My thirtysomething daughter flew into town from BC, to celebrate her older sister’s momentous birthday, with no set date to fly back. Such a lovely long visit, but was it a mistake to leave her alone for a couple of nights at the cottage? I mean, what possible harm could she do?
Back in the day? Harm could be damage caused by a zillion of her closest friends dropping by, for drinks, a hot tub, a sleepover. The accumulation of empties could rival those of hungover pirates. Water rings could decorate table surfaces. Soggy towels could decorate floors.
Ah, but my kids are adulting now. Parties are not the thing; tasteful home decorating is. All three seem to have zipped past a minimalist chilled-out style and landed in what they refer to as “midcentury modern” (often called “MCM”). Design born post-WWII. Still simple in style, it often employs bright accent colours.
Basically? It’s the style of my youth. Or, more correctly, what should have been the style of my youth. This is where my mom and I begin, in a 1950s haze of zero decorating skills. Lack of money? Lack of inspiration?
My kids employ Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook Marketplace. Come on Reets, get with the program!
Where my mom failed in decorating savvy she more than made up for in cleanliness. Chores were constant and scrupulous: dusting, vacuuming, washing the kitchen floor on hands and knees. She taught me these valuable domestic skills. But I blame her (or a misguided youth) for not excelling at them. She had standards I could never meet; it was easier to do it herself.
It’s possible, even highly likely, she complained about her children’s slovenly ways. My daughter Randelle’s refresh of my cottage, though, had me considering a deeper motive for Mom’s whirlwind cleaning. Perhaps she liked it?
When my kids were younger, she babysat fairly regularly, always at our house. And every time she came? She cleaned and/or organized something. The utensil drawer. Windows. Floors. Mirrors.
This brought me great shame and embarrassment. I always wanted her to stop. Sit still for a minute. I mean, I could see the crumbs there, under the table, but who had the time – or energy? – to do anything about it? Apparently Mom did.
A medium told me once, channeling my dad, that he remarked on the “ambient sound of her”. While mediums have not always gotten my dead people correct, this comment rings so true.
Randelle called me from the cottage virtually out of breath with tasks accomplished. She’d found Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in a cupboard and magic-erased baseboards, walls, the stovetop even. Instantly, that familiar shame and embarrassment roiled the tummy. Surely I should have done this?
All those extra supplies cluttering up the kitchen cupboards? Moved to the nearby empty laundry cupboards. She went on and on, you get the picture, a place for everything and everything in its place. It’s not that I keep a messy house: I hire a cleaner, I clean out cupboards and closets from time to time. I think I lack a couple of qualities for the job, like passion and expertise.
Later that day, while perusing HomeSense for an item required because Randelle had helped me relocate a few furniture pieces at the house, I ran smack-dab into my other daughter Jetanne. She was shifty. Hiding things. She was heading to the cottage to see her sister that night.
We chatted about Randelle magic-erasering everything. “Have you ever had a desire to do such a thing?” I asked her.
“But she’s so happy,” Jetanne said. And that’s when it hit me. It probably made Mom happy too. Shame, embarrassment not necessary.
By the time Randelle and I went back up to the cottage for the “Big Reveal”, I’d been warned that more than a few cupboard/closet items had been relocated. Even the grandkids, who’d been there the previous night, were worried I’d be upset about the changes. This probably helped temper my response.
But wow. When a person has a vision for design and a lust for cleanliness and that person has generously gifted it to your space? How can you not just revel in it?
There are new giant throw pillows in the living room in colours I would never pick, but they look great. Art is rearranged. Items from the green room are in the blue room and vice versa. Huh?! It looks amazing. My favourite thing? A pale grey-blue sheepskin rug tossed over an ottoman that never quite looked right. It does now!
My husband B, who agrees there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place, also feels things should just stay in the place they were originally put in. You know, so he can find them. He’s not seen the cottage yet. As lacking as my homemaking skills may be, he likes how our homes feel. He says Randelle can help us with a refresh. But maybe just once every five years or so?