Another Koonsman classic: Preparing for my little girl
By Jon Koonsman
Pale Honey. That’s the color I painted my baby girl’s room.
Sunflower was much too heavy and hinted a little too hard toward brown. Pale Honey was the only logical choice. I know this because my sister, Amy, told me so. She has an eye for these things – and a degree in Fashion Design.
I’d have probably opted for blue and gold.
Evidently, my office was the perfect location for a little girl’s room – for now. It seems that once “the addition” is done, she will be taking over the current master bedroom, at which time she will consult with her Aunt Amy and inform me as to what color it should be painted.
Again, I only know these things because I was told.
It took two weeks for my old office to go from suede to pale honey. With hundreds of books on the shelves and walls virtually covered in old pictures and yesterdays, the room was so crowded that you could barely cuss a cat without getting hair in your mouth.
Among the ‘piling system’ on my 120+ year old desk (the dust is original to the piece) was a framed photograph of my grandfather in his mid-twenties. He is grinning proudly and holding a new black colt - from the ugliest post-legged gray mare that I have ever seen.
I recognized the goofy grin, as I was wearing it Sunday when I brought home a cute little buckskin gelding for my little girl. We really didn’t have a shortage of horses around here, but every little girl should have a yellow horse.
Actually, he’s more of a pale honey than yellow. He’ll match her new room nicely – thanks to her Aunt Amy.
Above the opposite side of my desk hung a picture of my grandfather’s youngest brother, Billy Ed. In the photograph he is cultivating his garden on an old Farmall. The antique tractor wore a fresh coat of red paint while Uncle Billy Ed’s denim shirt faded almost white at the shoulder. Complete with the straw taco, I wore that same outfit yesterday.
A friend of mine says that my hat looks like I “rode a runaway horse through a narrow gate,” but I tend to believe that Billy Ed’s style was timeless.
Billy Ed found great joy in the little things, like riding a good horse or drinking cold water from a cistern.
Once, while helping dehorn cattle as a young child, Billy Ed helpfully instructed me, “Look down that hole there, Boy, and you can see what he’s thinkin’.”
Consequently, I spent the rest of the morning covered in blood, trying in vain to see what each calf was thinking. Finally giving up in disgust, I conceded “I can’t see nothin’. All I see is a bloody hole.”
He quickly came to my rescue and peered intently down into the calf’s skull. He gave me a serious look and then, as if unsure as to exactly what he had seen, went back for another peek.
“What’s he thinkin?! What’s he thinkin?!” I begged excitedly.
“He’s thinkin – Dang! That wasn’t near as bad as gettin my cahones cut off,” he answered soberly.
Both Billy Ed and my grandfather, W.H., died untimely deaths in their early sixties. Billy Ed died as a result of injuries after his horse was jerked down while trying to rope and doctor a stud horse. Both of my grandparents had been killed years earlier by a drunk driver.
I suppose I spent a lot more time reminiscing than working, as it took several more days to paint and move into my new office.
I moved my PawPaw’s old boots with my grandfather’s spurs attached. I moved my maternal grandfather’s old gun cabinet and a small leather case that he carried as part of the last mounted cavalry during WWII.
With each armload of memories, I stopped to pick a somber tune on a guitar that I never quite got the hang of - I’m afraid this damned pregnancy has got my hormones all screwed up.
But as hard as I tried, I still couldn’t reason away the sadness I felt knowing that my little girl would grow up in a world without them.
Maybe it was just the paint fumes, but I slowly began to see things in a new light.
Sitting on the floor and leaning against a sunlit wall of pale honey, I began to think about the men that would shape my little girl’s life.
She would have strong grandfathers, the type of patriarchs that my grandfather was. They are kind, generous, honest and wise.
My Uncle Billy Ed’s son, Ken, is the spitting image of his father – with the same sense of humor and the ability to find joy in the simplest of things.
But most touching to me, was finally coming to the realization that she will have 2 strong brothers influencing the world that she will grow up in.
Cody leaves for the Army on Monday and will not meet his baby sister until December. He didn’t join during peacetime – he joined while this country is at war. He chose the infantry because he believed that is where he could “do the most good.”
His brother, Garrett, is beginning his junior year in college, but spent his summer guiding mission trips through the jungles, rainforests, and city streets of South America.
They are strong men – the kind of men she can look up to. They are the kind of men that I look up to.
My favorite addition to my new office is a beautiful Persian rug given to me by my sister, Amy.
It really pulls the room together and draws well from the other colors in the room. In fact, this is the first column written from my new office. It’s a good office. I painted the walls suede.