Old White Paint

white paintToday as I was painting more ‘old white’ paint on our brick chimney, I had many flashbacks and associations come to mind…one recurring dream since childhood: I dreamed that our house on Hampstead Place was on fire. I and my two brothers were upstairs and my mom gave us each a small square shallow crystal glass dish and said, “Don’t worry we’ll be fine. Go to your rooms and pack all of your things into your dish while I paint the stairs white. The white paint will keep the stairs from burning so you will have time to collect your things and run down the stairs to safety. I was amazed at how many things I could fit in my little dish and that everything happened just as my mom had said. Somewhere in the back of my head, in my anciently formed brain stem lies a belief that white paint can resist fire.

A few more strokes of paint on the chimney and my mind traveled to Senior year in high school when I was the publicity chairman for our senior play, Harvey. We decided to make a giant rabbit that would sit in the auditorium which had really high theater-like ceilings. So measurements were taken, plans were drawn, and supplies gathered to  make a 36 foot tall, 3 feet deep and 8 foot wide white rabbit. ‘Harvey’ would have a wide opening where we could put up a ticket table and distribute tickets from the rabbit. When people sold a certain number they would get their Harvey t-shirts to also publicize the play. Our great team of workers met out at our driveway in the country over the weekend to build a frame, cover it with chicken wire and roll corrugated cardboard over the top ears and all the way down the edges as well as underneath the rabbit. The final step was, of course, ‘white paint’. Having dreamt of the virtues of ‘white paint.’ I was sure that getting waterproof white paint would do the trick on the cardboard to make the whole rabbit waterproof! So we painted away, adding whiskers and a little pink inside the ears. Proudly, we loaded it on a flatbed trailer and pulled it behind the jeep all the way to the front of the high school! This was a Sunday afternoon, and though the sky was overcast, I assured everyone that the paint would ward off any water that might be attracted to our cardboard rabbit. When we reached the school, worries of rain dropped from our minds as we were presented with another more immediate problem: Harvey might fit in the auditorium, but how would we get him through the front door of the school itself?! A quick practical decision followed our new dilemma: we’ll mount it over the front door of the school on the outside and anchor his ears from the second story chemistry classroom? windows. This would give our play even MORE publicity!  Our industrious team got right to work using ship knots and slip knots to hold Harvey in place arched over the doorways to the school where everyone would pass Monday morning! Remembrance of any rain issues were long replaced by the satisfaction of solving our mis-measured mistake in such a brilliantly executed way! We each went our separate ways to hurriedly finish leftover homework before Monday morning. As I lay in bed that night hearing rain pattering on the roof, I found solace in remembering the waterproof white paint that would save Harvey’s skin and ours from the wet night that followed. White paint may solve our chimney/dark room problem, but one thing it didn’t do was to waterproof corrugated cardboard. Picture the next morning, the school principal standing in the doorway under an ominously slumping Harvey, trying to coach high school students through the shriveled archway to the inside of the school.
White waterproof paint MUST keep water out of something! but not 36 foot cardboard rabbits in the rain!  Somewhere in the back of my head in my anciently formed brain stem lies a belief that white paint can resist water.

And now, as I’ve almost finished painting the last few bricks, white paint is finally getting to shine. For finally the white paint is only asked to be white paint, just as it is…not to resist anything…just being white paint is enough. Though I have to admit that you do remind me so much of my very favorite ice cream: caribbean coconut!  even though I know you’re really not. Your only white paint.


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