Colour my world

I never know what to get my mother-in-law for her birthday. So when she mentioned that she’d like her guest room painted, I thought it would make the perfect gift. I’ve received such generosity myself in the past. My daughters and especially my daughter-in-law have painted various rooms for me. I know how blessed it is to receive.

I’ve also discovered that it’s more fun to paint at someone else’s house. Maybe that’s because lunch magically appeared on the table at noon hour and I didn’t have to do dishes afterward. And Dad sent me home with a stack of his famous pancakes so I wouldn’t have to cook supper. All I had to do was paint.

One reason I enjoy painting is that while it requires care and attention, I’m still free to daydream. As I worked in the bedroom I thought back to my very first paint project.

It was the summer I turned 16. My parents had bought a model home in a new survey a couple of years before. It had been painted entirely in neutral (read boring) tones to appeal to the general public. I watched my father transform room after room with vibrant and stylish paints and papers. He had a flair for decorating.

My folks decided to take a few days off and travel to Ottawa. I was scheduled for day shifts at my restaurant job. Little did they know I had big plans for the time they were gone.

As soon as they left I trotted down to the hardware store and had them mix up a gallon of interior latex in my favourite colour – powder blue. I spent two weeks’ worth of tip money on paint, masking tape, brushes and rollers. The minute I finished work at the restaurant I hurried home. I began dragging furniture out of the way and taping in the woodwork in my bedroom.

‘Ta-da!’
I pried the lid off the can and inhaled the intoxicating smell of decor potential. I looked around at the drab green walls and pictured how lovely they would be in this exciting shade of blue. I painted until midnight to finish the first coat. I was exhilarated! (Maybe the paint fumes contributed to that.)

The next evening I repeated the process with unbridled enthusiasm – windows wide open, radio blaring – an exuberant teenager slapping paint on the walls . . . and a little on the light switch (who knew it could be removed?) . . . and a few streaks on the ceiling when my roller got out of control. What looked like powder blue on the tiny paint chip translated into something like the intense blue of a June morning sky. No matter, my new room looked fabulous.

On the third evening I peeled off the masking tape, put back the furniture and vacuumed the carpet. Just as I finished my parents pulled into the driveway. Wouldn’t they be surprised!

“Smells like paint,” said Pa as he entered the house.

Ma looked concerned as I beckoned them upstairs.

“Wait ‘til you see this,” I said. I opened the door to my room with a flourish. “Ta-da!”

“Wow,” said Pa. “It’s really, really blue.”

Ma (whose lifelong favourite colour was beige) blinked a couple of times and then raised her eyebrows. “I don’t think I could sleep in a room this loud.”

Pa winked at me. “You won’t have to,” he said as he patted her arm.

“It’s my favourite colour,” I said.

“And it looks great,” said Pa.

At breakfast the next morning Pa said, “I really like what you did with your room. It might not be my choice of colour, but you did your own thing and I admire that. You should never be afraid to be creative.”

That day my dad gave me a license to be me. He encouraged creativity, imagination and initiative, even when things didn’t turn out as perfectly as I had dreamed. I recognized that the desire to be creative was something I inherited from my father.

Each perfect gift
In the years since then I’ve come to understand that it was actually a gift from my heavenly Father. The world around me – the world he made – is filled with colour, balance, symmetry, patterns and rhythm. The ability to appreciate all kinds of beauty, the desire to string words together into a story, the joy I feel at the sound of music or the birds’ songs are all part of what it means to be created in the image of God. Forget theories of evolution – I was hardwired this way.

My mother-in-law smiled as she stood in the doorway of her newly painted guest room. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “I couldn’t enjoy any other gift you might have given me more than this.”

Me neither. Mission accomplished.

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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