My fabulous mother has the most refined taste of anyone I’ve ever known- but it’s been a process- developed over her lifetime, and for a while, mine.
When I was born, we lived in a little apartment that I still remember as having a mish-mash of furniture styles. They were, after all, newlyweds, and I’m pretty sure my grandmother Daisy handed a piece, or two, down.
We next moved into the only home my parents would live in together- the ranch-style house they built on Clarion Drive.
My mother had the builder clad the exterior bottom third in brick, hang louvered shutters on only the windows that would have naturally taken them, and trim-out the over-sized front door with moldings that made the entry appear to be a french double.
Clever. And successful.
I thought it was the prettiest house on the street.
She changed her decorating scheme to American Colonial (as was the fashion of the time), but soon got sick of the heavy machine-turned orange lacquered wood, and reinvented our surroundings to reflect the ‘modern’ vibe of the 60’s.
Very Mad Men.
With a growing family (we were now four), she got thrifty and began going to estate sales- of mostly elderly people- who didn’t have ‘Modern’. They had old stuff called ‘Antiques’. And it was interesting. And abundant. And affordable.
Our ‘foyer’ had a French regency wall console topped by a huge gold-gilt mirror, next to a Charles and Ray Eames lounge chair and ottoman.
The far end of the living room was anchored by an English rolled-arm Empire couch that she had reupholstered in white leather! With a wall hung, gallery style, with Renaissance Illuminated prayer pages, German short bread presses, and my 8th grade art project!
Double Genius!( It was good).
Long story short- she was talented! She still is.
Mom sees things other mere mortals just can’t quite grasp.
Like the time she brought home a really old piece of tattered multi-colored cloth (that had a dozen names on it, and a 1878 embroidered date) and wrapped the trunk of the wee Christmas tree she always had on the closed top of the Baby Grand piano, where she served desserts at my parent’s famous Christmas Eve open house.
But this time, I thought she had simply gone too far with the ‘old’ thing. After all, this blanket had been stitched together from what looked like dozens of different pieces of cloth, and people had sewed messages into it!
“Mom, this thing looks dirty”.
“It’s not dirty Cheryl Ann. It’s just been loved”.
“I don’t know. I think I see a piece of someones problem in here”.
“There are no problems with this quilt. It was a labor of love between women in hard times”.
“What hard times? Doesn’t everyone have two cars, go on a spring vacation and have a college fund?”
No. That’s all she said. That’s all she had to. Lesson learned.
Years later, I would come into possession of that quilt, and marry a man whose sister was a master quilter.
I still treasure them both, and this Christmas was inspired by them to sew quilts for my children (it had been twenty years since my last creation).
They’re amateur, off-kilter, machine stitched, uncomplicated, and made with so much love Mom and Nina would be proud…
(It was his favorite Christmas present!)