House colors and the mother-in-law test

JodyI’ve always known my 85-year-old mother-in-law was pretty cool, but still I wasn’t sure how she would react to my new house colors: barn red with green trim.

After all, Jody once owned this house, bought with her now-deceased husband in 1986 as a place for them to retire. And it was she who painted the house its previous light gray with dark gray trim some 20 years ago. So how would she react to the new red scheme, which she saw for the first time yesterday?

The top photo of her was snapped 20 to 25 years ago, about the time she first bought this house. You can see she feels pretty strong. And nothing has changed in that respect! In the bottom photo, you can see her on the left last Christmas in Yosemite. See the ramrod posture?

Jody’s strength gave her a mighty life as an Army nurse in World War II, a school nurse and teacher, an emergency-room nurse for 30 years, proprietor of a bed-and-breakfast inn and now the landlady of a 100-year-old Victorian in Santa Barbara that she has filled with college students and their dogs to keep her company.

So when Jody came over yesterday for Bill’s birthday, I wondered how she would react to my house. The way she has lived her life gives me respect for her opinion.

"Who picked the color?" she said.

"I did," I said, waiting for whatever was to come.

Pause. "I love it," she gushed, launching into descriptions of a few other houses near hers with the same color and how much she loves those houses and how very good our place looks.

All this is important because I want Jody to feel that she can come live here if circumstances in her health make that necessary. She’s resisted that idea, of course, because moving in with your kids is often the beginning of the end. So yesterday I was surprised when she began a sentence with: "When I come to live here . . . "

I don’t know if it’s the new paint that’s drawing her to this place or the fact that she’s got no more projects left to do on her Victorian (except for the picket fence out front) and she sees this place as a fresh palette.

As soon I can, I’ll get myself over to her Victorian and snap photos of the various projects she’s done there. Bill gave her a tile saw for her 82nd birthday, and I think you’ll be impressed with what she’s done with it.