A couple of weekends ago, when we were experiencing our first tropical storm (here in the tropically tropical area of southern Pennsylvania), we decided that it was an ideal time to hang the pictures and wall-hangings that had been sitting dormant in their cardboard boxes.
Neither one of us really wanted to begin such an endeavor, but we are so responsible and mature that we often overlook our wants in favor of the greater good. Actually, we are only occasionally responsible and mature. I guess the stars were aligned that day. Or, more likely, the raindrops.
I started opening boxes and pulling out the dusty frames, and as I did a thought began to form in the back of my mind. A memory, really. The memory was vague, but had to do with me doing a poor job of hanging some of these same pictures on other walls. A memory of me foregoing the use of a ruler or tape measurer in favor of my “eye-ball-it” method.
Of course, I shoved the memory aside. I’m thirty-one now, I reminded myself. I’m more patient and thorough than I used to be. I can do this job the right way, with pencils and tape measurers and everything.
A few minutes later Ryan got a phone call from Val, which meant that he would be rendered useless to the project until he hung up. Ryan and his siblings can talk on the phone for hours, and one of my secret pleasures is to listen to his one-sided conversations. I can rarely do it without a smile stealing across my face.
You know, unless we have FIVE BILLION PICTURES TO HANG.
I decided not to wait for him. I grabbed a handful of pictures and headed to our bedroom, pencil and tape measurer in hand.
I carefully measured the space for the first two pictures, jotted down the measurements, divided the space by the circumference of the picture frames and calculated the square root just for fun. Finally, a half-hour later, I nailed the hanger-thingie into the wall and then the other hanger-thingie in it’s exact, pre-marked spot. I hung the pictures and walked across the room to admire my careful work.
The pictures were perfectly spaced. And about six inches too high on the wall.
I walked to another point in the room to see if I could get them to pass, and from that angle they only looked to be about five-and-a-half inches too high.
Devastated, I looked over my calculations on the scratch paper. The measurements were right! It’s my eyes that were wrong! I moved on to the next set of pictures, hoping that the others would start sliding down the wall into a better spot.
I started the math on the new set of pictures, a trio of small paintings that hang above our bed in pyramid fashion (two on the bottom, one on top). I calculated the space between the bed posts and accounted for the two-inch gap I wanted between the bottom pictures. I checked my math. I re-checked my math. And right before I made a pencil mark on the wall, I checked my math again. As I nailed the two hanger-thingies into the wall, I heard Ryan ending his conversation and heading into our room.
He stopped in the doorway. He looked at the first set of pictures I hung.
“Those are too high,” he said.
Dammit! He noticed!
“I know,” I said. “I don’t know what happened. I did the math.”
“This happens every time,” he said. “Our old walls were scarred with your miscalculations.”
I think I grumbled something unkind and tried to bring up the fact that he never cleans the toilets. I’m not sure why, but I always feel like that point gives me the upper hand in our discussions.
Then, he noticed that I had just hung the hanger-thingies for the pictures above the bed.
“Did you do the math on those, too?” he asked.
“I triple-checked it,” I said in a very defensive and smug manner as I carefully hung the bottom two paintings on their hooks.
“That’s what I was afraid of,” he said.
Somewhere between my scratch paper and the wall, the two-inch gap between the paintings grew about seventeen inches. I actually gasped at the sight.
Again, what the?
In the following moments, as the torrential rain poured down on the roof, we came to an agreement that in my country store of life’s talents, Hanging Pictures Correctly was not in stock, not even on backorder.
And you know something? I’m OK with it, I really am. I have different talents. And if I hadn’t been banned from striking another nail into the wall forever and ever, I might never have found out how good I am at finding the pencil and tape measurer every time Ryan haphazardly set them down. Seriously, it’s like I have a radar or something.
By the time the sun set the next day, the skies were clear, the pictures were hung and we still wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But I’d like to mention one more time that he never cleans the toilets. I don’t know why, I just feel like I need to say it.