Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Painting your own house.



The photo above is of my parents' dining room, and it encompasses everything I adore about my mother. This was my normal. I never heard the concept "everything has a place," until spending time with David's family, who keeps a beautiful home, complete with a closet entirely for tablecloths, pressed and perfectly hung. As you can see, my mother's preference is, um, scattered, but she's always had the ability to tell you exactly where anything is. "Mom, where are the scissors?" "Bedside table, next to the purple earrings and underneath the stack of bracelets."

There were times in my life when I was embarrassed to have friends over, but that wasn't until sometime in middle school, when I realized my friends had a lot more money than I did. For a while, I didn't think that mattered. All the books and movies had taught me that money wasn't important. But one time a friend told me she was no longer allowed at my house because she'd told her mom there was a roach, and suddenly I was embarrassed about every little thing -- that my parents worked multiple jobs, that I never got Tretorns, that I had to color a little blue rectangle on the back of my generic white shoes to make it look like they were Keds, that I'd never been out of the country, that our house wasn't spotless. My head knew that was ridiculous, that love was more important than vacuuming, and that I had more love than any household I knew.

Teenage Patsy in her perfect 1960s living room.
Note the furniture coverings.
My parents have never kept a perfect home. My grandparents, I am told, did. When my mother purchased the Speevack family home in 1974 from her parents, who had lived there for 25 years, she made the home hers. The furniture from her parents remained, but the walls would take on new lives for the next 44 years. An obvious act of rebellion (she was only 22, after all),  she literally wallpapered the living room with an Old Fitzgerald billboard. As the years rolled on, she stripped other wallpaper and painted the walls outrageous colors. My wonderful dad never commented, at least not out loud.

Same living room in the 1970s, owned by my parents.
My adorable daddy + Old Fitz billboard wallpaper.

The past couple of weeks I've slept in the dining room of my family home -- a home that was last on the market in 1948. That stone elephant I'm staring at? It's been in this room for 70 years.


We moved some furniture out to make room for a hospital bed, only to discover that when Mom painted the dining room about 3 years ago, she painted around the furniture. She also purposefully chose a 2-color theme for the dining room: a mint green and light sky blue. Rather than having different colors for below and above the chair-rail, Mom instead divided the room vertically -- and freehand with a paintbrush (i.e. crooked) at that.
Patsy, Graham, Angus, Kenny, Brigid. Last week.

She was so proud of this brazen design choice, and I love her for it. Because, while I know nothing about interior design, I do know that your home should make you happy. A wall that is half mint green and half light blue has made my mother happy, and I love that she now opens her eyes to this design every day -- a reminder that she always did exactly what she wanted.

She wears socks with her Birkenstocks, and floral skirts with paisley shirts, and dangly earrings like a Spanish teacher, and her living room is purple, and her kitchen is turquoise, and the living room is half-blue, half-mint green, partially hunter green, partially beige, and her bedroom was coral and teal for 20 years, but recently went bright lavender, and the sunroom is bright red, there's a half-finished mural of flowers in the kitchen, which Mom won't paint over even though the plaster is falling down because I painted it when I was a teenager. The house is a realtor's nightmare, and I know my grandmother would be mortified, but it sure does make my mother happy.

My mother never turned down an invitation, was always the first to arrive at every party, knew every word to every song she heard (though she could never clap along on the beat), loved her family and friends fiercely, and didn't give a crap about dust on the fireplace or that her daughter was using her fancy NYU degree to sing pub songs. It is priorities well-placed, I believe.

Last week.
I'm sitting in this blue, green, and beige dining room right now typing by my mom and noticing I'm using past tense, which makes me sad. She's still breathing. I'm one foot away from her right now, while she sleeps peacefully, out of the awful pain she's been in. I'm not so able to sit still because I look around and see so much to do. I've been throwing away a lot of things (old pens, not old photographs), and dusting and scrubbing and trying to distract myself from what is happening. I know, however, that I should stop cleaning and planning and just hold my mother's hand. I mean, if she taught me anything, it's that it you should slow down, hold hands, and paint your house whatever color you want.


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more boring cancer stuff at www.webothhavecancer.com (i'm trying not to be too dreary on the ol' Red Accordion Diaries)

19 comments:

  1. You have certainly captured her essence. Patsy was always bubbly and so happy to see everyone. It makes me wonder how her eccentricities came from my conventional aunt and uncle. She was wired differently since her birth at 21/2 lbs!

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    1. Ha! I would love to hear more about my grandparents. Evelyn died when I was 4, so I don't remember anything about her except that she smelled like stale cigarettes (doubtful the memory she would like her granddaughter to carry).

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  2. Hey honey. It's such a hard time for you. It's lovely that you are finding things out Bout your mum. I love the idea of painting round the furniture and the fun colours. Good on her! Take care. P xxxx

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  3. I like what you wrote. I sit with my Mother as often as I could. You should slow down and hold here hand. The rest can wait. Tim Kaelin

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  4. Love this piece Brigid. And even though I'm a realtor, I LOVE the fact that every room is a different color. Patsy's own little rainbow. Much love to you and your family.

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    1. That was from Sara Orthober.

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    2. :) Love to you -- and I'm so sorry about your mother too. This shit is hard!!

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  5. This is the best entry you have ever written.

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  6. my love my heart breaks but its so beautiful at the same time. any woman that paints around furniture is amazing! take your time - its not easy to sit with your poorly mum and throwing away pens etc is probably just what you need. you are handling this completely perfectly. I love you xx

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  7. Thinking of all of you. Patsy is a wonderful person, who raised a wonderful daughter. She is always proud of YOU!

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  8. I'm having trouble posting. Richard and I have sat on that red couch many many Friday and Saturday night's. Memories. I'm so sorry I didn't get to visit with P atsy but when I didn't hear back from you I figured there was a good reason. Just know you are the light of her life. Much love Leesa

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    1. Come by whenever you like! I completely missed the comment on the other blog. The anonymous thing threw me, and then i missed the second comment until just now.

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    2. Ok..tomorrow around dinner. I teach a class until 4. I'll text you

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  9. What a beautiful (and hard) glimpse into your world and your family home. What a beautiful example she’s been of doing your own thing your way. Lots of love to you all. ❤️

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