The House that Grace Built

HahnXcherryGrowing up, I adopted a pattern of behavior that I could only discern in hindsight. If my mom was good at something, if it was a priority for her, then I stayed away from it. Mom was a consummate homemaker, a great cook, terrific hostess, pretty, charming, petite, and devoted to maintaining a castle to be proud of. My older sisters came closer to sharing those priorities than I did, but even if I’d had those domesticating genes, if I wanted to be seen as an individual, I needed to find a different path.

I don’t know HOW to use make up, for example. Never learned, can’t see why I’d want to–unlike Mom, Maire, and Gail. I’m not much of a cook, though I’m way too good at baking, Mom, Maire, and Gail shared the cooking thing. To the extent I’m making lifestyle choices, that’s my business.

morningI’m finding though, as the day job ebbs, that I’m in my house more… and I’m in my house in a different way. I don’t plunge into a writing weekend knowing that come Monday, I’ll have to go back to the office. These days, I might not go back into the office until Tuesday. Or I might zip through on Monday, grab what I need, answer mail, and take most of Tuesday at home. My home is becoming more than my permanent camp site.

Years ago, when Darling Child was underfoot, I used to go nuts with flowers around the yard. I’m going nuts with flowers this year, in part because gardening is a good way to get out of the writing chair. I’m also doing it because I love to look out my window and see flowers. Love it.

I bought a rocking chair.

blog cat cozy woodstoveWhy did I buy a rocking chair? Because the late mastiff and the bull mastiff ate the rockers off the one given to me when my daughter was born, and the golden retriever has appropriated the couch. The only places to sit comfortably in my house have been the writing chair, and well, the, um, reading room.

Now there’s a literary symbol for ya. I hadn’t realized this until recently. I was only here to eat, sleep, write, and do laundry, in a sense. My office is prettier than my house… yikes!

louisa_244wIt’s time I made my nest affirmatively lovely. The yard is the immediate priority, because of the season, but I have ambitions for the house too. I’m going to pretty this place the heck up, maybe even invite some people over for a meal.

What a concept.

Look around your house and your yard. What would your mom think of it? What would your younger self think of it? If you were stuck there for six straight months, would you change anything?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight, a story about a daughter who thought she wasn’t that much like her mom.



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19 comments on “The House that Grace Built

  1. We are total opposites in this. I love to putter in my house, rearrange furniture, buy accessories. I love cooking, when I have the time – and trying new recipes makes me happy. Outside,eh, not so much. Don’t like playing in the dirt, don’t like the heat, don’t like the bugs. My mom was always a gardener and had flowers galore all over the yard. I’d like to be more like that, but I just didn’t get that gene.

      • I don’t know if we are opposites. My mom was essentially trapped at home with baby after baby, and she made that house lovely because she truly, truly lived there. I was back at work before my daughter was a month old (thank you, corporate America!), and the sheer time and energy to “make” a home went elsewhere.
        I have the time and energy now, and I’m finding I might have some puttering to do!

  2. Mom loved my house. Since she died not too long ago, there isn’t much that has changed. In fact, I had spruced up the house in preparations for my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary part which I was to host…..but Mom left us five days before the party. I had bought new throw pillows for the living room–and chose William Morris patterned tapestry ones because she had grown up in a Midwestern Bungalow and this would have reminded her of her Mom’s house…I love them and know she would have too.

    I am now home more than I used to be, beginning when I was 50. After resigning from a soul-sucking church job (I’ve said that before here and, if there ever comes a blog of yours to comment something about it, I will!)I started a chamber choir and our office is in my home. At that point, with the new project and new time for other things, I decided to make our home more us…more me…more what pleases us. I have a collection of milkglass proudly displayed and used my kitchen. Music and books and the grand piano are in the living room. Family room has my husband’s huge collection of albums and CDs (classical) as well as all sorts of ways to play them. In one corner of the family is also my working desk and file cabinets of music.

    Our bedroom is comfy…and that’s where I would suggest you start your prettying project…start with YOU and what pleases YOU in a space only you (or….?)will enjoy. We have graduation pictures (HS and undergrad)of our kids. Pictures of our family and each other (my professional head shot, husband’s professional head shot)and wedding pictures. Make your bedroom comfy and *you* and you will be inspired to make the rest of the house that way too.

    Have fun, Grace……it will be worth it.

    • We could probably compare notes about church jobs. I’ve mediated more than one divorce where the church was “the other woman.” You wonder where the pastoral committee is sometimes.

      I am making some changes in my bedroom, where I do my nighty-night reading. First thing I did–I am not making this up–is I got rid of the goose neck lamp that would periodically decide to bonk me on the head. I’d be reading along and just… whamp! Hot light bulb and all.

