Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I Get It

I arose this morning before the sun.  I opened the curtain hoping to see some sort of wildlife.  There was none.   It is still after the windy "cold front" that moved through yesterday threatening the never-ending summer.  It isn't cold but a change in the air is detectable.  It is thoughtful sort of morning, misty memories floating through my consciousness.  Somehow, in an instant, I understand. 

When I was growing up I lived a different sort of life from my peers.  My father was "famous".  He was a local newscaster for the CBS affiliate station.  He expected us to adhere to certain standards.  We had to look the part.  I am not sure why, we were just plain people from south Texas.  So, from a young age I went to the beauty shop.  When I was about 12 I insisted that that little ritual stop when the beautician wouldn't quit doing my hair in Shirley Temple curls.  It was the 60's for goodness sake.  Our house was post-World War II tract housing but my mother furnished it in the latest trends.  I remember it well -- blond, limed oak furniture, a sophisticated tweed, one armed sofa, a black soapstone lamp that you could actually plant ivy in.  Somehow I never thought that was a good idea -- water, electricity - yeah, not a good idea.  I remember the kitchen -- blue and while tile counters (called drain boards, back then) and my mother had this lovely speckled linoleum (I purchased the same thing, twice, for various houses) and she painted the walls parchment beige and cabinets a lovely mocha shade.  A woman ahead of her time, clearly. 

In the mid 50's we lost the tweed sofa and tubby occasional chairs -- replaced with a t-seat sofa and matching chairs.  I loved that set and have, in fact, purchased something quite similar for my own home. Mother was a mover and a shaker -- didn't like to settle in on something for too long -- when a style changed, so did she.  I can sort of understand my father's dismay for this constant updating.

At some point in the early 60's my mother decided we should move to a larger house -- one she knew well because it belonged to a friend.  We moved.  This necessitated a change in furniture.  Out went the lovely mid-century modern and t-seat suite and in came the Early American trend, so popular at that time.  Larger house meant larger furniture.  It was lovely but oh, my, what a pain to dust.  All those little turned legs and nooks and crannies.   She decorated and polished.  It looked like a department store. 

Around 1967 we made another move -- back to the original home which they still had.  Hmmm....smaller house (a tiny house by today's "tiny house movement" standard) and large furniture.  Large, heavy, dark furniture.  I missed the mid-century modern but it wasn't my call.  Mom still polished and hung colonial decorations asymetrically on the walls.  We lived in a harvest gold and avocado green world -- colors I never particularly liked but carried on into my own home due to popularity.

In 1969 our version of the tiny house burned down.  We were in it.  We got out.  Everybody was ok -- even the dog.  However, something happpened to my mother.  Not physically.  Emotionally the desire to be house proud left her in an instant. 

We moved back into the house after the rebuiltd  It looked the same -- sort of -- but it was missing some of the charming things that made it nice in spite of its' tiny footprint.  The faceted glass doorknobs were gone as were the lovely paneled doors -- replaced with brass hardware and slab doors.  Not the same.  The tile in the kitchen with the site-built cabinets were gone and replaced with stock, ready to hang, cabinets and formica.  Ok, no grout to bleach on a regular basis but---- there was no grout to bleach -- the routine was broken.

As was my mother.  From that point on, my mother didn't hang on to anything material.  There was minimal decoration, things that were lost from the fire weren't replaced, There was nothing sitting around, no knick-knacks, no plants, nothing.  She didn't care.  I didn't get it.  Home was different.  My mother was different.  What had happened to my life?

Yesterday, I got it.  I believe my mother had reached the time in her life that I have reached now although she was considerably younger at the time.  It is the realization that material things just don't make you happy.  Material things are clutter.  Material things are things to be dusted, and cleaned and moved around and shifted and clearly things to multiply in the night.  I have heard other people say, after fires and other natural disasters, that material goods just didn't have the same impact on them as they used to.  Some people, in fact, look at it as a blessing.  I wouldn't wish any sort of a natural disaster on anybody anywhere under any circumstances but there is something about starting over that is cathartic.

Yesterday I walked through my house and I looked at it, critically, from the front door and tried to see what others see when they walk in.  It is crowded.  There is too much stuff.  It grates on my nerves. It makes me tired.  I think that is where my mother's head was -- she was just tired.  Granted, she was only 46 years old at that time but she was tired.  I am tired.  I don't wish to spend my time dusting spindly little legs on furniture.  I don't wish to spend my money on decorations that need to be stored or dusted or washed (thank you Hobby Lobby for all the lovely seasonal decorations that I won't be buying).  I understand where my mother's head was when she would clean the house (always smelled like Pine-sol and lemon oil) and then just want to sit down with a book. 

I get it.  It has taken me longer than her but -- I get it. 


Frugally challenged said...

I look forward to reading the updates on this one!

Jane and Chris said...

You know, it's funny that you should be telling this story now. As we were heading toward renos I've been wanting the house to be clear and clean...minimalist. No items on surfaces unless they are necessary...no fabric lampshades etc...nothing to hold dust etc. We've been planning around this idea, it was in our minds that this is how it should be...then I broke my back. I will no longer be able to do the cleaning as I did before...I need space,clear,easy to clean surfaces. It's almost as though we were planning for 'something' (and indeed something did happen) Is it a middle aged realisation that something may happen to our bodies that need this? A subconscious shift as the body ages?
Jane x

Penhallow Street said...

There's days when I'd like something no bigger, or as sparsely furnished as a monastic cell :)
Piles of books on surfaces is something I still can't contain though.

Streamlining is freeing--your mother was fortunate to come to that early in life.