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Harry the Painter
Now here is one of the senior members of our family—also the tallest. When he speaks with a big deep voice rumbling all the way up from the bottom of his shoes, EVERYONE listens!
Even sitting down, Harry the Painter towers over the other Knitty Gritty Kids. And although his tall hat and the glue pot on top add to his height, he truly is a most impressive fellow. Any moment the Kids get too loud or excited, Harry the Painter can make them shush and settle down to listen to his voice of wisdom and experience. Life has taught them anyone with such a kind smile wants only the best for them.
This great lumbering workman captured my heart a long time ago, when I found him sitting in an antique cot, surrounded by other toy children of all varieties—dolls and bears and other soft creatures. Big as he is, and gruff as he tries to be, he’s just a kid at heart and I’ll always be his Mum. Can’t help a chuckle as he lines up, just as eagerly as the other Knitty Gritty Kids, for his story to be told—again and again.
“Tell the one about my name, Mum,” and he pushes his ladder to one side so he can snuggle closer. What a marshmallow heart beats beneath those paint spattered overalls. I can’t help a chuckle… and another hug.
“OK,” I say and I start with ‘Once upon a time’… (All the kids love those words SO much, so I say them again) “Once upon a time, when the idea of making a house painter was first planned, someone decided his name should be Sidney Slapstick. Cute, because the name means funny stuff. And he IS comical with those paint splatters and his dilly hat!
But slapstick is a word sounding too close to slapdash – meaning NOT a splendid job—not mattering if it’s not OK. I shake my head and the Kids all appear worried at the frown I feel happening between my eyebrows.
“You see, Kids, the only painter I knew REALLY well was your Dad’s Dad, and there was nothing he ever did in a ‘slapdash’ way… “ I shake my head. “THAT Harry did a seriously professional job of every room he painted or wallpapered. He was SO proud of his workmanship – and as he always said – if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I can’t help myself adding -“and Kids? That’s true of ANYTHING at all you do in Life. Just remember Harry and his famous words. OK?” (The Knitty Gritty Kids all nod their heads, small faces serious, as though they’re thinking about times they might have decided something was ‘good enough’ or ‘that’ll do’, when it wasn’t. Half-baked stuff like that.)
I drop a little kiss on Harry’s rosy cheek (which makes it get even rosier) and I say, “As soon as I saw this handsome fellow I knew we had to adopt him and rename him Harry – in honour of that first wonderful man we’d known and loved SO much.” (Now Harry blushes brightly– he’s SO proud to share the name of that older and much more experienced master tradesman.) The Knitty Gritty kids chuckle and chortle amongst themselves. It’s not often they see Big Harry all embarrassed and gooey – and they’re loving it!
To hide his sudden shyness, Harry looks all about himself to find something to distract everyone, and as soon as his eyes alight on that something, he gruffly changes the subject. “Do you still like what I did to your bedroom door? And the lounge door, too?” he asks. As if he doesn’t know – when I’ve admired it from every which way again and again, and thanked him many, many times.
Clever Harry—he cleaned and painted the old chipped and damaged doors in the brightest white paint and then he wallpapered inside the four fancy insets in the door. It’s a white and softest pink and grey old-fashioned pattern… exactly what I love best. See it in the picture? I doubt he could have achieved so much without his trusty ladder. He IS tall – but that old door is MUCH taller than all of us.
And another wonderful idea was in my Kitchen and family dining area. He painted down to the brick fireplace in a lovely warm and cosy colour (just like fresh apricots) and then the bottom section in a soft sagey-kind-of green and searched until he found a wallpaper strip with roses and leaves in exactly both those colours – to make a line right around the room. It’s SO charming. He always knows what will win my heart.
It’s fantastic how nothing defeats Harry. No job is too big for him. (Probably his own size has much to do with his forever positive outlook). He smiles and gets on with the task at hand. He takes tea breaks and a longer lunch break, but otherwise he works the bristles of his brush at a cracking pace, covering enormous areas in a single stroke.
I’m not sure where he planned to use the red paint in his paint pot (and dripping off his brush — “Watch out, Harry…”) Phew! I’m glad he only spilt red splodges on himself, and not on my carpet! Like his namesake, he is a superior type decorator who puts down drop-sheets to protect any area he works in.
“Sometimes you wear those funny glasses for protection for your eyes, don’t you Harry?” He nods his head so fast I fear his gluepot will fall off – or at the very least, tip over. But it never does. Harry has a marvellous sense of balance.
“I wear those glasses when I paint ceilings, so the paint won’t drip into my eyes,” he says, “…Iearned that from this Italian chap called Michelangelo who painted some big ceilings in his lifetime.” Have to chuckle. Michelangelo, a role model for Harry the Painter? Now there’s a thought! Although I find him an exceptional tradesman, I wonder if even big Harry the Painter and his tall ladder could hope to reach the soaring ceilings his hero painted?
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Uh-oh, back here in his bed, Jonjon squirms around and grabs my chin to make me look directly at him. “But Sarah, who’s Michael Angel? Is he up in Heaven or something? I don’t know HIM… do I?” There’s that frown again.
Can’t help myself. Have to smooth that crunkled forehead. He’s such a handsome little man. And doing that small stroking gives me a minute to get my face straight and stop the laughter threatening to bubble out and over my smile.
“No, you don’t know him Jonjon. And it’s not Michael Angel! It’s Michelangelo, and he was one of the most famous painters in the whole wide world. Mum had a book with some pictures of him and especially the most amazing ceiling he painted in a church in Italy—”
“And he painted the same as Harry?”
“No. He was an artist painter Jonjon. That’s SO different from a house painter like Harry. Michelangelo painted great artworks on ceilings, as well as portraits and things.” And I could see again those wonderful close-up pics Mum showed me… and I told Jonjon how he had to lay flat on his back on planks atop the tallest ladders to do it. “It must have been terrible, Jonjon. Paint spots would fall on his face and he had to wear special glasses to protect his eyes. And his beard got all stuck together – and colourful? Wow! He’d have to stop often because all the blood would drain from his arm and he’d get pins and needles from holding it up for so long.”
I let go of the book for a moment to give him a quick hug and try for a stern face (I don’t manage too well, but at least I can make a gruffy voice like Ted – had plenty of practice at that one). “But if you don’t be quiet now, there won’t be time for me to read you one last little story tonight.” I pause to try to build some suspense. “… and this one’s a LOVE story! How about that?”
“I’ll be quiet Sarah! I will… promise… cross my heart and hope to die. Promise. Please Sarah!”
And I think to myself – here we go again.
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