Mother Hen Paints the Fence

Welcome to my fence post.

Get it? This is a post about a fence…a fencepost…oh, forget it. I am SO tired of explaining my jokes to you all.

When I told my cousin Jon that we were in the process of building a fence around our one-year-old white farmhouse, he said, “Let me guess…white?” I nodded an affirmation. “Picket?” he asked. I nodded again.

Which led me to believe that I might be a bit predictable. If it’s whimsical, if it’s vintage, if it’s fanciful, and if it’s white…it’s me.

Our fence has been a work in progress. First of all, once the incredibly fun home-building budget was depleted, the rapidity with which we improved upon our new home slowed down. Considerably. For awhile there, we were buying washing machines here, curtains there, a new delivery or a new box coming in the mail every day. Now, however, we save up for five months and buy a lampshade. We wait for our tax return and order a fireplace screen. We pool all of our Christmas and Birthday money and start looking for gate hardware…the process is looooong, but not near as long as my list of wants and needs…

And so just because we were able to buy the fence panels for our white picket fence so many months ago did not necessarily mean that we were now the proud owners of a fence; it simply meant that we were now the proud owners of that big pile of unpainted fence panels stacked up in the driveway.

Secondly, to save some of that precious cash for items that are really useful and needed, like crocheted pillow shams and chicken-wire magazine racks, we continued to trim down our once-lofty fence budget, taking it from all-encompassing to front yard only, then from vinyl to wood, from installed to DIY, and from oil-based paint to acrylic.

Which somehow landed me in our front yard on an unseasonably warm February Saturday at approximately 12:45 p.m., six months pregnant, covered in paint, fifteen sandburs stuck in my bottom. But let me start at the very beginning…

In the beautiful final days of fall, three amazing and hard-working men were in my front yard making painstaking measurements, post-hole digging in the impossibly hard dirt, pounding down fence posts with hammers and then attaching that stack of unpainted fence panels that had made their short-term home in our driveway. One was my husband, another was his college roommate and eternal friend Zac and the next was Zac’s very tall and very kind younger brother, Michael. Their task was laborious, to say the least, and the only thing they got out of it was the satisfaction of seeing their work completed. Congratulations, guys! Yoouuuuu…did it!

As ladies, we can either feel entitled to having work like this done for us, or we can look periodically out the window, chewing our nails while feeling terribly guilty that, really, for our sake alone, the menfolk are in the great outdoors conducting back-breaking work. Terribly guilty, and secretly thrilled that the only thing we have to contribute to the task is an occasional “suggestion” of how the fence should be built and a glass or two of sweet tea. Made in the shade.

A few weeks later, I was periodically looking out that window again to guiltily watch the progress of three amazing and hard-working people, this time my husband, his eternal friend Zac, and Zac’s selfless wife, Chrissy. Their hammers had been replaced with paintbrushes and they were setting out to begin the surprisingly long process of white-washing that fence. I didn’t help for three reasons: 1. I’m pregnant…the fumes, you know. 2. Someone had to watch Miss Sunday. 3. I was down to about six outfits and didn’t care to get paint on one of them. And so I watched, delivering drinks and my most heartfelt apologies and regrets on the hour. Over the next two days, they finished painting the first half of the fence, the road-facing side…

And then winter came.

The freezing temperatures that carried us through November, December, January and the first part of February would have not only frozen the paint, but the painters. And so, we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentines Day with a half-painted fence that, to me, stuck out like a very sore thumb to anyone who passed by our house. You know how I always want to offer those pathetic parental explanations to perfect strangers when Gideon embarrasses me in public? Well I SO badly wanted to put a sign up in our yard that said “We’re not slackers, I promise! The fence WILL be finished when the temperatures rise above 50 degrees.” But I didn’t. It would have taken me going outside in the freezing cold to put a sign up…

We had that gorgeous weekend at the beginning of the month, perfect painting weather, that just happened to be the weekend we were out of town. And then the Blizzard of the Century struck Oklahoma. And then…

Well, then I found myself in our front yard on an unseasonably warm February Saturday at approximately 12:45 p.m., six months pregnant, covered in paint, fifteen sandburs stuck in my bottom.

You see, months of bearing the shame of a half-painted fence later, I didn’t care about the fumes – there were none! I was outside! (which is what I’m sure those three amazing people wanted to tell me the day they were painting while I watched from the window). I didn’t have to watch Rebekah – she is 4 months older now than she was when the painting began and can pretty much fend for herself (which means that I can trust her to play in the dirt pile without eating handfuls of it). And as far as the maternity clothes go, even though I was down to about two outfits now, I just turned them inside out and said “Phahooey! I look like a small elephant anyway.” And small elephants, as far as I know, are allowed to have paint splotches on their clothes AND carry powdered donuts in their robe pockets.

Unfortunately, small elephants also have to sit on their bottoms to paint, scooting along to cut down on the bending and the getting up and the getting down…and sometimes the poor things scoot right into a giant patch of sandburs! Ouch is right, but the good news is that small elephants can hop up much faster than they realized, and usually have a kind husband on hand to remove the offending stickers and throw them in the trash. But all that is beside the point. This is not a post about small elephants or sandburs, but about a Mother Hen who learned some more mighty big lessons, all because of a white picket fence…

Lessons that she will be sure to share with you tomorrow.

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