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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matters: A matter of perspective

Monday, December 11, 2006

I recently read the book, "The Painted House" by John Grisham which was recommended to me by my daughter.  Knowing  I had never gotten into Grisham's legal thrillers, she assured me that  the author had taken an entirely different direction with this book.  "The Painted House," an autobiographical  work, is about his growing up in rural Arkansas, and I really did enjoy it. Of course, the fact that  his was a family of ardent St. Louis Cardinal fans only added to its attraction. 

The Grishams, we soon learn, lived in a house with wood siding which had never been painted.  I could certainly identify  with that  because we lived in an unpainted house when I was small.  I never quite understood why the original builders had left it that  way.  I suppose for the same reasons that neither the Grishams nor my folks had done any painting  -- simply because they couldn't afford it.

            The front of our small house was covered with woodbine, a vine which was common then, but which I've not seen for years.  The leaves, lush green all summer, turned to lovely reds and russets in the fall.  Near the porch, Mother had placed a large trellis.  She also had two trellises at the front gate.  All were covered with those small fragrant old-fashioned climbing roses, the shade of rose which, in my eyes, is still the color a rose should be!

            In spite of all this, it remained a source of shame to my mother to live in a house without paint.  She was particularly conscious of it when her sisters came to visit.  I think both had married well, for neither family ever seemed to be short of funds.  In fact, both couples had built new houses early in their marriages, so I guess Mom's feelings were understandable.

            But now, let's turn to the matter of perspective. Many years later, some time after my own marriage, a couple who had been my parents' closest friends in those early years, came to visit us.  She had been raised in the Alta area, and he in Fort Dodge.  They had met and married while at Morningside College, and had gone to farming on his father's land near us in Calhoun County.  In time, she  inherited her family land so they had moved to nearby Buena Vista county, which led to their coming to see us now and then..  They were charming people whose visits we thoroughly enjoyed.

            During one of those times, quite out of the blue, she remarked, "You know I always loved your house.  Vine covered, with your mom's  trellises full  of  those gorgeous climbing roses--it was a veritable Fairy Tale Cottage!"

 What an impact that remark made on me !  I would never have looked at it  that way without her insight, and that certainly started me thinking.   Since then, I have often considered the difference it might have made in  Mother's attitude had she been able to see our unpainted house as her friend had seen it. 

 My parents never realized that dream, and the Grisham's painting came about in an unusual way. It might not have made any difference to the their family, but it's provocative to think of how that small shift in attitude might have made a  tremendous difference in mine.

Yes, I guess it's appropriate to say that it is truly a "Matter of Perspective!"