Instead of milk and bread before a storm, I rush to Newtown Color Center for paint and spackle, hoping to fill my time and thwart the impending pandemic before it strikes hold and renders me useless.
They match a gallon to the original color, Serene Sky, to brighten a dull family room, and I’m off, to spackle dings left by nooks and crannies that come with rooms well lived, cover up the faded shadows left behind, and boost my spirits during the looming lockdown.
On tippy-toes, I take down the large frames, cobwebs drip from wire to nails, sticking to my arms and face as I remove them one by one, balancing them against the fireplace.
An antique advertisement from a defunct factory; a driftwood fish jig-sawed into folk art by folks unbeknownst to me, wishing it was something my own great-grandad had made, but suffice to think someone’s great-granddad made it.
An intricate, hand-drawn family tree going back to the Bigod days, when people were named Bigod, or people in my husband’s family were, meticulously updated to include “spouses” like knobby warts on a historic tree, included for ancestry’s sake, but nothing binds in-laws to the tree, limbs easily sacrificed in a storm.
A spring watercolor of the family camphouse, where descendants of Bigod gather for nearly 100 years, a gift to my husband, the great-great-great-not-so-great grandson of the patriarch. It’s a fairy tale cabin nestled in rolling hills with babbling brooks, an outhouse, smoke from the woodstove proof of life within. The framed painting a pretty reminder of the summer family reunion, where we gather, sing, eat, hug, laugh.
Not this year.
These framed pictures reflect his family, not mine; their shadows spiteful after being reluctantly removed, daring me to replace them.
It would only be a couple of weeks. A month. Maybe spring. Over by Easter. Memorial Day. Holidays update calendars but the death toll grows. Election day, says the president, sit tight, but top doc says 2021. Late 2021. Maybe.
If and only if we can follow directions, and science, but we cannot. We’ve proven that.
The wall does not get painted. Not that first week. Or month.
Not when adult kids come home, afraid of freezer trucks for bodies and endless sirens keep them up all night, furloughed, no work, no toilet paper. Come home, help me paint, I say. It’ll be okay. A couple weeks, that’s all. A month maybe. Hang on. Come home, baby. It’ll be okay.
But the shadows remain.
People stop dying. Eventually. At least here, but dying begins everywhere else. The south. The west. The middle. We tried to tell you, we cry. You should have listened.
I banish the pictures to the basement, unable to watch them watch me. The paint sits unopened, dust gathering. The wall empty, bare and naked, shadows bright, waiting for me to act.
I haven’t picked up the brush. Not once. Not yet.
There’s so much to do.
There’s nothing to do.
I do nothing.