Thursday, July 12, 2007

Did Princess Di Ever Paint Her House?

Everyone, at least everyone that I talk with, is busy. Really busy. Driving about, picking up Junior or Princess, mowing the yard and forgetting to turn on the sprinklers, bailing the dog out of canine jail for squirrelicide, and trying to squeeze as much as possible into the daylight hours before collapsing in a heap. Okay, not everyone is doing those particular things but now you know what I’ve been doing recently. With summer truly here, along come the visitors – usually from out of state to this exotic remote area of Wyoming. For the first time in a few years, I won’t be traveling with my family to my point of origin in the Central Valley of California but will be hosting friends from both the Eastern and Western seaboards for their taste of the Wyoming wildlands. As an American, and a transplanted Californian in Wyoming, I feel I have a concept, somewhat, of the vastness of this chunk of North America that I call home. My friends? Not so much. I am not embellishing when I tell on some of my friends who thought they could drive from Los Angeles or Paso Robles or Half Moon Bay and that they would arrive in Wyoming by dinnertime of that same day. That misconception of where exactly to find Wyoming is not exclusive to the far Westerners. A friend in North Carolina wanted to road trip from New York to Wyoming for a brief vacation before retuning to graduate school. A pow wow with Google maps had her finding the cheapest tickets she could from Salt Lake City for her visit in August. By now, she’s been braced for the full day of driving she’ll have before she experiences the Big Horn Basin on her path to Yellowstone and the onslaught of new friend-frantic toddlers.

My husband and I used to joke that Powell might actually be the center of the universe; we’d calculated that for most of the destinations we wanted to go, we would have to drive or fly about 1300 miles. At a least a couple of sunsets to get where we needed or wanted to be. I was absolutely SHOCKED when I went to my old pal Google Earth to see that from my doorstep to my mother’s it was merely 800 miles. As the crow flies. But, I can’t fly like the proverbial crow so by car it would take about...1300 miles to drive the kids to Grandma’s house and her swimming pool and what used to be the center of my pre-Wyoming universe. Distance and travel is easily taken for granted now, with a couple hundred miles drive to the nearest zoo easily accomplished in one day. Of course, today's easy travel isn't at all what I expected it to be by this point in my life. When I was 8, I was absolutely sure that by the time I was nearing 40 I would be zipping around the country, and probably nearby countries, with the ease of the Jetson family. I am still profoundly disappointed this isn't so and I don't have my lightning-quick rocket car. I accept that I won't be zipping over to the Bahamas for dinner tonight., but I'm certainly not happy about it. And, I'll probably never have a dog named Astro.

All this talk of mileage and impending travelers brought me to thinking about Princess Diana. These thoughts have been easily encouraged by the the British government's inquiry still not being finalized, the fantastic movie The Queen about the time of her death and its impact on the British Royal Family, and a concert scheduled for July 1st by her now adult sons. My thought patterns don’t always take the most direct route like the aforementioned crow or rocket car. It’s been nearly 10 years since Diana Spencer’s short life ended after a very short trip from the Paris Ritz to the scene of that horrible car accident. She’d led a whirlwind life, had a not-too-good marriage, bucked tradition and found herself in a horrible scenario that brought all the previous triumphs and tragedies to a stop. She appeared, to a young wife like myself, as though she was reassembling herself into an independent woman with a future as a serious activist, putting her full notoriety to work for some worthwhile and world-altering charities. She wasn’t showing up on a reality television show in an effort to mortify her former in-laws but was getting world leaders to see the possibility of a world without landmines, AIDS patients having enough resources to live on and possibly survive their illness and homes for those without them. These were the thoughts I was having about her and her situation last week as I was lying on the porch over my front step, painting and repairing some damage just under the roofline. I’d gotten out all the tools I thought I would need; a gallon of paint and primer, the aluminum extension ladder and a foam hop scotch game of my daughter’s, since I couldn’t find the kneepads that I know are somewhere in the netherworld that is my garage. Up the ladder I went, having to lie on my back to paint a small, weatherworn area under the eaves. A neighbor drove by and was on the verge of razzing me, when I assured him, at the top of my lungs, that I would NOT be doing this on anyone else’s house. I was so close to being finished when I heard the first loud crack of thunder. An ominous and fast moving Wyoming cloudburst moved over the top of me. I did manage to get that little bit of work finished before I was toasted like a marshmallow, first by sun and then by lightning, but I had to put off the remainder of the house painting for another couple of days. The next time I was up the ladder I got to thinking about Princess Diana again. Did she ever paint her own house? Granted, her home at Kensington Palace was a bit more to maintain than my 760 square feet, but maybe she did get a wild hair now and again to crack open a gallon of exterior latex and trim out the palace fascia. In reality, she probably hired folks that hired folks that hired folks to do that particular job.

My head of muddled thoughts continued as I kept painting in preparation for the summer’s houseguests; shopping lists for the market, plans for activities to keep the toddler and almost-kindergartener busy during the lengthy summer, who is due to the vet for their shots and whether I can get the dog neutered...again. But, for some reason, my mind kept rolling back to Diana and all the things she probably never did for herself. Being the mother of the future king and the ex-wife of the other future king would certainly put a crimp in one’s heading to the hardware for a sanding block and a tub of the new magenta colored spackle. Now, that spackle is something that goes to the heart of any princess. It goes on MAGENTA! It’s almost like frosting the house. All the fun is over when it dries and turns white, but for a brief time I felt like Hansel and Gretel would show up and I could say “little mouse, little mouse... who is nibbling on my house” from up atop my extended ladder. (Thankfully I, being me and not a princess of world reknown, was able to do my little bit of home improvement without having a coterie of paparrazi on Vespas revving their engines. Maybe not having rocket cars available is a good thing.) Maybe all these thoughts of what the princess didn’t get to do cuts to the quick of the fascination with celebrity; knowing that Diana, Princess of Wales, probably never painted her own home made what I was doing seem oh-so-exotic. Who needs yachts and billionaire boyfriends and the drudgery of wealth when I have my little frosted house on the corner, under the fluffy crabapple tree? Nope, I sure don’t need the wealth or the unhappiness that seems to accompany it. I’ll stick with my backyard garden raspberry patch, the kids' chalk drawings on the freshly painted walls, and the beauty of the summertime Wyoming sunsets. I will do my best to be generous in sharing all of this fun I plan on having with our friends as we explore Yellowstone and the Basin in the coming weeks. I’ll keep the bug spray and the sunscreen at the ready and hope that the good works Diana did in the final days of her life brought her comfort and happiness. I hope the upcoming concert in London enriches her charities even more to continue their valuable work. I'm sure her worries wouldn’t have been lessened by opening a can of paint but I know mine has by a combination of Ponderosa Tan and Pre-Mix white for the trim.


bhd said...

This is a most beautiful, touching, funny, and evocative piece of writing! Truly wonderful. Thank you! I almost burned the chicken but it was well worth it to spend a few moments traveling with you in your world and in your mind.

Beanie said...

I agree; this is really very lovely.

It interesting to consider how those we view as priviledged often miss out on the simple priviledges of self-determination.

And who knew that spackle was magenta now? I might have to poke a hole in the wall just to witness this...

Thanks, J.