Hammer time!

  • Thursday, October 31, 2013

Last week I wanted to rehang a picture, because it was falling off the wall. The den walls are wood-grain paneling painted white. Have you ever tried to drive a nail into faux wood paneling? It’s like trying to staple peanut butter to cardboard.

Anyway, I’m fond of this picture – it’s an oil painting of poppies – but over the years it’s sagged downward even though the nail is attached to a sturdy toggle hook. (Again, I blame the paneling.)

Widdle Baby and I were chatting the other night—which in our house means he was fiddling on his iPad while watching TV in the den and I was reading a stack of newspapers in the living room, and we were bellowing back and forth through the shared wall. (What can I say? Communication is key to a successful marriage.)

“Have you seen the hammer?” I yodeled.

“It’s wherever you left it,” he replied, which was of course true. Then the iPad thumped on the carpet as he launched himself off the couch like a rocket.

“WHY DO YOU NEED THE HAMMER??” he bawled, rounding the corner into the living room.

My husband, you see, has a phobia. About holes in the wall. Any hole, in any wall.

I could run into the house with my hair on fire, clutching a writhing rattlesnake in one hand and a hammer in the other, and he’d howl, “Where are you going with that hammer?!?!”

If Widdle had his way, we’d be living in a house with blank white walls. When he sees me pawing through my stash of nails (and hiding the hammer behind my back), he starts squirming. “What now?” he asks, pitifully. “Where? WHY?!?”

To me, art makes a home. I hang paintings, photos, plates and needlepoint. I like the layered look, and besides, it’s not like I’m tacking up neon Budweiser or “Hot Now” signs.

Widdle is a minimalist, by which I mean he sees no reason to hang anything anywhere, at any time, for any purpose. So we compromise: I hang when he’s not around. Thus far, it’s working pretty well: He hyperventilates less when he comes home and it’s a done deal.

And I’m getting better, I really am. Here’s a (long-winded) example:

In the hallway (it’s not a hall at all; it’s a strange, square room in the back that opens to three bedrooms and a bath), I made a blank wall into gallery, which I didn’t know I was doing. I just hung a bunch of photos and needlepoint. Turns out I was on trend, which will probably never happen again.

Widdle winced with every nail I drove. And I felt a stab of conscience. When we recently had the whole interior repainted, I didn’t rehang the gallery. I stored or shelved all the elements in the bedroom bookcases.

I have to assume he appreciated my restraint, since he never actually said anything… Until last week, when I casually mentioned the poppy painting needed rehanging.

You’d have thought I demanded his liver.

“Another hole is not necessary,” he insisted.

“Honey, the painting is three feet off the floor,” I pointed out. Then I bided my time.

Last month we had every window in the house replaced. (We’re always doing some huge, come-to-Jesus home improvement that tests our marriage.)

I waited until the last day the workmen were there. Then I approached one and said, “Would you grab your hammer and follow me?” In six seconds, that painting was rehung. Widdle never noticed.

But he knows it now.

Julie R. Smith, who thinks life is too short to argue over something she’s going to do anyway, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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