My friend Theresa asked if I'd paint some furniture to sell in her charming store in downtown Falls Church, VA. As you may know, I haven't painted furniture since the week of Jack's accident. It has just seemed so empty and meaningless to me.
I wrote toward the end of my book about noticing Margaret get excited last summer just seeing me carry old paint cans up the stairs at the old house. She was hoping I was up to my old tricks, most likely because that would somehow take us back to at least SOMETHING being the way it was before.
I wasn't sure if Theresa's appeal for "help" was along the lines of the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Mrs. Hughes constantly digging up causes and people for Isobel Crawley to assist as a means of getting her interested in something other than the blackness of her grief, or whether she genuinely was backlogged with painting projects.
Either way, with her encouragement, I stepped away from the computer for a few weeks and picked up the paintbrushes. It felt awkward. My brushes had grown stiff, so I had to buy new ones. It was a different kind of paint, not what I'd used before, and I didn't know if I'd find a rhythm with it.
Margaret sat on the leather couch as I spread flattened moving boxes out on the family room floor to protect it from spatters. We watched American Idol and Downton Abbey as I opened a few cans and started testing the paint. I talked about how it was different, how I didn't know if this was going to work out at all. After a while, she asked if she could try her hand at painting a little too, so I gave her some pointers and let her pick the color for the next piece. We sat on either side of a tiny doll cradle, painting it together, talking about our TV shows.
My pushing through fear to write a memoir did not impress her one bit. Blog conferences and the new business cards I bought (but am too wimpy to hand out) that proclaim, "Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Writer" don't merit a second glance.
But the back and forth of our brushes, and seeing me do something that links us both to an earlier time-- a time when we were yet unscathed by a level of pain and longing so profound that despite my best efforts still rarely forms words between us-- felt good to her.
And to me.