh paint.
A smell that represents new beginnings or change.

For the past week or so, renovations are taking place at the theater where I work.

 I walked into the side door last week, and caught the familiar and comforting smell of fresh paint. Anytime I walked down the stairs, from my office, I would catch a slight whiff, and it would bring something to the very edge of remembrance and then...stop.

What did that smell remind me of? I have been asking myself this everyday for the last week.

Well, it just dawned on me. I mean, it literally shook me from my sleep.

As I sat in my bed, I felt a weird mix of emotions.

First, I felt happy that I'd remembered what the smell of fresh paint reminded me of because it's driven me crazy all week long.  Almost like a song that keeps playing in your head, but you can only remember the catchy two line phrase halfway through. You can't remember any of the words before or after or even how fast or slow the tempo is, but you are sure of those two lines in the very smack middle of it.

After the happiness subsided, I felt extremely annoyed that my overactive brain couldn't turn off long enough for me to sleep. Also, now that I was awake; I had to pee.

Then, almost immediately, I felt sad. I felt sad because sometime over the last two decades, I'd forgotten one of the happiest moments of my life.
We spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. My mom was a single mother, and she worked a lot. During the summer, we spent nearly every day with my granny. My grandparent's home was tiny, and July in Oklahoma was only slightly cooler twenty years ago. Thus, with an overprotective grandmother keeping outdoor activities to a minimum...the house got smaller; In a hurry.
My granny always tried to find things for us to do inside to keep us occupied, and when she ran out of ideas...she pretty much just let us do whatever we wanted. As long as we weren't setting things on fire or causing physical injury to one another, she was happy.

This particular summer, I developed a weird obsession with sunflowers. Probably, it had very little to do with my newfound interest in Horticulture, and everything to do with how frequently I watched Abbott & Costello's Jack & The Beanstalk.(To a tiny seven year old...sunflowers could absolutely be beanstalks)
One day, I found some yellow tempera paint in my granny's craft drawer, and started painting sunflowers all over everything. She later made my papa purchase me some fabric paint so I could paint them all over my clothes.
I remember her saying, "This is my little sunflower painter girl! Look at these, Gene! Gene...she needs more paint."
My sunflower summer.

Anyway, after three days I had covered every piece of paper, fabric and cardboard with paint, and I was running out of space.

I was also bored.

I ho-hummed around the house for a bit, and my granny asked, "What's wrong, poot butt?" (This nickname is real, and that's a whole different story)

I remember telling her how boring it was to be stuck in the house, and I just wanted something to do. I said, "I was tired of painting little tiny things."

Later that day, my papa came in with two cans of paint, several brushes, rollers and drop cloths. He moved the kitchen table, the food shelves, and took the corded phone off the wall. Papa opened the paint can, and I saw that the paint was almost the exact color of orange sherbet.

 I loved orange sherbet.

It took me two days. My brother ended up getting to help paint the kitchen, which just killed me.

I don't remember all of the details. I wish I could.

I wish I could go back to that moment, and see my granny in her chair. Her right leg tucked beneath her, and her left foot tapping in time while the BeeGee's asked, "How deep is your love?"
I don't remember if her hair was long or short...if she was wearing her blue shirt or her red one. I couldn't tell you if she was reading a book or doing cross-stitch or watching Matlock or some terrible made for TV science fiction movie. I don't remember any of those things.

I remember that I was happy, and the tile was cold on my bare feet.
I remember I had paint everywhere.
I remember it was the only two days out of the summer that my brother and I didn't methodically plan one another's deaths each day.

More than anything, I remember my granny watching us and smiling.

There have been countless studies that reveal the power that olfaction has in bringing old memories back to life. Memories, easily compared to forgotten keepsakes or photographs...memories that we store away. There, in the recesses of our minds just waiting. Just waiting for something to trigger the slideshow of memories.

Just waiting

Until
...one day, in the middle of June, you walk into work and you smell fresh paint.

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