Paint-speck­led sis­ters’ night out

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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