It’s not really “home” until you hang stuff on the wall, right?
I spent a few hours today at my friend’s place, helping her hang stuff on the walls. She’s one of the Cool Kids. It’s been a rough year. Hanging pictures had been her partner’s task for fourteen years. Now it’s not. So the Cool Kids showed up, like we tend to do.
This wasn’t like the last Cool Kids operation where there was serious back-breaking work to get done. This day was about making an apartment into a home–finishing touches and being present. Susan brought the dog a ball. Nicole arrived with homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs, even a little bag of freshly shaved Parmesan for topping. Libby made a cake…with a nipple, but that’s a story for her blog. It sure made the birthday girl laugh. I brought prosecco, disposable champagne flutes, and a laser level. Erica contributed the hammer. Even Heather, who couldn’t be there in person because she was driving home from her father’s memorial out of state–Heather supplied a chocolate stout and sent pictures from the highway.
We sat on the floor with glasses of wine and listened to the ones with freshly broken hearts talk it through. We cried. We laughed. There was a lot of nodding and dabbing of the corners of the eyes. I rolled the ball across the floor for the dog. She brought it back. The dog wasn’t possessive of her mama, like she is when they come to my house. I think she knew Mama was safe. We are all in the same pack.
When it was time to get to work, we asked our friend how she wanted her home to feel. Where should the cowboy painting go if it’s her favorite? What should she see on the wall when she walks in the front door? What does she want to see while she’s lying in bed? How about this lamp here? That bookshelf there? What if we moved the couch to this wall? OK, what if we don’t. Do you want something in the hallway or should this go in the kitchen?
She wasn’t 100% sure. It’s so hard to go from us to me. From we to I. To have to put that favorite picture in the desk drawer so it doesn’t hurt. I thought of the Michael Feinstein song “Where Do You Start?” that goes, “Which books are yours? Which thoughts and dreams belong to you and which are mine?” I sang that song over and over when I spent a day separating Fartbuster’s books into neat white banker’s boxes.
Hammering a nail into the wall is tough, because it’s a decision. It’s saying, “This is where I’m going to be.”
Libby whacked the first nail. Turns out that she and I have divergent approaches to hanging stuff. While I scrounged around for a measuring tape, stud finder, level, pencil…she eyeballed it and WHAM. Picture hung. Next!
And it worked. (Well, after I scooched it just a smidgen to the right and three inches down.)
I was the one who did the math and the measuring and the hammering when it was time to hang the cowboy painting, but it was Libby who took it one step further and hung our friend’s lasso and favorite cowboy hat on the facing wall to complete the tableau. I put the lamp in the logical place and she came right behind me and put it in the beautiful place. The place where it lit up the painting and brought it to life.
It all worked.
When you have a tribe, a pack, “your people,” you don’t ever have to face things alone. You get your tall friend to mark the wall and your short friend to hold the painting and your logical friend to use the level and your friend with panache to add the finishing touches.
On our own, we were afraid.
Together, we nailed it.