By Stephanie Cavanaugh
THE PRINCE has just marched out of the house, shovel in hand, to tackle the snow on the front porch, the steps, the sidewalk. More snow than we’ve seen in years in Washington DC. Not a sprinkling, this is the kind of heavy stuff that brings the tree limbs to the ground. A heart attack waiting to happen. *
In such moments I simultaneously plan his funeral and redecorate the house. Tell me you haven’t done something similar.
I’m tired of the wallpaper in the kitchen. It was wonderful once, bunches of purple grapes on a Tuscan sunset ground. Being a paper paper, not at all suited to a kitchen, I slapped on a coat of polyurethane, which made it more-or-less washable. That was 20 years ago and it’s had a good run, but replacing it is way down the list of Princely things-to-do, particularly as I’m not a paying customer for his meticulous services. Just a freeloader.
But without him? Ahhh.
Baby bought me a lovely roll of paper last year, huge palm leaves that will look smashing viewed from the dark green hallway and the gray-green dining room. Since I won’t have anyone to help me hang it, I shall hire someone—what a refreshing thought. No screaming match over the right way to handle this and that. Have you ever hung wallpaper with a spouse? Well then.
I also have a yen to remove the paper from the bathroom, full-blown hibiscus and fringy tulips in colors that shade from pale rose to crimson on a dark green ground. It’s another large pattern that fairly jumps off the wall. I think I’d like black-and-white stripes instead. With the original 1914 clawfoot tub and white tiles—some of which need repair, another thing down the list—it would have a French boudoir feel, I imagine. I’ll hire someone to do that too.
But maybe the reverse would do better, hanging the palms in the bath and the stripes in the kitchen. The stripes would look smashing with my black cabinets and black-and-white-checkerboard Mackenzie-Childs kettle.
I was also thinking of a mural on one dining room wall. When I was a kid, my dad hired an artist to paint a wall in our dining room. It was a blooming wisteria vine draping the entry to a magical garden. I would like a garden scene in mine, impressionistic trees in shades of mossy green surrounding the big gold-framed mirror that is the centerpiece of the room. As long as the scene is impressionistic (highly impressionistic), I can do it myself. Daubing away with a sea sponge works for leaves—it worked for Monet, though I think he used a brush. But maybe that would that be too much.
Perhaps you’ve noticed I like to bring my gardening into the house in the winter?
I’ve always wanted a mural on the foyer ceiling, too, like one in Rome’s Galleria Borghese, but smaller. Not one of the violent ones, though. Putti floating about on clouds, but no rearing horses and flashing swords. It should feel more welcoming, you know. This I could not do myself, but I have my brilliant friend Ed Huse in mind. . . .
My Prince just phoned—in truth he has called four times in the last half-hour with this and that. Now our neighbor has asked for help with a tree that fell on his car, a smallish tree but still. So, he’s back to get his Sawzall, which he uses to saw all manner of things. I don’t know why he feels the need to tell me this. There are going to be some sore bones tomorrow, should he live.
Dressing for the funeral won’t be difficult; there’s no shortage of black clothing in my closet. I do need waterproof mascara, though a little undereye smudging is so Colette. Should I make a lasagne for the after-gathering? He’d be pissed if I got oysters and he missed out.
I shall keep him in a fine receptacle on the mantel, or maybe on his side of the bed. He will be missed.
In other news, Grandbaby Wes, who has just turned 2, finally has a name for me. Everyone else on both sides of the family has a name, which he uses with great glee at his own cleverness. We tried grandma, but he didn’t take to it—thankfully, as neither do I.
He was sitting in his highchair the other day and I tried again:
Who am I, I asked.
He looked at me, pointed to his peanut-buttered chest, and said: Me.
Then he pointed at me and said, Maw.
Then he laughed, pointed at me again, and said, MeMaw!
That’s me. MeMaw.
My Prince, meanwhile, has been PawPaw for some months.
Hey, skin me that rabbit, Pawpaw, and I’ll boil that thar up for supper . . . if you put in your teeth.
Ayup. Just like that, we’re an episode of Hee Haw.
*Update. He lived. But they say it will snow again tonight . . .