Mama Loves a Ball of Paint

Alexandria Travel Blog

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It’s Mother’s Day. This one is a milestone for me. It’s my first without chicks in the nest. I’d received phone calls from all three of my children -- the fast-walking, subway-chasing, black-wearing, taxi-flagging NYC urbanite daughters, 24 & 22, and The Boy, 18, sending their love and best wishes.  Each expressed their undying gratitude for spawning them and shared all the wonderful things going on in their busy lives. Absolutely lovely, everyone remembered me, and no guilt calls would be needed for at least a week. 

Now the rest of the day loomed menacingly. This GypsyNesting Mama needed a diversion. It had to be a well established diversion, something so spectacular that any sort of baby-missing hysterics would be averted.

A brunch at a really, really nice restaurant? The thought of just the two of us surrounded by long tables of celebrating families was just begging for a Chernobyl sized meltdown. The very idea of food reminded me of those wonderful Mothers Day mornings with the pitter-pattering of footy pajamas, dry scrambled eggs with shell fragments and burnt toast served to me in bed. Planning in advance might have been the sensible thing to do, but hey, the plan is no plans.

After discussing a few scenarios, David and I decided that anything even remotely traditional would not do. So what TO do?

Eureka!  We hit the road and headed for the World’s Largest Ball of Paint.

Deep in the heart of Hoosierland lives a man with a vocation spanning 45 years. It all started with a happy mishap in 1964 --  Mike Carmichael and a buddy were tossing a baseball and it ended up in can of paint.

Then an inspiration, -- “What would this look like if I continued to coat the baseball, then cut the whole thing in half?” Encouragement was given by neighbors and kinfolk -- then they dissuaded him from splitting the coated sphere. The years passed and Mr. Carmichael was left with a massive orb hanging from a chain in a room of his house. Did his wife mind? Not a bit, Glenda has added over 8,000 layers herself.

After years of keeping his master work strictly among family and friends, the time had come to reveal it to the world.  He decided to build a pavilion to showcase the ever growing globe and the accolades soon followed.  Relocating the 3000 pound work of art meant knocking out a wall of their home and utilizing a forklift for the jaunt to the more fitting domicile worthy of a masterpiece of this magnitude. In doing this Mike proved the theory, “if you build it, they will come.” 

People have come from at least twenty-five countries to add another coat of paint and receive a certificate to commemorate the event. One layer even included a marriage proposal (she said yes!). The ball is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not as well as appearing on several television networks.  The Carmichaels have met gobs of celebrities who have made the pilgrimage to add yet another layer of pigment.  Once David Letterman made arrangements for Mike to bring the ball to his late night show, but Mike declined, feeling that the orb must be seen in its proper home.  Besides, you never know what might happen to a ton and a half of dried paint turned loose in the big city.

We knew that the 20,000th layer had been recently added and were eager to find out which layer would be ours. This would be a Mothers Day to remember!

The Ball of Paint is viewable by appointment only.  We were pleased that Mike would see us on a Sunday (and Mothers Day to boot) with only a few hours notice. What a guy, he must have felt the pain brewing deep within my heart.

Entering the Pavilion, we were struck by the enormity of the situation. The ball is suspended from an iron girder, and is so large that a large mirror is set on the ground below so you can see underneath as you roll on the paint.

After viewing every angle, discussing every aspect and a quick tour of the Pavilion, Mike finally asked us the question David and I were  aching to hear, “What color are you going to use?”  With a scan of the dozen or so vats of paint, we grabbed our rollers and lovingly added layer number 21,823 which included a Mothers Day stick figure homage to our children.

After completing the task, and adding to the world’s record, we contently began to walk away with our souvenir paint chip, certificate of Coat # 21823 and commemorative tee shirt.  Just out the door, I asked Mike one more question, “What’s your regular job?”

“I’m a painter.”


To see pictures of the Ball of Paint go to:

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photo by: Gypsynester