Nothing is more irritating than choosing the wrong colors for a bedroom and having to live with it for a whole year.
When we purchased our home, life was a blur of nesting activities, DIY projects, and HGTV. It was a race to prepare for the inevitable visitors and guests set to arrive with the approaching holiday season. Amidst the seemingly endless checklist of things to get done, we may have made a few mistakes along the way.
And by “we”, I mean “me”.
Given that the master is not a “common area”, it was less a priority than getting the living room and the kitchen squared away so that our soon to arrive guests could be awestruck by our decorating prowess. All of this “prowess” newly acquired from watching hours upon hours of HGTV. Looking back now , I was hasty in putting all of my trust into a Sherwin-Williams color palette.
A Sherwin-Williams color palette is supposed to be an idiot proof tool for those not fortunate enough to have attended an interior design school or be burdened with any kind of personal taste whatsoever. What it actually is, is a palette of about twenty-five colors that all theoretically “go together”. A better way of describing it would be to say it’s a palette of twenty-five colors who don’t openly clash with each other. But some of them do get along better than others.
The first color I chose from the palette was to be for the accent wall behind the headboard of our bed. I chose a modern dark grey with hints of green. Sherwin-Williams designates it as “Cocoon”. On the palette it had a softer tone, but once it was on the wall it was much darker than anticipated. It still reminded me of a cocoon, but like, from the inside.
The next color I chose was to cover the rest of the room. The interior design experts choose to call this color “Anjou Pear”. Calling something “Anjou Pear” is a convoluted way of saying that something is bright yellow. It’s akin to describing my dog’s penis as “Fuji Apple”. Again, it was a much softer yellow on the palette.
So for a year we were enveloped in a bright yellow room with one very out of place grey wall. But it was ok because we love each other and it served as our own little retreat from the outside world. It was, and still is the place we come together to listen to each other without distraction. It’s where we have real conversations, unlike the conversations we have in the kitchen which seem to hold less weight. It’s where we plan our travels together on rainy afternoons, and where we sleep at night with our two small dogs, who wedge themselves against our bodies so that the four of us are always somehow interconnected.
Since that first year, we’ve changed everything about the master bedroom including the floor. Now it sports a cohesive “Moroccan Chic” look inspired by one of our trips to Northern Africa. It’s a vast improvement, but my wife and dogs are still the best thing about the room.
In hindsight I didn’t realize how much I hated the old color scheme until we changed it.
Black and White.
Over weekend I convinced my wife to watch a sci-fi movie with me. She hates sci-fi movies but she’ll watch them with me if the trailer doesn’t look (in her words) “totally stupid.” We saw Ex Machina and it was great. We both liked it.
I mention this only because one of the scenes in the movie brought up the philosophical thought experiment known as “Mary’s Room”. The experiment goes like this:
Mary is a brilliant scientist who is forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She understands everything there is to know about the neurophysiology of vision, which wavelengths of light combine to form which colors, and all other physical information there is to obtain about color. What will happen when Mary is released from her room or obtains a color television?
In other words, Mary is a scientist who knows everything there is to know about color, but has never experienced color. It’s up to you to decide if she gains anything new when she leaves the room.
This argument fascinates me. Not the philosophical question of what it is to know something, but on another level because it made me realize that being stuck in one room for your whole life isn’t all that different from being stuck in one neighborhood, or one town, or even one country. Our perception is limited by our environment.
Each new person, experience, journey, adds a new shade of color to our little black and white room. If the environment is rich enough, we might even add a few hints of bright orange and perhaps some ocean blue.
As a child in 3rd grade I moved to Spain with my parents and lived there for three years. At that young age I was already strongly conditioned to believe that Americans were superior in our way of life to the Spanish and every other culture for that matter. Eventually we returned to the states where I spent the next two years watching my parents struggle with a mortgage they couldn’t afford and jobs they hated. I came to realize that even though America is great, in some ways, other culture’s have a better approach to life. My school friends did not have this understanding at all. In their minds, I’d spent the last three years washing my clothes in a river and waiting for television to be invented. No matter how I tried to describe life in another country, they just didn’t get it. It was like I could see colors they couldn’t.
