My Mother Daughter

//My Mother Daughter

My Mother Daughter

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.


“Me neither.”

“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?



  1. Cathy Popovic March 16, 2023 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    OMG please send Randy to my house 😂. Decorating I can do, but a really good cleaning and organizing, I could use 😜

    • Rita Hartley March 16, 2023 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      Lol. She’s back in BC now 🤷‍♀️. Her cleaning and organizing skills are stellar!!

  2. Jayne Baker March 16, 2023 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Maybe interior design and decorating is a calling for Randelle. It sounds like she has a natural talent. What a nice surprise fir you, Rita. Always nice to have some new beautiful changes. Can’t wait to see the new look.

    • Rita Hartley March 16, 2023 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      She does have a natural talent for it! I look forward to sharing with everyone 😁

  3. Denise Capitano March 16, 2023 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Wow!!! Sounds fantastic! I think it’s a great surprise and it is nice to get another person’s touch!!!! You’ve raised some pretty remarkable kids!!! Well done!!

    • Rita Hartley March 16, 2023 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Thx Denise! I am feeling very good about this! What a treat!!

  4. Grant Clark March 17, 2023 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Good for you, they give us glimpses that we may have done something right/or not. Seems most of us find our passion on the path we travel. Enjoy the visit, Grant

    • Rita Hartley March 17, 2023 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      I guess finding passion on the path we travel is our life mission right? Thx so much for reading & commenting 🤗

  5. HILARY+D+SLATER March 21, 2023 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Ooh would Randelle like to come and visit our place?!! :))
    I’m gobsmacked though, since your cottage is always intimidatingly clean and tidy.
    I used to live that way-a designer home, everything in its place, I was so happy when the world was in order. Now I live with Ray and 2 big dogs. Do you know how difficult it is *not* to clean and clear? But I just can’t keep up with 4 of us.
    I’ve let it slide. It depresses me no end, I feel shame when we have guests and the house is not the way ‘my home’ should be.
    Ray is content to let things be a mancave.
    I go to my studio to escape when it gets to be too much. Or I Marie condo my closets 😉
    This week (despite repairing arm) I bought and built 4 new steel shelves and re-organized the *whole* studio and every area.. it looks so great I was afraid to paint and make a mess now. Which is a bad state of clean neurosis 😉
    I pushed past the clean disease and started painting today :))
    But seriously-Randelle come visit please!! 😉

    • Rita Hartley March 22, 2023 at 7:15 am - Reply

      You make me laugh! I think, when we live with someone, we have to figure out a level of cleanliness and order that works for both. And having 2 large dogs that shed adds a whole other element. Thankfully you have your studio! And it’s hard to keep things pristine while working on creative projects. My son Jay says he has no problem getting rid of things, he has his memories. Well I know from rereading journals that the sheer volume of day-to-day minutiae we forget is remarkable! That’s why I keep many bits of paper that others may discard, to keep memory alive! Xo

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