Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: Painter prolongs pantry progress

In the past few weeks, I’ve called all my friends and relatives to tell them the great news: “Mark is gonna redo our kitchen!”
They all react the same way: with a long pause and a stifled giggle, followed by “OK, sure. Congratulations.”
I’m pretty sure I can hear their eyes rolling.
That’s fair. They know that four years ago, Mark began building me my dream walk-in pantry from scratch. In that time, he’s worked on it intermittently but never with any enthusiasm.
I’ve used the situation to my advantage. If Mark gets annoyed because I left the Christmas ornaments in the upstairs hall for six weeks, I say, “Well, at least it hasn’t been four years.” If he trips over a bag of returnable bottles in the kitchen, I say, “I would have put them in the pantry. If we had one.”
Zingers like that are priceless in a marriage, and the pantry has given me a lot to work with.
But believe it or not, Mark is actually about to remodel the kitchen. (I’ll thank you to roll your eyes more quietly.) While it will take him longer than most kitchen jobs — given his bias toward working for paying customers rather than a deadbeat spouse — it’s unlikely to be another four-year project; we’ve already ordered the cabinets, counters, lights, appliances and windows, and they have to go somewhere.
Work, however, can’t begin until we have a completed pantry in which to store the current kitchen’s contents. So Mark has, finally, risen to the occasion.
In two weekends, he’s installed the pocket door, finished up the last few drawers and milled out and put up the trim. Just like that, save for the painting of the cupboards, the pantry is done.
But the painting, I’m afraid, is my job.
I had it all planned. On a Saturday, I’d lay out the shelves, drawer fronts and doors on a drop cloth on the kitchen table and paint them all in one go.
But I overlooked two issues. The obvious is that it’s not a one-and-done procedure. First you have to prime one side of each piece and then, once that’s dry, prime the other. Then you have to paint each side — twice. And the paint needs to dry between coats.
Less obvious is that this particular pantry, designed to my specs lo these many years ago, has somewhere between 200 and 300 doors and shelves (I haven’t actually counted, but it’s a lot). And our kitchen table only holds four or five at a time.
In the long run, I’ll be grateful that the pantry, five by 10 feet before Mark built the cabinets, defies the laws of nature by being larger on the inside than it is on the outside. Seeing the linear footage of storage that magically appears as he installs each painted shelf makes my heart flutter; it’s all I’ve ever wanted.
But I have to ask myself why I went with cabinets instead of simple shelves that could have been painted in place. (I know why: I had a pantry like that when we were first married, and the open shelves combined with my wherever-it-lands organizational style gave me fits. Having to look at the mess every day didn’t inspire me to be tidy, but it did teach me to appreciate doors.)
I made the right choice. As the doors gradually go on, the pantry is beginning to look downright classy. While I envisioned it as a functional place to stash peanut butter and plastic storage containers, now I picture myself saying to dinner guests, “Please excuse me while I run to the pantry and retrieve the glass dome for the roast pheasant.”
At the moment, however, I fear the painting will never end. Every time I finish a set of doors and shelves, Mark brings me more. I’m starting to think he’s just giving me random boards from his workshop to pay me back for the four years of snark I’ve subjected him to.  
These days, before work and after, and all weekend, I paint. I haven’t changed out of my painting clothes in weeks. Now and then, Mark wanders through the kitchen, making a point of reaching across me to measure a doorway or wall and subjecting me to a bit of his own snark.
“I can’t wait to get started on the kitchen,” he says, looking around and sighing. “But it’s taking you forever to finish the pantry.”

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