Wednesday, April 12, 2017
I want to be so much more zen than I am. Take my daughter's apartment, for example. The bathroom walls need to be scraped, plastered, primed, painted, a big job ensuing from the damage that occurred when the people upstairs were renovating their apartment, and doing a messy job of it. When they removed the bathtub, water poured down our walls and caused the paint to crack and peel in an unsightly way. The management company says they will fix it, but I've been trying to arrange this for three weeks now, and the stops and starts, promises not kept, contractors who don't show, are making me want to scream. Today, finally, the job is supposed to be done, yet I waited in the apartment after my daughter left for work, and at two hours past the appointed time, no workers had yet shown themselves.
This is not life and death. I recognize this. So why does it unsettle me so to have these tasks outstanding, and to have no control over how and when they will ultimately get done? Why can't I just breathe and know that if today passes and the job is still not done, we will simply have to reschedule. What's so crazy-making, so jarring to my soul, about that? I mean, some people have real problems.
I think, deep down, I am trying to unlearn the muscle memory of being responsible for that space, of being charged with making it a home that my elderly mother could settle into, and find comfort, visual harmony, peace. My mother is no longer even on this earth, and yet I am still so emotional about that space. Perhaps because I oversaw the original renovation of the apartment, transforming it from a dark, dingy hole into an airy, clean, light-filled studio; and perhaps because I labored to keep it pristine for my mother, every corner swept, every surface dusted, every handprint on the wall wiped clean; perhaps because I know every inch of that space, I have to force myself to let go of the imperative to care for it that was once so ingrained, because now that space will be inhabited by my daughter.
She is young and strong and creative. She will make the space hers. She will sell or put out any pieces of furniture or items of living that she does not want, regardless of my opinions about how useful to her they might yet be. My mother's beloved oriental rug, which she had to be encouraged to splurge on, because she loved it so—that's going out. It looks old to my children's eye, and I get that. The Queen Anne style coffee table with its dark polished wood and curved legs, that's going out too. Again, it's grandma's style—old. In it's place is a crisp, rectangular, iron and wood coffee table, which looks great, and yes, young. And that is just the beginning. The couch, the armchair, still perfectly good pieces, they'll need to find new homes, because images of a Pinterest gray couch dance in my daughter's imagination.
I'm writing this here to root out the lingering attachment and yes, ownership, I feel toward that sweet studio among the trees. My mother loved it, and I loved that I was able to create it for her. But now she is gone, and we who are still here are in a new phase of life, and we must—I must—embrace it and move forward.
I thought for a moment that I would rescue the items my daughter chooses not to keep and bring them into my own apartment, but as my girl said, "Mom, you can't absorb a whole apartment worth of stuff into your already fully furnished home." She was right. I began to understand how it is that old people's houses get so crowded with stuff. People they love die and they try to salvage the once-cherished pieces, now orphaned. I totally get it now, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, once my girl is fully ensconced in her new place, and our little nest is truly empty, I'm plotting with my husband to give our apartment a makeover, a room-by-room refresh, so that our space can feel light and Pinterest airy too.
Photo from Decorist