The colors of our dreams remain just that

In the overall color scheme of things, the Shannons have no eye for painting houses. You could say we have no palate for palette. And so for years we have steadfastly ignored the fact that our house is way overdue for a paint job.

Our first home looked exactly like a square green Monopoly game house - the same color, and not much bigger. It was an old millhouse, one of dozens in this area built for the lumber-mill workers to live in.

I, in my innocence, eagerly anticipated the transformation by color of our little cottage. During my daily commute, I passed a marvelously hued house. It was the shade of warm, pale sand trimmed with Pacific blue-gray, a kind of visual seaside poetry invoking the very essence of the nearby beach and waves.

I hungered for those colors on my own home, nearly salivating as I slowed my car to gawk in front of the house twice a day.

And so, when it was time to paint our little place, nothing would do but that we should paint it the same shore and ocean colors.

"Oh, definitely," I said, pointing to the one-inch-square paint samples. "This one and this one. Without a doubt."

"You're sure?" My husband asked.

"Positive. I see that house twice a day. These are the colors!"

It was all set. We were fortunate to know a talented and reasonably priced house painter. I could hardly wait to get home from work that evening, speeding past the house I usually lingered to yearn over.

I didn't have to get too near our place to see the transformation. No, it glowed like a plastic flamingo from a block away. It was a color that gave a whole new meaning, and a bad reputation, to the word "pink." Decades ago, Crayola called this color "flesh," although I've yet to see anyone with skin that color.

The trim turned out to be an unfortunate brilliant blue, giving the overall impression that our home was decked out for a baby shower. I still blush hotly when I remember that house. (Come to think of it, maybe Crayola was right.) It blares in my memory, pink-pink-pink and electric blue, like a gaudy Christmas-tree ornament, next to its more sedate (and frequently apologized-to) neighbors.

We knew better than to trust my memory on the next home we painted.

Craig and I agreed on a color scheme worn by a shingled two-story Craftsman in a nearby town. The place was about the same size and style as our new house. The admired color scheme was a soft, sooty gray with a mellow aqua trim. Older and wiser, we brought paint samples and actually held them up to the house.

"Yes," we agreed. "Colonial gray. That's it."

On painting day, we were called out of town unexpectedly. We tumbled into bed at midnight, exhausted after the long drive home.

Very early the next morning, my husband woke me with some ghastly words. "It's blue," he said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked froggily.

"The house. I looked out the window at the garage, and it's blue."

"It can t be, I said. It's too early to tell. The sun isn't completely up. Don't worry about it."

"OK, I guess you're right."

We went back to sleep.

Later, his voice woke me once more. "It's blue."

I yanked on my sweats and went out to stare at our big sky-blue house.

"Oh, no!" was all I could say ... about a million times.

The painter came by to work on the trim.

"We sure were surprised when we saw the house this morning," Craig said.

"You mean the blue?"

"Don't call it blue," I begged. "At least call it gray-blue."

He squinted at the house. "Blue-gray, maybe. But I think I'm lying when I say it."

And, it almost goes without saying: That mellow aqua for the trim? Turned out to be the most eye-stabbing Day-Glo turquoise I've ever seen.

We looked at the paint-store receipt. At the bill from the painter. At our checkbook balance. And then we vowed to learn to love the new color scheme.


And now when we talk about painting this third house of ours, a dignified old Cape Cod, my husband and I gulp simultaneously. We could paint one whole wall and the trim in the back, I suggested. And leave it a while, like a year, and see if we can live with it.

But my husband topped me. "Let's reshingle and just coat the shingles with clear finish. They'll just be wood-colored."

So that's what we'll do.

How can we go wrong? Right?

Uh ... right....

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