If we all begin life in the metaphorical Mary’s Room, then traveling and experiencing many people from different cultures are what allows us to really see the world as it is, rather than how we wish it to be. We begin to see more colors.
I was still in my teens when my daughter was born. She is awesome.
Her smile and her sharp blue eyes make my heart feel like it’s going to explode every time I look at her, because she is so awesome.
She loves to read and she’s not afraid to travel anywhere because she is awesome.
She is awesome because she has a really great mom with whom I share custody. Her mom is an incredibly beautiful woman who I’ve known over half my life now. Through all those years we’ve held one unwavering commitment.
We both had difficult childhoods. Both of us are intimately acquainted with the grey hue the world can take on when you are continuously let down by those in charge of caring for you. We resolved quite early on to make sure that this would not be the color of our child’s world.
But in this sharing of our one daughter (who is awesome), her mom has had to do almost all of the actual parenting. I would say at least ninety percent.
Our custody arrangement allows me to swoop in on long weekends and summer breaks. To take our daughter on adventures and then bring her back to mom in time for school and the mundane daily rituals that make up real life.
It’s always been a one-sided arrangement.
But she puts up with it because she only cares about one thing, our awesome daughter’s happiness.
Which is awesome.
My little girl is graduating from high school this year. What little parenting I contributed before is no longer needed. But I am still a parent, and like all parents I worry. I worry that she will make the wrong kinds of friends in college. I worry that she will date the wrong kind of guy. I worry that she will struggle to see people for who they, are and not have the sense to avoid the bad ones. I worry, does she see the world in color, or is it ominously gray?
I’ve been a parent for eighteen years now. A dad. Not a helicopter parent. Not a doting father. Certainly not a tiger mom. Just someone’s dad. The kind who is always ready to take you out for pizza and ice cream, but not so great if you need help with algebra homework. Just regular ole dad.
The thing is, being her dad happens to feel like the greatest gift in the universe. One that I don’t feel remotely worthy of. And it makes me want to give her all of the pizza and ice cream that the universe has to offer. On more than one occasion, I’ve driven the two hundred miles to where she lives, just for the privilege of taking her to eat pizza and ice cream.
Over the years, pizza and ice cream has given way to whatever positive life experiences I can offer her. In other words, whatever new experiences we can find that might give her a greater understanding of the world. In other words… travel.
One of what I consider to be my better contributions to her development as a person, and admittedly, one of the best times in my life, was spending a month traveling around Spain together. Seeing the country through her eyes brought me a new joy I’ve never before experienced. We walked the halls of Madrid’s Royal Palace hand in hand, and I could sense her renewed curiosity about other cultures which is so absent in the average American teen. We wandered the enormous but solemn halls of the Cathdral de Sevilla together. Most of the trip we just drove up the Costa del Sol, stopping in towns and beach villages along the way, making lifelong friends with locals. It was as a perfect month. I’ve discovered that nothing is so rewarding as exploring a foreign land together with your child. Plus, every trip gives them a new color to work with. A new level of understanding the world around them.
So this summer, my wife and I will take her with us to Italy. Even though the cost is way higher than what we budgeted for. Even though it will force us to take on some debt, a concept that we are adamantly against. Even though it means that we’ll have less money to spend on travel next year. Even though it means our other hobbies and projects will have to be put on hold. Because the experience we can give her outweighs all of those objections. This new adult, who will always be my child, is taking her first steps into the world of adulthood. This may be the last chance we get to show her something like this. A new palette of colors. And if we’ve done it right, she’ll enter into adulthood with enough to see the world as it is and as it should be.
She’ll see the world in full color. With enough education and experience she might one day gain the kind of vision that gives her the power to paint the world some new color.
A new shade of gold.