An old picnic table has sat in our house's storage shed for longer than we've rented here, a lot longer. It was filthy and wobbly, with odds and ends stacked on it, the detritus of years caked on it.
But it has been given new life in the last week.
Tori dragged it out into the carport, shimming the legs so it's more or less even. Then she cleaned it thoroughly and slapped a coat of white paint on it. That's when the real work started.
She got out the box of art stuff and started painting, enlisting the kids and even me. Typically you don't want me doing "art," especially in a medium that doesn't have an "undo" function. But as a friend often says, "In painting there are no mistakes. There's only texture."
The table isn't finished, not by a long shot, but it now displays a sprawling tree covered with blossoms of every color. Not every color of the rainbow, but every color in our art box.
It's been a week and the flowers continue to spread. We do a little bit every day. I asked Tori, "When will we know it's finished? WILL we know it's finished?" She shrugged and said, "Probably when I get out the glitter. That's probably when I should stop." Then we'll get something to seal it.
The tree is not a realistic tree – what fun would that be? Actually, it's very much in the style of the kinds of trees our daughter Alex painted, and that's not an accident. We're fast approaching the first anniversary of when we lost her, and the date has been looming in the background, rarely mentioned but ominous. Anyone who remembers her paintings will recognize this tree.
We didn't discuss the project before it started. We mostly just grab a brush now and then and paint more flowers. It's a way to pass a few moments in the summer. And something more, but we don't talk much about that because it's still too hard.
But we paint, and we enjoy what we're doing, and we smile a little when we happen to get something just right.