July 19, 2015

Despite wanting to shed many of my material possessions over the course of this year, I did urge my husband David to buy a large garden shed that we can convert into a little room in the back garden. In my mind, the room will be a little “mummy retreat” or a “room of her own” where I can go in the evenings to escape the sounds of the tv and play gentle music and read a book when I need some time and peace for myself. But, it can also be a playroom for our son Theo and his friends if they want to be alone or need to play quietly while I do my work in the house. Perhaps if we get it insulated properly it can be a guest room where my brother Alan can stay on a future visit. At any rate, it’s a shed with a lot of potential and I am excited to transform it into a special space. I wasn’t up to the task of painting the chipboard walls inside, so we asked a friend Chris who has helped us out with various projects in our back yard over the years. He happened to be free this weekend so agreed to come and paint the shed today, despite the unbelievably humid weather the tropical storm brought to LA today.

Equipped with a large fan, painting gear and his BBC podcasts, Chris embarked on the task with his usual cheerful attitude. We have known Chris for about 5 years now, initially because a mutual friend recommended him for some handy work fixing steps in our back yard. It turned out one of his daughters is in Theo’s grade, but because the two children haven’t been in the same class very often, we haven’t got to know him as well as we would have liked and have mostly chatted when he has been helping us out at home and occasionally while walking back home after dropping the kids off. Nonetheless, we are always impressed by his warmth and generosity, as a friend and fellow parent at our son’s school. He is a musician – a drummer – and used to be in a very cool jazz band. Now he mostly plays in the Dad Band at all the school concerts and makes the Holiday CD every year so we can take home the music our children make. He also works organizing bands’ tours and occasionally when he’s at home does handy work for friends and neighbors.

Today, I had the afternoon to myself while David took Theo to see a movie so my plan was to take it easy, but when I realized that the paint job in the shed was tricky and could take Chris many hours to complete, I suggested I help him by taping the wood posts so he could paint around them more easily, if he didn’t mind the company. Thus began a delightful afternoon working on my shed project and getting to know a lovely person better. We chatted about our kids, our ups and downs as with work and life, our family backgrounds, the fact that we both lost our mothers in our 20s after their struggles with cancer. He had grown up in North Carolina. His mother was a weaver and had supported him and his brother on what she made as an artist and teacher. She had been involved with many of the artists associated with Black Mountain College, a creative hub in the American arts and crafts world, and he grew up knowing glass blowers, potters and carpenters. When he became a musician, his mother had been pleased but she had never been able to hear his band play. Just as my own mother died as I was studying to become an art historian and never saw any of my exhibitions or read any of my books.

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We finished painting the inside of the shed just as the first drops of rain began to fall from the storm clouds that had been steadily moving towards us all afternoon. Today was the 200th day of my Giveaway, and I had wanted today’s to be a meaningful one. I went into the kitchen and picked out a Japanese tea bowl that has a black iron glaze that pools in the center creating a dark bluish tinge. I gave it to Chris, hoping that he would appreciate its artistry and accept it along with our check in thanks for a lovely afternoon of teamwork and friendship and for helping me create this special space.

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