72: The Color of Joy

72: The Color of Joy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

The Color of Joy

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.

~Claude Monet

Soon after we bought our first home, an older row home, I discovered that my husband Larry and I had different decorating styles. Once the movers left, I explored the rooms, ready to make changes. I found Larry sitting amongst the packing boxes thumbing through a Star Trek novel.

“I see sky blue or pale green. Which one?” I flicked a disapproving glance at the beige living room walls. Beige couldn’t describe the color. More like sad tan. It had to go.

“Neither. Everything’s fine.” He continued to read.

I scooted a box over. Obviously, he’d misunderstood the question.

“Honey, look around you. The whole house is beige.”

He closed the book. One of his strengths is that Larry really listens. He also lectures like he’s facing a roomful of disinterested college students sneaking looks at their phones. He cleared his throat. Straightened his shoulders. Shuffled through mental notes.

I felt a lecture coming on and resisted the urge to duck under a desk.

“Beige equates to cleanliness, simplicity and order. Without beige, the color spectrum would be thrown into chaos. I prefer a life without chaos.” Lecture over, he kissed me and re-opened his book.

As much I enjoyed reading, there were clearly issues at stake. “What are you really saying?”

“Beige is dependable. Sensible. Utilitarian.”

Women have to frequently ignore comments that are clearly insane. Words couldn’t describe my horror at the thought of living in a house decorated in manly utilitarian. One of my strengths is that I do pretty much whatever I want. Beige was boring. Sensible wasn’t fun. That left me with only one alternative.

I needed to show my husband the joy of color.

I started in small ways. A red bedspread. Floral kitchen curtains. A year later, still drowning in utilitarian beige-land, I staged a revolt.

I called in sick. My sympathetic husband brought me a cup of tea, advised me to get plenty of rest and left for work. I sprang out of bed, retrieved the painting gear stashed in the basement, a roll of fabric and my staple gun. I planned to transform the middle bedroom into a writing sanctuary. A horrible orange and brown mural covered one wall; I couldn’t wait to hide it.

Our cat, Tiger, reclined on the bed, watching as I removed the paint-encrusted antique doorknob, covered it with goo and laid it in the bathroom. While the first coat of primer was drying, I stapled swaths of a gorgeous French print over the mural. It took a little longer than I’d counted on. I gobbled a PB&J sandwich and kept working. I wanted Larry to be dazzled by the change.

It was fine until I tapped in the last staple and did a dance of joy.

Tiger must have stepped out for a bite and a wee, because I didn’t know that he was behind me. I accidentally stepped on his tail. He yowled, swiped my legs and ran out of the room. I fell against the door.

It clicked shut.

I rubbed my scratches, only thinking of making peace with my beloved cat.

“Tiger, I’m sorry.” I reached for the doorknob. My voice trailed off. A gaping hole jeered at me where the glass knob usually resided. I stuck my finger inside, trying to snag the catch. The lock didn’t tumble open. Disaster! For the next twenty minutes I tried bobby pins, a pen and a nail. Nothing worked.

I was locked in.

“Okay. Don’t get upset. Call someone. Tell them to hurry up home and let you out.” I grabbed my phone. Disaster number two stared at me. The phone was dead and it was my own fault. I truly hate cell phones. Anyone can find you at any time. Period. Larry always recharged it for me, but I guess he’d forgotten to.

I don’t wear a watch, so I flicked on the TV. 1:08. Larry usually got home around 6:30 or 7:00.

I gave myself a pep talk. “You have paint, entertainment and a few hours of alone time. Get busy.”

I did. I hung lace curtains, got dizzy from paint fumes and decided to re-read a book. I found a dusty mint in a jacket pocket, but I could’ve eaten a whole pizza. Three hours later, I was starving, thirsty and needed to go to the bathroom. As an added perk, Tiger alternated between howling and sticking his paws under the door just in case I’d gone deaf and hadn’t heard his pleas to enter.

I was beginning to hate decorating. Normal women go shopping, visit the nail salon or hit the movies when they play hooky. I had to stage my own HGTV intervention. Maybe I’d start watching sports.

The phone rang periodically; half the time I was sure that it was my husband. By the eighth time, I was sure of it. I stopped envying all the skinny actors torturing me with food commercials. Maybe he’d come home early and rescue me.

Tiger and I wailed in unison when we finally heard the front door open at 7:12.

“Up here! I’m locked in, honey!”


“What did you do? Where’s the rest of the door?” He banged on the door.

I glared. Did he really think that I’d deliberately lock myself in a room?

Larry must have sensed the death rays hurtling at the speed of exhausted, annoyed woman, ready to gag him.

“Just a minute.”

He ran downstairs, and returned with the magic that opened the door.

I flicked the knife sticking out. “Clever. Thanks, love.” I wrapped my arms around my big, handsome husband and squeezed hard. “It’s been quite a day.”

Larry took in the splendor and blinked. “Uh… guess you’re making a stand. It’s nice.”

Nice wasn’t exactly the word I wanted, but, hey, he’s a guy. I’ll take it.

“Yup. Let’s sand the kitchen cabinets next weekend.”

He hauled me downstairs. “Let’s not. How about some pizza?” He pulled out his cell and placed the order.

I smiled and let myself be hauled. “Fine. But, you’ve got to admit, a little bit of color is exciting.”

He shook his head. “Paint whatever colors you want, honey. You’re exciting enough for the both of us.”

~Karla Brown

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