Make a Home of Stories

Portuguese house

My mother's house was like a model home - immaculate and impersonal. In fact, some of the furniture was from a model mobile home. When my mother separated from my step-father in the late 70s/early 80s, she bought a mobile home because it's what she could afford. I remember walking through it on the lot and her telling the man, "We'll take it." Then, she asked, "Does the furniture come with it?" He said, "Not usually. This is for demo purposes." She told him she wanted the furniture too. The double bed with the faux brass headboard and the hexagonal wooden table with the glass top went with us when we moved and stayed with my mom for most of her life.

There were no family pictures on the walls or mantle in my mom's house. She'd given all her family photos to us when she was 50. The art on the walls reminded me of the art you see in doctor's offices - created to be pleasant but generic enough to be enjoyed by anyone. There wasn't even a single magnet on the refrigerator. Everything matched and was functional.

When my mother died, it took my sister and I only 2 1/2 hours to clear out the house. I took very few things - a quilt I remembered from my childhood, the afghan my father had made for my mother when she was pregnant with me, her wedding ring, and some cheap Christmas ornaments I remembered her buying right after she and my dad divorced. That was it. 

Our home is nothing like my mother's. It is not staged in a way that looks good on Instagram and would never rate on a lifestyle blog. If you come to visit, I can give you matching sheets in good repair but the blankets? They won't match anything at all. The quilt I took from my mother's house is torn and I know the time is coming to let it go. I wouldn't give you that one but I might give you the "band-aid blanket" or the quilt made by the woman who lived on the dirt road where my mother had her cabin but hat quilt is wearing thin as well. I might give you one of "Bivó's blankets," the plaid wool blankets we brought from Portugal when we needed padding for bottles of wine. I bought some new blankets last winter but I don't like them because they could belong to anyone.

The art on the walls in our house comes from trips we have taken together and gifts from friends and family. The smallest painting we have was one of the most expensive - a beautiful painting of a house in Portugal. We bought it and only figured out later how much we'd actually paid for it. Calculating exchange rates are hard. But point to anything on our walls and we will tell you a story.

We surround ourselves with an interesting mix of our past and present. The rooms hold more than their share of stories and almost everything we keep has one too. I appreciated my mother's sense of order and tendency towards minimalism and carry both with me but this house - our home - is not a model home. It is sometimes messy and rarely picture perfect but it is ours and only ours because we have made our home of stories.