“Aw, Mom, do I have to?” Freddie stood scowling by the back door, hands on hips and holding his baseball glove. “I promised Brad we’d play ball this morning, and he’s waiting for me.”
Mom stood in the kitchen with a bucket of paint in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. She was wearing one of Dad’s old shirts and a bandanna over her hair. “I really could use your help, Freddie. I’d like to surprise Dad and get the hallway painted before he gets home this afternoon.”
Tossing his glove disgustedly on the table, Freddie grumbled, “Oh, all right, I’ll help. But let me call Brad first and tell him I’m going to be late.”
After the phone call, Freddie dragged himself back to the hall, where Mom had already covered the floor with a drop cloth. Fingering a hole in his shirt, he glumly watched her pry open a can of paint.
Mom glanced up at Freddie as she poured some into the paint tray. “Which would you rather work with, the brush or the roller?”
“The roller, I guess. Maybe that’ll go faster.” Freddie took a good look at the wall. It was a mess, covered with dark marks and smudges. With a sigh, he dipped the roller into the paint tray. Holding the roller firmly in his right hand, he made a large sweep with it across the dirty wall. A swath of bright, clean color adhered to the wall with a soft, sticky sound.
Freddie worked his way up and down the wall. Mom preceded him, using the brush to do the trim work along the molding and ceiling and in the corners. One especially dark smudge on the wall caught Freddie’s attention. “This is a really bad mark, Mom,” said Freddie. “How did it get on the wall?”
Mom squinted, trying to remember. “I think you made that one. Remember how angry you and Brad got at each other last month?”
“I sure do. I called him a poor sport at the ball game, and he called me a baby. I came home so mad that I wanted to kick him.” Freddie frowned. “I kicked the wall, instead. I knew I shouldn’t have done it, and I felt bad about what I’d done.”
“And as I recall,” Mom added, “Brad came over later, and you two made up.”
“Well, we both said we were sorry. Besides, we couldn’t stay mad forever. That’s why Brad and I are best friends.” With one quick stroke, Freddie’s roller covered the ugly mark with wet paint.
“There’s a bad one you’ll have to do with the brush, Mom,” said Freddie, pointing to a long smudge near the floor.
Mom raised her eyebrows. “I’m the one who made that. It was the time I had a really bad day at work. I came home so upset that I got careless and banged the wall with the vacuum cleaner while I was cleaning.”
“You were still upset after dinner, so Dad and I gave you a sandwich hug that night. Dad and I were the slices of bread and you were the peanut butter in the middle, remember?”
Mom nodded, and her eyes sparkled. “I sure do! It was the best thing that happened to me all that day.” With a few brush strokes, Mom covered the ugly mark.
The smell of new paint filled the hallway. Much to Freddie’s surprise, he had come to the end of the long hall. Standing on tiptoes, he made the final stroke of the roller with a flourish. He and Mom looked proudly at their work. The once dingy wall was now gleaming with clean, fresh paint.
“We do good work, Mom. It almost doesn’t seem fair that the wall will get dirty again.”
“Yes, it does seem a shame,” said Mom. “But at least you’ll never kick the wall again, and I’ll be more careful when I clean. And if we need to, we can always paint the wall again.”
Freddie looked at it thoughtfully. “That reminds me of last week’s lesson at Primary—we can repent when we make mistakes and forgive each other too. Right, Mom?”
Mom ruffled Freddie’s brown hair and hugged him hard. “Right, honey, especially with sandwich hugs. Now I’ll clean up, and if you hurry, you still have time for a ball game with Brad before lunch.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Freddie headed out the back door with his baseball glove. There was a big spot of paint on Freddie’s neck, but there was an even bigger smile on his face.