Since Ben was born at 34 weeks, my family began to panic realizing that his expected birthday at the end of April was approaching. They wanted to do something special for Pam and me. My mom called me up and asked what the family could do. I’m one of six kids and we are all a bit unique so that’s a packed question. Pam and I were in the middle of converting the attic into an office space and converting a small room into a master bath. There was a ton to do. We needed help with that for sure, but it all required skills. They needed a task that was fit for the talents akin to a senior high youth group on a mission trip. For one weekend.
Our house didn’t need to be painted. I wanted to paint it eventually, but it didn’t need it. Parts of it needed it, but not the whole thing. It was a nice neutral tan. But I’m never content with leaving things alone: everything could use a little personal touch.
So I invited the family up for a weekend of painting. Pam and I were itching to paint the house yellow. Why? Surely other homes in our neighborhood were bright and cheery on our block. Nope. They are all neutral. Some of them are white… that’s about as bright as they get.
So it was set, my family was going to come from Philly to York the last weekend in April for a weekend of painting. All Pam and I had to do was pick the shade of Yellow. Simple enough, right? We purchased dozens of samples and put them on our house. Some were too white, others too bright, others too peach, others too tan. All we wanted was a nice gentle yellow. Our house was asking us to make it more like a cottage (at least that’s what we thought we heard it saying). We finally choose the color “May Yellow” from a local paint store. We bought 15 gallons and were ready to rock and roll.
A couple of days before my family showed up I called my dad who used to be a professional painter by trade. That’s a critical point here. We were counting on Dad’s wisdom and expertise to analyze and assess the situation and advise accordingly. Our house isn’t massive, but it isn’t tiny either. It’s a two story colonial house with a full attic. It’s got some height to it. I thought the family was coming up for the weekend, but Dad informed me that they only needed a Saturday as long as I did all the prep work. I clearly remember asking him if he was SURE he needed just one day. He assured me.
“One Saturday is all we need.” he said.
Saturday came and I woke up at 6 a.m. to finish the final stages of prep for the house. There was a lot to clean and power wash. I started painting the trim white on the bottom part of the house and waited for the family to come. The Philly bus arrived at 11 a.m. for an all day job. My only thought was: this is going to be a very late night.
As soon as they arrived Pam left with my mom to get some missing materials from Lowes. That’s when my dad opened the 5 gallon drum of May Yellow and rolled the first section on the side of the house. It was horrible. It wasn’t yellow: it was yellow on acid. Yellow with battery power. The color of dog pee in fresh snow. You couldn’t stare at it longer than 5 seconds without it burning your retinas. I called Pam instantly.
We panicked on the phone:
J: “Pam, what should I do?”
P: “Is it the color we picked?”
J: “Yes… I think. It’s the same name of the sample we bought.
P: “Can you put it next to the sample still on our house?”
J: “Good idea, I’m doing it now.”
P: “Is it the same?”
J: “No. Well, kind of. I don’t know. Now they both look bright. I’m sooooo confused!!!!”
P: “Call the paint store.”
So I did. And they were closing in 10 minutes. My neighbors came out and joined the fun. They said they loved the color. Even our neighbor’s mom and dad joined in the fun. So here we were: My dad, my brother Andrew, my sisters Emily and Ashley, and my brother-in-law Ian, my two neighbors and their mother-in-law. Rollers in hand looking at me to make a choice.
So I called Pam again.
J: “Pam, the paint store closes in 5 minutes. We are 15 minutes from there. I don’t know if they messed up or not. I don’t know if this color is right or not. All I know is that this corner of the house looks like it’s on yellow drugs. They are all standing around me with paint brushes and rollers. What should I do????”
P: “Just have them paint the house. I’m sure it will be fine.”
J: “I agree. Let’s just let them loose on the house.”
So we let them loose.
I painted one side of the house, my brother and brother-in-law painted the other side’s bottom and the front bottom, my sister Emily (for some reason) power washed what was already painted, my Dad was on the chimney painting it white, and my sister Ashley wisely stuck to planting flowers and set up baskets under all the windows.
Pam arrived at 1:00 to 1/8 of her house painted tinkle yellow. And that was her reaction. Logically she began to panic and logically we tried to calm her down saying things like, “It’s still drying. Once it’s dry it will be much duller.” “All the neighbors liked it.” “Just give it some time and it will grow on you for sure.”
We started at 11:00 broke for lunch at 1:00. Two hours of solid mission trip style help. We had hamburgers and hot dogs and sat in the back yard. At one point my dad said, “Hey John, these brown spots are great places to put your plate and drink.
“Dad, they are brown from the dog’s pee.”
“Oh. Never mind then.”
So our afternoon shift picked up again at 2:00. Pam wandered around the house looking at in it in the shade, looking for dry spots to get dryer and duller, and praying to God. Basically in full out panic.
Then came 5:00. I was unaware this was shut down time. 1/3 of our house was painted bright shinny yellow. Pam was a quiet wreck. I was in shock. My family was tired and ready to go home.
So we packed up. Ash finished the flowers. We all cleaned our brushes. The day of love was complete. All we needed was one last cherry to top the day off: a picture of our amazing work. Look close and take careful note at the look on Pam’s face.
That night as Pam and I laid in bed she was trying to think how we could just sell the house and loose any profits. We had a half neon house, a tore up attic, a tore up master bedroom, and a tore up potential space for a master bath. She just wanted to walk away and get a do over. If she was playing Nintendo she would have hit reset on level 6 of Mario Brothers: just when it was started to get good. She was convinced our realtor had a reset button we could hit.
What’s so great about this day is that Pam and I really did need it. We were drowning in sorrow with Ben and needed Miller family chaos to give us something new to stress about. It gave us something to laugh about, and we continue to laugh about it. I think when people around us are suffering we often don’t know what to do or to say. It’s because so many times there ISN’T anything that can be said. Sometimes you just need to show up.
So they showed up with brushes, rollers, soil, flowers, pots and a two-foot roller that my dad and brother fought over. When they left our house was 1/3 painted bursting with flowers. It really was a sight to be seen. The paint never got any duller.
Within days Pam found a much quieter yellow and painted the entire bottom half of the house by herself in one afternoon. She was in full panic mode. That too, was a sight to be seen. My dad came back by himself in a couple weeks and finished the job all alone while I was at work. I love my family and would do anything for them. And they would do anything for me entertaining me every step of the way.
(If anyone needs 11 gallons of “May Yellow”, let me know. We have some really cheap.)