I realized the other day that the Ambition Fairy hasn’t visited me in about 10 years.
Before then, whenever my husband had to go out of state for job training, usually for two weeks at a time, the Ambition Fairy suddenly would appear and cast a spell on me that would make me want to do things like reupholster furniture or shingle the roof. I think my inspiration actually stemmed from boredom while my husband was away, but at least I always managed to get a lot accomplished during those two weeks.
I can remember the last time the Ambition Fairy visited me. My husband had just announced he would be going out of town for four days, when she swooped down from out of nowhere and told me to paint the front porch - a project my husband had been promising to do every weekend since the porch had been built four years before.
After he left, however, my initial burst of ambition seemed to fade. For one thing, I’d never painted a porch before, so I had no idea how to go about it. As a result, I procrastinated and waited until the day before my husband was due to return before I finally went to the hardware store to buy the paint.
“I need some paint for my porch,” I told the clerk.
“What kind do you need?” he asked.
“Brown,” I answered.
He rolled his eyes. “Stain? Gloss? Semi-gloss? Latex?”
I had absolutely no clue. “Surprise me,” I answered.
He began to fire “porch” questions at me. How old was it? How long had the wood been aging? Had it been painted before?
“Sorry to say, you’ve waited too long to paint it,” he finally concluded. “I guarantee there’s a colony of mold spores bigger than the state of Texas living in that wood right now. You’ll have to kill it by mixing bleach, water and Spic ‘n Span in a bucket and saturating the porch with it, then letting it thoroughly dry for a few days before painting it.”
I nodded, but all the while I was thinking, “I have to get the porch done by tomorrow night! I’ll just paint over all of the mold. It will never show anyway.”
“So, what shade of brown do you want?” the clerk continued, whipping out a color chart. The last time I’d seen that many shades of brown in one place, I was touring a chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania. With that in mind, I automatically pointed to a chocolate-brown color on the chart.
“Are you sure?” the clerk asked. “You can bring in a sample of the color you need and our computers will color match the paint to it.”
I wasn’t about to tear off one of the brown shutters on my house to get a perfect color match. “No, this brown right here is just fine,” I said.
So I left there with two gallons of brown paint, a stirring stick, and two brushes. I was ready. I figured I’d get up bright and early the next morning and start painting.
The weather report that night, however, made me change my mind. Rain was predicted, and even a novice painter like I was knew it probably wasn’t a great idea to paint anything outdoors during a rainstorm. Discouraged, I didn’t even set my alarm clock that night.
I ended up sleeping until nearly noon. When I woke up, bright sunlight was streaming in through the bedroom window. And to my dismay, there was no sign that any rain had fallen, so I had wasted a perfectly good morning. Muttering that the weatherman should be dropped naked from a helicopter into a field of poison ivy, I threw on some raggedy old clothes and headed outside to paint.
The porch was like a giant sponge. The minute I brushed some paint onto it, it soaked it up so fast, I could almost hear it slurping.
I didn’t enjoy a single thing about painting that porch. For one thing, as I was bent over painting, I was acutely aware that my butt was facing the street the entire time – not exactly the side of myself I wanted to present to the world. Then there was the mess. Ten minutes into painting with the chocolate-brown paint, and I looked like a giant fudge pop.
“Did your husband tell you to paint the porch while he was away?” a voice behind me suddenly teased. It was one of my neighbors.
“No, I’m doing this to surprise him,” I answered
“Oh, he’ll be surprised all right,” the neighbor said, chuckling as he eyed the puddle of dripping paint forming on the ground.
After he left, another neighbor came over. “You missed a spot,” she said, pointing to an area that only a contortionist could reach.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get to it,” I told her.
“Oh, and there’s another spot over there,” she added.
I stopped painting and gave her my best, “Say one more word and die!” look.
She smiled sheepishly and left.
After I had been painting for about three hours, I was forced to do something I vowed I never would do unless it was a matter of life and death…I crawled underneath the porch. I wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t been a half-hidden support post I couldn’t reach from the front.
The reason for my under-the-porch phobia was due to the fact that the week before, I had spotted this really hideous-looking spider peeking out from underneath one of the porch steps. It was huge and black with a weird bright-yellow pattern on its back. It looked like an alien spider from outer space. I’d never seen one like it before…and I never wanted to see one again.
As I lay curled in a fetal position under the porch and feverishly painted, I kept thinking about all of the spiders that might be lurking right above my head and plotting to lay a million eggs in my hair. Just the thought of it made me attempt to beat the world’s record for speed painting. What worried me was that in my haste, I might be painting right over a spider or two, and they then would be camouflaged and blend right in with the porch…so I wouldn’t be able to see them before they savagely pounced on me.
Just as I was applying the finishing touches on the porch, my husband pulled into the driveway - three hours early.
“You’re early!” I whined as he got out of the car. I’m sure it was a far cry from the enthusiastic welcome-home greeting he’d anticipated.
“What on earth are you doing?” he asked, laughing. “You look like you were in a head-on collision with a paint truck!”
“Painting the porch!” I said, slopping more paint onto the railing. At that point, yet another neighbor walked over.
“Look at the way you’re holding the paintbrush!” he said, laughing and shaking his head. “You’re holding it sideways and at the base of the handle! I’ve never seen anyone paint sideways like that before!”
“Yeah!” my husband added. “You really look funny!”
“And that shade of brown is much lighter than your shutters,” the neighbor just had to point out.
I think I remember now why the Ambition Fairy hasn’t paid me a visit in so long.
I locked her in a trunk out in the storage shed…and I just can’t seem to remember where I put the key.
# # #
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