My husband surprised me by painting the room to the right of the stairs when I was out of town.
He held the handle of the soft, purple roller in his callused hands. He cracked open the paint can. Carefully poured the creamy liquid into clear plastic trays. Like a sly finger in a bowl of cookie dough, he dipped the roller into the tray.
He covered the walls in a flavorful yellow called Meringue. I picked the shade after perusing Pinterest and carefully comparing a rainbow of paint chips at the Home Depot.
“Better, right?” he told me when I came home and followed me upstairs. My eyes looked like saucers as I spun around in this sudden room of sunshine. “I wanted it to feel like yours.”
“I LOVE it,” I said. “I. Love. It. I can’t believe you did this.” I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and closed my eyes. He smelled like turpentine and soap. “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
In another life in another decade, the first homeowner wallpapered this room. The second pair of homeowners concealed the wallpaper with brown paint.
Not dark brown. Not light brown.
The color of cheap coffee, or milk chocolate, or fake leather.
The color of my mom’s eyes when she’s unimpressed with a movie, or exhausted from a 12-hour night shift at the hospital.
The brown paint had puckered over the layer of patterned paper. The wallpaper wasn’t visible, but it refused to go unnoticed. A silent “screw you” to the people who didn’t think she was good enough.
When we first toured the house, the brown bubbled paint in the small room was a bit….off-putting.
Okay. Ugly. It was ugly.
“We’ll have to paint in here, huh?” I asked my husband. I had never painted a room before. The thought of this new task made me nervous the way new tasks always did.
He nodded. “Yeah, we can do that, no problem.”
I glanced around the narrow room. It was almost too small for a bedroom. Too big for a closet. One large window stared at the plowed corn fields and modest ranch houses lining the street.
A friend from church—a former professional painter named John—came over to check out our house once the ink was dry on the closing papers.
“We definitely have to change the color in here,” I admitted as I stepped into the small brown room, John and Adam following suit. John’s lined face turned toward the white popcorn ceiling. His eyes moved from wall to wall.
“Well, if you’re gonna be in here a lot, then you better paint it something that makes you happy,” he offered in his gravel voice. John drops wisdom the way people drop pennies.
His advice is why I picked out meringue yellow to cover up the dull brown. I wanted sunshine and bright and open.
I wanted happy.
And happy is how I felt when Adam showed me the freshly-painted walls. From that day on, we’ve slowly put the room together, piece by piece:
White book shelves lined with colorful book spines.
A wooden sparrow figurine.
A white office chair threaded with thin, silver threads—a Christmas gift from my parents.
A cream knit rug woven with a magenta diamond pattern. I got it on clearance at TJ Maxx.
Each item further transformed the room from a forgotten, brown space….to my dream writing office.
The night we moved into the new house, Adam and I laid on the wooden floor in the living room and closed our eyes. For the first time, it sunk in that we were officially homeowners. The rooms held strangers’ memories and smelled like other people, but soon, the signs would fade.
The scents of my cinnamon french toast and Adam’s ocean-scented shampoo and thick Vanilla Bean candles from Bath & Body Works would waft through the hallway and up the stairs.
Our first Christmas tree, tall and chubby and pokey, would glimmer in the front window.
Our dancing steps would cover the hardwood floors in the kitchen.
Our new chocolate lab puppy would make messes and tippy-tap with her paws and run in the back yard.
Soon, it wouldn’t be some other people’s former house. It would be our current home.
We’d leave our mark here.
On March 3, we closed on our house…which means it’s soon our one-year “homeowner-iversary.” It’s been an adventure. It’s been a learning experience.
Today, I walk into my office. I sit on the chair behind the desk and stare at the yellow walls. I breathe in the air and smile. Because it smells like home.