Photo illustration by Mark Douet/Stone
Everything I needed to know about my marriage I learned by wallpapering with my husband. Romantic weekend getaways are wonderful and marriage seminars and books are helpful, but I dare any married couple to try wallpapering together—that'll show you what your marriage is really made of. Twenty years ago Tom and I had just moved into our first house, an older city bungalow with a lot of "character." It wasn't a dream house, but it wasn't a nightmare either. With a little work, we knew it would be destined for greatness.
On a beautiful Saturday morning in September, we decided to create a work of art out of our living room. We had picked a miniprint wallpaper made of sturdy vinyl—to hide any cracks in the walls—just right for our classic, aged, character-ridden living room. After breakfast we dressed in our new painters' overalls and set up a table in the middle of the room. Then Tom began the serious work of assembling his tools: plumb line, chalk, ruler, T-square, razor knife, scissors, powdered wallpaper paste, water, stirrer, bucket, sponge, rags, brushes, and roller. By 10:30, two hours into the job, we were ready to hang some wallpaper.
Tom took on the manly job of measuring, marking, and dropping the plumb line. Since I had had considerable experience making peanut butter sandwiches, I was given the job of wallpaper paste spreader. Our house had elegant nine-foot ceilings, so it took awhile for me to cover the entire first wallpaper strip with paste. I hadn't figured that the strip would be longer than our worktable. As I neared the end of the strip, the other end began to curl up on itself, getting paste on the front side of the paper—as well as on the carpeting. No matter, we had taken the saleslady's advice and purchased that funny-looking natural sponge for clean up. Tom took a few minutes to line the floor under the table with newspapers, as I finished the first strip. All was going well—except that now the newspapers protecting the floor were sticking to the wallpaper.1