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Getting the hang of it

If you don't have any trouble in life, and haven't anything to complain about , try hanging some wallpaper. ''What could be easier?'' I thought. ''I'll just measure the wall from the baseboard to the ceiling, cut some pieces that size, and glue them up.''

After a fight with the roll of paper that insisted on staying rolled up and refused to go flat, I got a few pieces cut. I applied paste to the back of one piece and it went up like a dream. Nothing to it!

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The second piece went up just as easily, except that, well, maybe there were a few wrinkles in it, but not enough to notice.

I was cheerfully humming to myself and getting another piece when someone suggested that I hadn't matched the pattern.

''Match the pattern? What do you mean?''

It was an allover flower design and I didn't see anything that matched.

''Don't get excited, keep your cool,'' I said to myself. ''Pretend that it was an oversight.'' I said, ''Oh yes, I forgot about that. I'll match the next pieces as I put them up.''

I got a cool glass of lemonade for my friend and one for myself and pretended to carry on a conversation while I secretly studied the pattern on the wallpaper. At last I found a fern that repeated itself every so often, and some of it was along the edge of the paper that I had just put up. I put my glass of lemonade down and, very casually, chatting all the time, got a piece of wallpaper that I had already cut, climbed up on the chair, and began matching.

The ferns appeared a remarkable distance apart and, if I pushed the paper up to match one fern, there was a bare space on the wall below; if I pushed it down to match another fern, there was a bare space at the top. ''You're supposed to match it before you cut it,'' my friend suggested.

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Whew! It wasn't as easy as I thought! ''Never mind,'' I said to myself. ''If anyone else can do it, so can I.''

I took the whole roll of wallpaper, put it between me (on the chair) and the wall, and found a fern that matched as I unrolled it. Then I cut it with an overlap at the top and bottom. ''This can be cut off with a razor blade when you've finished hanging it,'' my friend explained.

After a while things were running smoothly, except for a few wrinkles here and there. Then my son brought me a large brush and showed me how to brush the paper with a ''down and out'' stroke with one hand while I pasted the paper with the other hand, thus eliminating the wrinkles.

''At last I've gotten the 'hang' of it,'' I said to myself. I was matching, cutting, pasting, and brushing correctly, except that I must have put a little too much water in the paste that I had just mixed. My piece of wallpaper kept rolling down from the top of the wall while I worked on the bottom. I kept putting it back, thinking that if I was patient enough, the thing would stick to the wall eventually.

Just then the telephone rang.

I had two choices: I could take the paper off the wall and lay it down carefully (paste side up) and miss the telephone call, or I could just run for it and let the wallpaper take care of itself. It decided to come with me, draped over my head.

When I brushed it aside, because it interfered with the telephoning, it wound around me and got stuck on my clothes and shoes. ''Never mind,'' I thought. ''I bought enough wallpaper so that I can afford to throw that piece away.'' I hadn't counted on throwing my clothes away, too, though.

''Don't be discouraged,'' I said to myself. ''Remix the paste to the right consistency and start over again.''

After a week or so I finished papering the room. Since I couldn't seem to trim the paper at the top and bottom of the wall neatly with a razor blade, I edged it with some colored scotch tape. Then I called my friends and relatives in to see it.

''That's not a bad job,'' my son said. ''But it took you so long! My friend and I papered a room in about three hours.'' He had to admit, though, that they hung the paper on one wall upside down and had to do it over again.