Paint-speckled sisters’ night out
It’s been quite a while since I painted — with or without numbers. My sister and I celebrate birthdays just five days apart each July (and our dad is in there, too), and we try to do a little something together beyond slicing a cake.
As kids, Mom usually took off work on our birthdays; we’d make day trips to Annapolis for lunch and a good wander around the air-conditioned mall. We come by our shopping love naturally.
My 32nd birthday fell last Tuesday — arguably the least exciting weekday. Monday brings us together in shared commiseration with our coworkers; Wednesday is hump day, halfway back to Saturday. Thursday holds all the anticipation of it soon becoming Friday, and Friday is . . . practically Saturday!
I’m two weeks into my new job, so I spent last Tuesday with my colleagues and pretty much forgot what day it was entirely until they kindly treated me to lunch and cupcakes.
We did go out to dinner that evening: my husband and kids, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law and niece. Somehow the unit of Mom, Dad, Katie and me has now become a party of nine.
Our arrival typically attracts attention — and not only because Ollie is loudly announcing our presence. With three young kids, I can feel the stares as surrounding groups hope we’re not seated next to them. And hey: I get it, man. I really do.
The chaos follows us everywhere; I barely notice it anymore. As I’m typing this, my 2-year-old is throwing approximately 800 blocks onto the hardwood floor while his sister naps — a nails-onchalkboard sound I would never have believed could be blocked out, but I’ve become a master at ignoring such disasters. Within reason, of course. On my birthday, the kids were actually in fine form — meant sincerely. Hadley slept through most of our dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and Ollie was distracted enough by seeing his aunt and uncle to not grow restless until we were paying the bill. Spencer and I both stayed seated and actually enjoyed our meals hot. Happy birthday to me! My sister’s birthday was Sunday, and we’d talked about going to one of the popular “paint nights” offered at local businesses. Kate found a place that sounded cool at National Harbor — but a last-minute cancellation meant a change in plans. We wound up rescheduling with a smaller venue closer to home and still had ourselves a girls’ night out.
Or sisters’ night out. Moms’ night out? Take your pick.
I was a little nervous about the painting project, to be honest. Throughout elementary school I wanted to be an “artist,” but I’m not sure why I thought that was a possibility. I remember loving a papier mache mask project so much that I thought dipping strips of newspaper into watered-down glue seemed like an excellent career, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I possessed any talent for it . . . or anything else.
Katie and I loved to color. When I used to think about my future kids, boxes of fresh crayons and crisp coloring books were definitely part of that vision. But I had trouble with the follow-through. My princesses would have elaborately decorated dresses, but no hair color or skin tone. I guess I thought I’d return someday to complete each picture, but half-finished books were still in my childhood bedroom well into my twenties.
Paint nights require you to commit to your art in one shot: my sort of project. I can’t procrastinate, get discouraged or quit, dooming another piece and its supplies to the basement to deal with later. Later never seems to come.
With an instructor at the head of a classroom, we’re guided through the process of painting an object or scene. In our case, we were outlining and filling in a photo of champagne flutes against a sunset and dark sea.
When Katie sent me a link to check out the paint night project, I pictured myself creating something so hideous that I’d be forced to store it in a permanent “exhibit” . . . in a trash can. I hadn’t touched a paintbrush in decades. How was I supposed to do this?
Sitting next to my sister as we both applied the first layer of paint — a sunny yellow that was, appropriately, the setting sun — I was reminded of the many projects we tackled together as children. When was the last time we sat down and worked on something crafty together? Something creative? Something on a Friday, just us?
Though our instructor declared that there are “no mistakes!” in painting, I was starting to look askance at my “stars” in an inky black sky. Created by the opposite end of my paintbrush dipped in white paint, I applied the better part of a galaxy before I began to feel like the stars resembled awkwardly-placed polka dots.
But no matter. With coffee in hand, Katie and I created our little masterpieces alongside a bridal party, mother/daughter groups and friends out for a hot Friday night painting in bold white lines.
It’s kind of fun to be bad at something. It means it’s new and fresh — outside of drafting emails and mixing bottles and ensuring our alarm clock is set. In typical Meg fashion, I got a little cocky and started adding “off-script” details. Some worked; some didn’t. Still, it was fun to create something with my own hands and a few fat paintbrushes. Nothing digital. A real, tangible object I can hang on a wall.
If I wanted to. Which . . . I think I do, actually.
My sister goodnaturedly made fun of my little boat — more of a dark blob on the horizon than a vessel — and I had to laugh. Art is all about interpretation, right?
And I interpreted my way into one “interesting” first painting. I definitely shouldn’t quit my day job, but that was hardly the point. Kate and I made a memory.
The young artist lives on.