We checked out the new Home Goods store today. There were an awful lot of throw pillows. I never buy those, because I’m always going to make them so much more economically myself. I never do that either, but I have a whole shelf full of pillow insides I’ve bought on sale at various times that are just sitting waiting for the glorious day. There should be a German word, or maybe an economics term, for the reluctance to buy things because you’re going to make them yourself. Handwerksplanung, or “consumer crafting anticipation expenditure variable,” or something.
Anyway, all we ended up buying at the Home Goods was some hangers and a thing of shower gel that I really should have sniffed before I brought it home. But I was hoping to find a lamp, maybe an orangey-coral ceramic one. I’ve been trying to change things up a little bit. Partly because the kids are gone now, not just off at college but really gone, and partly because I realized I’ve had the same two wooden horses sitting on the mantel since we bought them on the trip to Hawaii twenty years ago. Mama horse and baby horsie, and they have not moved a wooden muscle in twenty years.
Remember your parents’ house, I told myself. Remember that knick-knack table with the Hummels on the bottom layer and the—well, I don’t remember what was on the top layer, but whatever they were, they were there for forty-five years until Katrina came through and changed everybody’s domiciliary variables. “That awful front room, that we never, ever used,” I could hear Lucy saying. “With those stupid horses on the mantel. They’ve been there my entire life.”
Well, never using the front room because you are “keeping it nice for company” is clearly a heritable disorder, and fighting that is a topic for another blog post or maybe even a self-help book. “Using the Front Parlor: Start Enjoying All the Rooms of Your Heart, Life, & Spirit.” But in the meantime, I can make a few touches to freshen things up, right? Some new curtains, a few pops of color?
On the other hand. When we were in college we got very close with an English professor. I had three courses with him and he was the father of one of Allen’s childhood friends, and he actually introduced us. For years after we graduated, we often visited him and his wife in their groovy midcentury-modern house on a big tree-filled lot. It had a big brick fireplace and lots of built-ins and low, unfussy Danish modern furniture, and was about as different from the house I grew up in as it is possible to conceive. The kitchen cabinet doors were all painted different colors, and as I remember it they slid on tracks instead of opening on hinges, and had round holes for you stick a finger in instead of hardware.
So one day Carol announced that she was very excited because they were finally having the kitchen repainted. Everything had to come out of the cabinets and there was a lot of mess and confusion, and then we went by there again and she proudly showed us the newly painted cabinets. Which were…exactly the same color, or colors, they had been before. I remember being disappointed, and trying to hide that and say something nice (but what? “Wow, it looks so, uh, clean!”).
But I also felt envious, because clearly Carol was completely, utterly satisfied with their house just the way it was, and was willing to go on living with the navy door and the orange door and the crimson door for another twenty or thirty years. Even my mother and her immovable Hummels had changed up the kitchen a couple of times. I think we had that 70s wallpaper with the spice jars on it for a while.
Does all this desire for change indicate some kind of inner conflict, an unfulfilled need, an unresolved psychological issue? Or it just that anybody would be sick and tired of looking at the pottery lamp with the dent in the shade that we got at a garage sale in 1996? Dammit, I am getting rid of that lamp. Maybe the horses can stay a while longer.
Recipe: We had leftover roast chicken and Allen wanted salad, and I wanted to do the kind with grapes in but we didn’t have any grapes so I found this recipe online and for some amazing reason had everything on hand to make it, except I had already put pecans in to toast so we had them instead of the almonds. You just can’t go wrong with Martha. Go to the link but it’s basically a yogurt-mayonnaise dressing with garlic in it, kind of a lot of basil, and the salad part is chicken, onion, celery, dried apricots, and the nuts. It didn’t taste particularly garlicky or basil-y, just good.