My reaction might have been a little over the top.
“I would rather have my eyelashes plucked out one by one while listening to alpine yodeling and drinking beet juice mixed with cod liver oil,” I said.
My friend raised her hands in surrender.
“Wow! OK then. We’ll skip paint night and just go to happy hour someplace.”
Some people might think a suggestion to have a glass of wine and create art with a good friend sounds delightful.
I’m not those people, and I have Mrs. Pendergast to thank for that.
Mrs. Pendergast was my second-grade teacher. While my reading skills soared under her tutelage, my art skills plummeted.
I dreaded art time more than I dreaded dodge ball during PE, and that’s saying something. My undiagnosed nearsightedness meant I never saw that pink rubber ball coming till it smacked me silly.
When Mrs. P. directed us to don our paint shirts, I groaned. Wearing my dad’s old button-down dress shirt was mortifying. It was dirty for heaven’s sake! It was crusty and stained, and it didn’t match my carefully coordinated outfit!
Of course, the reason it was stained was because I could never seem to gauge the right amount of paint. I would think I had just the right quantity of yellow for my sun, only to watch in dismay as golden globs streaked down the paper and smeared into my already-crusty sleeves.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mrs. P. scolded. “Your sun is bleeding all over your paper!”
With that she snatched my art attempt off the easel, crumpling it in disgust, commanding me to start over.
Her bleeding-sun comment inspired me.
I dipped my brush into what I hoped was just the right amount of scarlet, and painted a red sun, dripping droplets of blood from the sky.
“Good grief!” shouted Mrs. P. “That is disgraceful! What is the matter with you!?”
My classmates tittered as once again she ripped my paper from the easel.
When the class went out to recess, I stayed behind, waiting for the paint to dry so I could place my painting at the bottom of the stack, safe from mocking eyes.
So, you can see why my reaction to a friend’s suggestion of paint night was a tad vehement.
But a couple of years passed, and recently my husband came home and announced that we’d been invited to go to Pinot’s Palette with some friends.
Much to his surprise, I agreed.
It was time to silence the shaming voice of Mrs. Pendergast once and for all. My painting might stink, but at least I’d have a glass of wine to ease the sting.
On Jan. 26, I donned a paint-spattered apron, sat at an easel and picked up a brush.
To my joy I discovered we were going to replicate a painting of the northern lights. No sun in sight. And a perfect choice since we’d invited Derek’s sister and her Norwegian husband to join us. They’ve actually seen the northern lights.
I listened carefully to the instructor.
“The first lesson is you must learn the difference between your wine glass and your water glass,” she said.
That was easy. My wine glass was the one without any paintbrushes in it. Yet.
The next lesson covered what to do if we accidentally got paint on our clothes. It seemed like the instructions were tailored just for me.
In the event of a paint emergency, our teacher told us to, “Run to the sink, scream, flail, and use Murphy’s Oil Soap.”
She paused. “But if it’s been more than 15 minutes you have a new outfit.”
With that we were ready to begin.
I panicked a bit. But my husband’s friend said, “Just dip your brush into your wine and drink your water.”
I did the opposite, and soon I was well on my way.
My brother-in-law wandered over to check out my progress.
“Cindy, you are a born artist!” he exclaimed.
He is a bit of a hogwash artist, but his encouragement was appreciated nonetheless.
“By now your canvas is covered with paint,” the instructor said.
And mine was. I’d followed instructions. I’d mixed blue and green and made teal. And I hadn’t dipped my sleeve in my palette. Yet.
Shades of doubt seeped in when I had trouble blending the first swooshes of white into the night sky, but soon we were on to stippling stars and my true talents emerged.
“I am the BEST at stars,” I proclaimed.
Of course, one glass of wine had turned into two at this point, but isn’t that why they call it liquid courage?
At the end of the evening my evergreens were a bit wonky, and I hadn’t mastered blending, but by golly, my stars sparkled.
I sat at the easel and lifted my glass in silent salute.
Good night Mrs. Pendergast, wherever you are.
Contact Cindy Hval at email@example.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at http://www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/ Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval