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Silver Threads: Hang it all! I'm calling for help

Twenty-one years ago, as my late husband and I moved into a new house he’d designed and built for us, I remarked, “We’ll never fill up these walls, Bobby.”

From the front door, you could look down a wide central hall, past the doors to the bedrooms and kitchen, and through the living and dining rooms to the big back porch and yard.

We already had some “pictures,” of course: a couple of oil paintings, two or three each of pastels and acrylics, watercolors and photographs of scenes from our travels (he’d gotten a beautiful shot at the Roman forum complete with pink blossoms in the foreground), an enlarged T-P staff photo of the St. Charles streetcar rolling through a rare snowfall, old family studio photos and a portrait.

Bobby and I did fill the walls of our new gallery — with the additions of a big oil painting of the Piazza Navona in Rome by George Schmidt, another oil by the late Ann Cooper, watercolors by Tim Trapolin, an oil of our grandson by the late Barbara Weigel, newly discovered sketches from 1938 by sculptor Angela Gregory — and a huge watercolor closeup of a pink camellia bush in full bloom. (I’m entranced by that one because I once took a Saturday class in watercolor at UNO and know how hard it is to get things right.)

But enough of that: I’ll wind up the catalogue by telling you that we owned a small weekend house in Abita Springs, filled that one with pictures, then sold it and brought them home; our daughter collected her own over the years, and now that she and her family and I have recently moved in together —most everything is leaning on the walls, waiting to be put up.

When you’re hanging pictures as you acquire them — one at a time or even three or four if you’ve been on a trip to Italy — there’s no problem. But decorating eight rooms — 32 walls — can be time-consuming and more than a little frustrating. In addition, there’s a 5x7-foot mirror, and about six large prints and watercolors — including the camellias — that I’d like to install on paneled walls. We don’t want any nail holes in those.

So I thought of a service I’ve never used, googled picture hanging/New Orleans and came up with dozens of candidates for the job. I also pulled up a website on hanging pictures, and — trust me — you’d rather pay than follow all these complicated instructions and advice. Me, I’ve always hung one picture at a time by eye-balling the space and driving a nail into what I judge to be the middle of it. My late husband was more professional, equipping himself for the job with a tape measure and one of those leveling things with a bubble in the middle.

Lest you think I’m viewing our new home as a museum of sorts, I need to tell you that each work of art slated to go up the walls reminds me of a happy time in my life. In my new bedroom I’ve already hung the special page the Living section staffers had printed and framed when I retired from the T-P. On it, I’m depicted as the queen of Mystic; there’s a phony Chris Rose interview with me down the side, an “ear” photo of me pretending to smoke a cigar while working on my college newspaper, and other crazy stuff.

There’s also a great photo of the Living staff as I left it, an earlier picture of the entire T-P editorial bunch taken when I still had brown hair, and a shot of my late husband waving his arms in jubilation as he finished a Crescent City Classic.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]