Painting becomes a religious experience

By Debbie Carini

It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I mention this because my name ends in a vowel, and I am on the verge of feeling that it might also take me that long to paint…my kitchen.

It’s probably some form of blasphemy to compare oneself to Michelangelo but, the more I read, the more our experiences seem to parallel.

The Sistine Chapel was painted under the commission of Pope Julius II, the head of the Roman Catholic Church at that time (1508-1512); my kitchen was painted at the behest of Andy Weissman, my husband (1986-present), who thought our white cabinets were starting to look a little shabby. 

The chapel is the location for papal conclaves and many important services. My kitchen is the heart and center of our family life. Prize-winning essays have been penned and complex algebraic equations have been solved at its table; great debates have swirled in its confines (Son: “Why do I have to eat vegetables?” Mother: “Because I had to eat them when I was a kid”); and great leaps of faith have transpired (Can you make a macaroon kosher for Passover by substituting matzoh for Saltines? Yes!).

To reach the chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo designed his own scaffold. To retouch the edges where our walls meet our generous and airy 9-foot by 4-inch high ceiling, I stood on a rickety stepladder that had once served as the boost my son needed to reach the top bunk. I perched precariously over the stove and also put great belief in the theory that the thin plywood that was temporarily serving as our countertop (until the new one arrived) would hold my weight. 

I found, as I cleaned out the many nooks and crannies of the kitchen cabinets, that there were almost as many enigmatic and cryptic vagaries inside these spaces as there are mysteries of the Vatican—the spice closet alone yielded a number of conundrums: three half-filled containers of ground ginger, many, many, many packets of Taco Bell hot sauce and In-and-Out spread and one container of Vidalia onion relish, which I believe I’ve been holding on to because it comes in a reusable “Collectable European Drinkware” container. At least it had not expired as had several jars of spices, packages of dried fruits (apparently I never made that updated recipe for fruitcake), and bottles of assorted weight loss supplements (Hmm, I thought, as I sorted through these, maybe I should try this Green Tea pill!).

I turned to my patron saint, Martha Stewart, for inspiration and to coordinate colors: Hosta, Zinc, Frost and Enamelware, which sound so much prettier than what they really are—greenish-blue, gray, light gray and light green.

And I prayed a lot. I prayed that I would not drip or spill paint on the wood floors, that I would not lose my balance and then try to break a fall by acrobatically grabbing and, most likely send-crashing to the floor, our expensive pot rack/light fixture. And in the end, I prayed that—just like Michelangelo’s work—the finished product would hold up if not for 500 years at least until the next family who owns our house wants to take on a new look for the kitchen’s second century.



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