Painting the Undercoat

My father loves to paint. Not like, paintings. He loves to paint walls and ceilings and houses.


About a decade ago, my parents bought a house that was in utter disrepair. The previous owners had smoked (all kinds of things, I’m sure) in the house and the walls were covered in oily tar.

I was home from college and sad to be in a house that wasn’t the house I grew up in. I was angry to not walk in the giant oak doors of my childhood anymore.


My father’s solution to this: make the kid paint.

So I did, with my sisters and my parents. We coated the house in Kilz. I grew up painting with my dad. I’d do the trim and he’d do the rest until I was old enough to manage a roller.

I was in a small hallway of the house, trying to navigate the giant pole and no space to move it around in. I gave up and stopped painting in smooth strokes from top to bottom. Of course, my father noticed.


I told him that it was only the undercoat; it didn’t have to be perfect.

He said, “Rose. In painting and in life, if you do the undercoat right, everything will be easier,” and he walked away.

I repainted the undercoat correctly and have spent the last ten years thinking about that.

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