"She'll stay behind long after I've gone."

As the Winter winds down, doors open into a recently longed-for world. I've suddenly taken to taking off my sweatshirt before I set to work, hanging it on any handy branch or fence. I'm wearing my havelock to keep the suddenly brighter sun out of my face and off my neck. Until Daylight Savings Time disrupted the steady progression, a little more sunlight, or the hint of impending daylight, greeted me as I headed out to write each morning. After, I felt like I'd been sent back to Go without the promise of two hundred dollars, but Winter's almost a goner anyway. She's on her last legs, as a no longer false Spring nudges her aside.

I'm down to working on doors and trim now, the stuff real destruction and reconstruction contractors consider to be final touches.
Final touches seem improved by some long forethought. I've been working on bead board for weeks. Between pulling it off the walls, removing nails, sanding, washing, priming, and painting two coats, not to mention the schlepping between the open air paint station and safe storage on the covered front porch. I counted that I'd personally touched each board of the one hundred and ninety six, something like sixty times. I have not yet cut them to size or sorted them by quality, let alone assisted in placing them, and I have not mentioned the priming, painting, and cutting to size of the long lengths of trim needed to frame windows, doors, and the seeming miles of bead board wainscot. None of this work should properly be left for the last minute, and the last minute approaches, stealth abandoned in a quiet rush.

Doors, though, present special problems. Have you ever seen an old painted double hung door that did not appear abused? Fat frozen drips of ill-applied paint. Dents and dings prominent on the lower panels. Edges chipped and grudgy. These might be inherited symptoms of leaving door and trim work to the very last, quick slaps of paint applied with a "There, damn you" attitude, more to create the immediate-term appearance of closure than to leave anything for the ages. The ages received them anyway. Refinishing a door can't qualify as casual labor. It's more the sort of labor of love engaged in with an object about as far from being lovable as imaginable. Old enamel paint seems impenetrable. Ancient gouges seem unredeemable. Fat grained molding defies the finest woodworker tools. The whole affair seems destined for despair.

I attack the door with my Silent Paint Remover®, a gadget that uses ultraviolet light to melt paint. The three or four old layers turn into something resembling lightly melted crayon. I scrape these off with a dull-bladed scraper. Finer details will want sharper-edged assistance, but all effort demands great care, for as hard-shelled and life-hardened as that door might seem, every one of them has the softest imaginable heart. My nephew, our remodeling contractor, tells me that hardwood doors tend to expand and shrink with the seasons, leading manufacturers to employ the softest conifer wood instead. Red pine. Cedar. A slipped scraper will deeply gouge a door panel. An emphatic attempt to remove that last intractable line of frozen eggshell enamel can utterly destroy the delicate molding line underneath.

Cleaning up an old five panel door seems like dating a delicate peach of a thing: feelings too easily wounded, can't recognize or appreciate a hint of even good intentions. She inexplicably holds some odd chips of old paint as if they were family heirlooms, refusing every attempt to separate them from her. The soft wood makes the base and panels eminently sand-able. The deeply wounded base heals under the gratifying whirr of a large-grit sander belt. The more lightly-wounded panels accept the oscillating sander as a sort of salvation, old wounds quietly surrendering into fine dust. I realize that I'm mending my own door, however lame my metaphor might seem to be to anyone else. My nephew recommends drenching each side with paint thinner, a tactic that cleans up otherwise intractable powdery dust. I wash her in deglosser, and pick away at a final few little chips and grudges before setting down a fine primer wash. The door looks a lot better dressed than she did stripped naked with glaring stripes of intractability prominently showing. I'll dress her with two thin new coats of eggshell before setting her back on her sturdy old hinges and fitting fine brass knobs and face plates.

She won't look new, but she will look well-cared for. The reclamation process starts with rebuke over the many prominent past sins evident in the presented material and an internal oath to commit none of those this time around. Of course, the unlikely object of my infatuation seems determined to goad me into committing every damned one of those sins, trying my patience and beneficence while threatening my self esteem. Should I become needier than the object of my affection, I could compromise her future as well as mine. I must at one point simply walk away from the chore or risk ruining both of our reputations. A calmer mind finally prevails after two panels submit to a last minute sanding through the prime coat to remove the final prominent blemishes. The Muse accuses me of overthinking, of being too picky, of not letting good enough simply be good enough. I snap back with unaccustomed passion while recognizing that I've about reached that point where perfection becomes a matter of acceptance of the way things are. No additional fussing will improve anything. I finally relent.

Rain will punctuate the week, leaving the open air paint station unoccupied when I should be laser-focused upon finishing the finishing touches. Another door, not yet acquired, waits for her remodel. That first door taught me much about doors, but perhaps more about myself. I find myself capable of great generosity. I can find a reason to love a previously reviled old door. I can reviver her but not on my terms. I need to learn about her inner workings. She needs to teach me how to revive something close to her original beauty. It's not really about me at all. I can up and walk through that door. She'll stay behind long after I've gone.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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