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  • jdettmann

Yellow But Not Yellow

Each year, the changing seasons bring with them a change of rhythm, and new cycles in the life of a family. Despite the weather behaving like it’s Endless Summer (though in our house there’s less surfing and more skidding on abandoned pyjamas) it seems that we have moved into our typical autumn pattern of all being fucking sick.

Here’s how it goes: the kids catch a cold from school or kindy or licking a parking meter, they spend four or five days being snotty and gross, waking us up many times a night because they feel crappy, which sends H’s and my immune systems into meltdown. We go into panic mode, cramming handfuls of vitamins down our throats, but to no avail. We both come down with it just as the kids bounce back. The crossover point of my downward trajectory and their upward one was Monday, when they both cried ill and I let them stay home from school.

By 11 o’clock they were as fit as fleas, and bouncing off the walls. I tried making them stay in bed for a few hours, but finally the thumping sounds from their room – because leaping from one bed to the other technically counts as staying in bed, apparently, became too much and I let them come down and watch TV, which I interrupted quite often to perform angry retellings of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and assure them that only if they were vomiting out of their eyes and ears would I ever let them stay home from school again.

I did not like them very much on Monday, I’m ashamed to admit. And when I don’t like my kids very much, I don’t like myself. When that happens things spiral into misery quite swiftly, and by about 4 pm I had diagnosed myself with a late recurrence of postnatal depression.

It was actually something of a relief to wake up sick on Tuesday morning, because it turns out I was just getting their cold.

So now I have a cold, and H has a cold. I have no energy. I have many things to do because we are about to renovate our house. I have to make many choices about things that I will have to live with forever, if not longer. It’s slightly paralysing. I don’t have strong opinions on, say, kitchen sinks, but what if I choose the wrong one? Or the wrong toilet? H and I went to a toilet shop the other day, but I desperately needed a wee so I wasn’t brave enough to sit on any of the test toilets. We’ll probably end up ordering toilets like we order wine: the second cheapest you have, please, garcon.

We’ve splashed out on a colour consultant to tell us what colours to paint the house. H, being a clever artist, knows a lot about colour, but not about paint. I know ten colours, and can never remember if its green or blue that is primary. This lady knows millions of colours and how they work in different brands of paint and different directions of natural light and other factors I was impressed by but can’t remember. She came over and sat with me and did witchy things with paint chips and named things I didn’t even know our house had like bargeboards and a dado.

We had conversations like this:

‘What about the door next to the swingy window?’ I’d ask.

‘The casement?’ she’d say.

‘Yes?’ I’d say, because I don’t like to admit I don’t know things. I prefer for people to figure that out for themselves. ‘How about that greeny-grey there?’

‘That’s called French navy.’

‘Is it. Right. Yes, what about that?’

‘Maybe not next to the yellow door.’

YELLOW! I thought. I’ve heard of that one. I can pick that out in a line-up. Hang on, why is she pointing at a dirty orangey-mustard?

‘It won’t look like that on the wall,’ she kept reassuring me. Then why does it look like that now? I wondered. What’s going to change? Is that the colour or isn’t it? Is it Hypercolour paint? Is it like a mood ring from 1993?

She’s going to send me some samples and paint chips, which will make me understand. I’m fairly sure the paint chip is entirely missing from my brain, so that will be useful.

When H came home that night he asked me what colours we had chosen but I couldn’t really say with any certainty. ‘The door’s going to be yellow but not yellow like you think of when someone says yellow,’ I informed him. ‘And the rest is going to be lots of colours that look a bit like green and brown and beige and blueish and grey but they aren’t those. And our room is going to be blue, but actual blue, not French Navy. It’s going to be amazing. But not the amazing you think of when someone says amazing.’

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