There’s an unopened packet of brushes that’s been hanging on my wall for nearly a decade. It’s hung on different walls in different apartments, and as the cellophane clouds and sags and the bristles begin to slouch under the weight of their own slipshod creation the whole thing grows ever sadder. And more dear. It was a gift from my wife. One of those crappy little nothings couples give each other early on which helps define the language of their profoundest and most lasting connections. For me to recount our dissertation-worthy musings on Godlike Harmony would feel cheap to all parties involved. As tawdry as it would feel to open the packet and daub those wan hairs into some fresh watercolors and drag them adulterously across a piece of expectant paper. Nothing but deflation that way lies. The genius of the gift is in its inviolate whole. The promise it can never fulfill. It has never once occurred to me to open them. Truly. This is not meant to be a diatribe against marital infidelity. I know life isn’t lived in a cellophane bag.
Godlike Harmony lives about 15 feet behind my left shoulder. Hanging at the top of the stairs over a small writing desk where we keep all our tape and picture frames that have yet to make it onto the Family Wall. You have to walk by Godlike Harmony to get anywhere in our apartment. The bedrooms. The bathroom. The kitchen. It drives my daughter insane.
Why can’t we paint with these?
Because we can’t. They were a gift from your mom.
Who ever heard of brushes you can’t paint with?
Well you can’t. They’re Godlike Harmony.
Who ever heard of such a dumb thing. I’m opening the brushes.
No you’re not.
Yes I am.
No you’re not. They’re not good brushes anyway.
How do you know?
Because I do.
No you don’t.
We already have lots of opened brushes.
I want to paint with these brushes.
Why would mom give you not-good brushes?
Because she did.
I hate those stupid brushes!
They’ve been hurled down the stairs or huffily crammed into the drawer with the tape and picture frames, but they’ve yet to be opened. And in fairness to my daughter, I totally understand why she hates these brushes. What six year old wouldn’t want to use them? They’re brushes. She doesn’t see or care if the bristles look wan. What she sees is potential. She doesn’t see the seeds of regret. She doesn’t care if she never wants to paint with the brushes again. It’s the thrill of opening and trying them. That’s all that matters.
My wife and I have tried to explain what is funny about a sealed packet of artist brushes called Godlike Harmony, but all she thinks we’re doing is keeping a secret from her that isn’t even remotely funny. And it makes her all the madder that she doesn’t get the joke. She wants to be in on it and she doesn’t get it and that makes her mad. I get it. One day she will totally understand what’s funny about Godlike Harmony, but I hope the packet’s crumbled and the bristles have long since wilted away before she does.