Wanna wallpaper?..then grow your skin and check your ego at the door!
As you're driving home after having dinner at Judy and Frank's house, your wife asks you, while staring out the window, "Do you think that we could wallpaper our dining room, too?"
Frank and Judy had recently hung this very attractive red paper on their dining room walls. It was artfully emblazoned with black fleur-de-lis that created a sort of mesmerizing 3-D effect. Even as you savored your grilled salmon, your eyes couldn't help but return to the walls that surrounded you. "It only took us a couple of weekends to put this up," Frank beamed. "And look, we're even still married!" We all laughed, and continued eating.
"But I thought we decided to paint the dining room, honey," which came out your mouth sounding more like a question than a statement. "You've even picked out a really cool color; and Larry the Perennial Painter has us on his schedule for next week." But as you pull into your driveway, you get the distinct feeling that she has already decided to cancel the painting.
Later that night, as you lie in bed watching the leaves flutter in the breeze outside the window, a crystal clear memory of you as a10 year old boy consumes your mind. You're sitting at the kitchen table, after arriving home from school, drinking a glass of milk. Four women, one of whom is your mother, spin around you, with curlers in their hair, smoldering cigarettes pinched between their lips; and each seems to be talking simultaneously. Your glass of milk shares the table with a bucket of paste, scissors, pencils, a yardstick, a tape measure, sponges, and, of course, rolls of wallpaper.
You are as amazed as a 10 year old boy can be as you watch the gals attach sheet upon sheet of paper onto the walls..all the while laughing, slopping paste, flicking ashes, and, of course, talking. You are at the epicenter of a true American phenomenon that erupted across the residential landscape during the 50's and 60's...a wallpapering party!
Even now, as you lie in bed some forty years later, you can feel their energy, hear the cacophonous chatter, marvel at the tranforming effect of the paper, and almost smell the paste. "That's it", you tell yourself. "I'm ready to do some papering, myself!"
In the morning, you announce your decision to the wife; and then, as you take your coffee into the dining room, you realize that you don't have a clue about how to wallpaper. Thank God for You tube, you say out loud. And after a half hour of watching a guy, with a tiresome British accent, wallpaper a child's bedroom, you grab your phone and call your Mother. She will be thrilled to learn that someone in the family is finally going to carry on this special family tradition.
"Mom? Guess what? I'm going to wallpaper our dining room." Instead of squealing her delight, she is quiet...silent. "Well, what do you think about that?" Silence coming from your normally garrulous mother is unnerving; and, now, you are starting to feel a bit nervous.
Finally,"Are you sure about that, son?" Her voice cracks a bit, but is, otherwise, firm.
"You bet, Mom!" And sounding as revved up about it as you can, you tell her about the flashback that you had, and all those warm and fuzzy memories about her and her friends wallpapering.
"Not to rain on your parade, or anything, son, but let me tell you a few things about wallpapering that I learned the hard way, way back when.'' You thought you heard her chuckle as she dove head long into an frenetic monologue that lasts nearly twenty minutes.
She told you that what you saw of their wallpapering "parties" was only the "warm and fuzzy" tip of the iceberg. Earlier in the day, before I arrived home from school, her and her buddies. when something screwed up, had been screaming obscenities at each other that would make a sailor blush. That is one of the ways, she explained, that they dealt with the incumbent stresses of wallpapering. Oh, sure, she conceded, to the naive outsider, wallpapering looks like some sort of intriguing and fun art form; measuring and snipping, pasting and hanging. But at its core, wallpapering is a somewhat diabolical exercise that drains the spirit of confidence and leaves a sickening trail of humiliation.
"I would tell the gals, 'If you're ready for another dose of purgatory, you can join me at the pasting table!'"
My mother told me that Murphy was surely the patron saint of wallpapering, because " if anything can go wrong, it will. And believe me, in wallpapering, there is always an accident waiting to happen."
You meekly interjected,"But what about the Youtube video about the middle-aged guy with the British accent who wallpapered a kid's room in no time; and then headed off to wallpaper a bathroom, as well? He seemed to be enjoying himself, cracking jokes and drinking coffee, as he pasted strip after strip."
" If you believe, son, that he was enjoying himself, then I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you! They probably set him up with some of the easiest paper to work with; and stopped the cameras when they detected that his demeanor was about to change from charming to cynical.
Then my mother explained that some wallpaper was so difficult to manage, that only the most experienced paper hangers would even begin to touch it.
"Take the Laura Ashley paper, as an example. It is normally so delicate that you can't even sneeze near it, without the risk of staining it. Laura makes some stunning wallpaper;,but in order to achieve those unique textures and other-worldly images, she needs to manufacture something that resembles the translucency of toilet paper. I'm afraid, son, that you would wilt under the pressure of trying to get her stuff up on the wall without stretching, or tearing, or staining it"
My mother paused for a long moment. "And knowing your wife like I do, I'll bet she'll fall in love with Laura Ashley!"
You realized that, by now, you had sunk deep into the chair; you were feeling a bit depressed at having another one of your cherished, childhood memories cast into such an unflattering light.
"Gee, Mom, thanks for all the encouragement." Sarcasm seemed like a suitable option for you all of a sudden."I'll send you a photo of the dining room after I'm done papering it."
"Just remember...don't let your wife get near that room when you are papering. My grand kids need their dad in the house as they are growing up!" She always seemed to know how to call your bluff.
It wasn't five minutes since the phone talk ended, when your wife burst into the house enthusiastically plunking the over-sized wallpaper book onto the table. "I found just the paper that I've been looking everwhere for."
But before she flipped it open to the dog-eared page, she asked you why your face was turning red. You slowly read, out loud, the cover,"Laura Ashley's Classic Prints."
Two weeks later, while standing at the front door watching Judy and Frank drive away after dinner, your wife squeezed your arm. "Judy couldn't stop gushing about the wallpaper, honey. And Frank nearly gagged on his broccoli when you told him that you did the papering."
You close the door and head back to the dining room. " I told Larry of Perennial Painters that I'd put the scissors, that he left here, in the mailbox."