Poppie's Wisdom: Picasso Baby's Room

Humor writer Jerry Zezima reflects on the life-changing role of being a grandfather, and painting his new granddaughter's room.

By Jerry Zezima

The day my wife, Sue, and I found out we were going to be grandparents, our daughter, Lauren, informed me that I had a job.

“You have to paint,” she said.

“I told Mom I’m retired from painting,” I replied. “She wants me to do the hallway.”

“Not your house,” Lauren said. “Our house. You have to paint the baby’s room.”

Writing my book, Grandfather Knows Best, has brought back memories of how it all began, three years ago, when I prepared for my granddaughter Chloe’s arrival by painting the room that would be hers.

As a painter, Pablo Picasso had nothing on me. Sure, he had a Blue Period, but it lasted only three years. My Blue Period has lasted more than ten times that long, and every time I’ve had a painting project, it’s made me blue, which is the color of the master bedroom and the adjoining bathroom.

It’s also made me green (downstairs bathroom), yellow (upstairs bathroom), white (family room), sea foam (hallway), and rose (living room and dining room, which puts me one up on Picasso’s Rose Period).

When I announced to Sue that I was retired from painting, she said, “You’re not retired. You’re just on hiatus.”

My hiatus ended when Lauren asked me to paint the baby’s room.

I had haunting flashbacks to my many painting misadventures. Like the time I painted the kitchen in the condo where Sue, Katie, Lauren, and I lived in our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut before we moved to Long Island, New York. The trickiest part was painting around the ceiling fan, where the lights were situated. I worked with the lights on until I smelled something burning. It was my hair, which had come in contact with a hot bulb. I pulled one of two cords — the one I thought would turn off the lights — only to discover that I had turned on the fan, whereupon a whirling blade hit me in the head.

It should have knocked some sense into me, but I kept on with the painting projects, including a particularly awful one in the living room of our house, which had huge ceiling beams that Sue wanted me to remove. I initially used a crowbar that punched holes in the ceiling. Then I used a rope to yank the beams down. One narrowly missed my skull. It took me a week to complete the project.

Fortunately, when it came time to paint the baby’s room, I got help from my son-in-law, Guillaume, who was embarking on his first painting project.

I told him that the worst part of painting isn’t the painting, it’s the prep work. This includes using a mile and a half of masking tape to cover areas you don’t want to paint. Then you have to prime the walls and the ceiling. When you paint, you have to put on two coats, though if it’s a hot day, you can wear a T-shirt.

The good thing about the project in the baby’s room was that we didn’t have to paint the ceiling. And Guillaume bought a new kind of paint that contained primer. Also, the walls needed only one coat.

The best part was that Guillaume proved to be a natural.

“When I painted for the first time,” I told him, “I barely knew which end of the brush to use.”

“It could have been a brush with disaster,” he replied.

“I am so proud of you!” I exclaimed, knowing this project would be enjoyable because I’d be sharing it with a fellow punster. “This is going to pan out.”

“We can put it on our bucket list,” said Guillaume.

“It’s a good thing our wives aren’t here,” I said. “They’d bristle at our jokes.”

“Yes,” Guillaume responded, “but we’re on a roll.”

It went on like this for most of the day. When Sue and Lauren got back from shopping for baby clothes, they marveled at the nice work we did and approved of the light pink color, which Lauren chose because she knew she was having a girl.

And what a girl she has turned out to be, a precious sweetheart who fills our lives with love and joy and who sleeps in the pretty pink room that Daddy and Poppie painted.

Picasso couldn’t have done a better job.


Excerpted from Grandfather Knows Best. Jerry Zezima is a humor columnist for the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut. He is also the author of Leave It to Boomer, and The Empty Nest Chronicles. You can read his blog here.


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