I guess I should be thankful for the experience, as it probably is most responsible for me never joining a gang.
When I was four we drove up from Waco to Arlington to visit Memaw and Pepaw. It was sometime during the holidays because the pictures show me wearing that little brown, faux fur coat with the matching hood that made me resemble an escaped bear cub from the zoo.
Pepaw took Vicki, my older sister, and me outside to spray paint pine cones silver, gold, and red. My grandfather demonstrated how to hold the can and press the nozzle down while applying an even coat of paint to each pinecone.
One at a time, he helped us paint pinecones. Of course, we then had to do it ourselves, as children do. Vicki, even then an overachiever, painted a spectacular gold pinecone, even then setting the bar much too high for when I came along in her footsteps.
When my turn came, I picked up the can and immediately sprayed myself in the face with red paint. I never liked loud noises or sudden movements as a child, so I guess it should come as no surprise I ended up with a cat as an adult. Anyway, I freaked out. Pepaw tried not to laugh. (Vicki didn’t even try at all, but I was used to her resentment of me being born and ruining her monopoly on the parental attention.)
Pepaw took me into the house and Memaw and Mama tried to to wash the paint off and even used some paint thinner, yet I recall that my nose remained red for a good week. Somewhere in my parents’ photographs lays a picture of my jovial grandfather, smirking sister, and a morose four-year-old boy. If only I had owned a pair of antlers, I would have been Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer personified.
Ironically, Memaw had bought me one of those little plastic Rudolph heads that pin on children’s coats and the nose lights up when one pulls the string. It was my first taste of irony … and it was bittersweet.