      Gone at last!

  3. My mom is into thinking everything I do and have is wonderful, therefore I am confident she would approve of the house’s current incarnation. My younger self changed taste as rapidly as changing clothes. Also I have been here for nearly 30 years. The younger self of 30 years ago would be pleased with the things I have done because we share the “to do” list. Prior to that I think I would have thought the wood too dark (furniture) and maybe the walls too light.

    As for being “stuck” here for 6 months… ah if only $$ wasn’t involved I would spend that time making the rest of the changes to the inside that are crying to be made (lots of natural light for one). I would also hire a gardener since I love gardens and zero scape (I live in AZ) but sadly have a persistent brown thumb.

    • I’m not so good with house plants–the walls in this little log cabin are very thick, and that cuts down on the light–but I do well in the yard. My mom had the green thumb.
      Why is it, when we have the time, we don’t have the money. When the money is coming in the door, we don’t have the energy for the house projects? Reminds me of that old essay, “I want a wife.”

  4. Never liked to do housework. In my 20s, 30s, and 40s I used to devote one of my weekend days to just cleaning the house. Top to bottom – every nook and cranny. Even cleaned things that didn’t need to be cleaned. I made it into a habit. But somewhere in my early 50s I found by energy waning and I decided my off-time was just too precious to spend it doing nothing but cleaning.

    Now that I’m retired I only just do okay. My living room, dining room, and bedroom (that I sleep in) always look good. But, my kitchen and back bedroom (where I have my TV, Computer, desk, and all of my books) are always a mess. If my mom was alive and saw them I think she would just smile and “that’s my Mary – housekeeping never was her thing.” She ought to know – we had many an argument about it (smile).

    • I used to do a weekly rampage too–my daughter’s name for it. I’d scrub floors that were dirty again by the end of the day, cleaning the house was something I could control at a time in life when control eluded me on many fronts.

      Maybe that’s part of what’s driving me now too. I can control my little domicile, so I will.

  5. For the most part I’m happy with my home. I’d love to have the time to grow a proper vegetable garden again. We’ve got a few outside projects that we are working on like putting in a flagstone patio. Oh and some days I detest the wallpaper on one wall in our bedroom. We mostly have it covered so I can ignore it most days, but it would go if I were stuck here long term – I’d have the time after all.

    What would my mom think? The last time she visited she commented that it was ‘cluttered’ Ironically, much of the clutter is knick-knacks that we received as gifts over the years – including many from her. 🙂

    • One of those mom moments… your house is cluttered with her mementos. Thank you, Mom.

      I would also like to have a big old vegetable garden, and then there’s the putting up fruit, and freezing the extra veggies… except I don’t any room in the freezer. I think I’ll start with some porch tomatoes, see how that goes. Maybe some peppers, because they’re easy, but the ambitious garden is going to have to wait until more of the inside of the house is the way I want it.

  6. Hospitality is not my strong suit. I hate to clean. My house is quite pitiful. I love to watch HGTV, but I still have a window that has a towel on it as a curtain. I would love for someone else to come into my house, clean it, organize it and decorate it.

    • Anne, I have you beat. There are windows in this house without ANY curtains, not even a towel, and I’ve been here for 25 years. Of course, there aren’t neighbors to peer in those windows, either, unless you count the cows.

      So I think small. Get a bedside lamp. Just that. Next week, I might put a rug in my bedroom. Wheee! The next week, maybe… maybe curtains? That’s pretty ambitious. I suspect in the back of my mind, I might be preparing for the day I have to show the house in anticipation of selling it. Long way to go before I can make a “Buy me!” impression!

  7. I’m like my mom in that I am a horrid housekeeper…but that is because I grew up with a perfectionist dad who was always finding fault with how the house was cleaned. I know I grew up rebelling against it and with hindsite, I now see that my mom was being passive aggressive in dealing with my dad’s control freak nature. That said, her yard and garden were gorgeous and I definately didn’t get her yard gene. If I had my way, there would be no lawn showing and instead, it would look like an English flower garden everywhere. as to the house itself, i think she would like it. It’s not her style, but I think she would like how calming it is. The colors and the furniture have been picked out for the shear purpose of pleasuring the senses. I grew up in a chaotic household due to my dad’s alcoholism and neatnik nature and my mom’s bi-polar mental health issues. As an adult, I find myself even now, constantly looking for peace and quiet. My house is made for my husband ease of mobility (as a result of his two massive strokes), my dogs and cat’s pleasure, and my peaceful co-existence with David (my hubby) and our animal children. If I were stuck there for six months, I would definately change the wall color from neutral beige to a cool denim blue and incorporate more beach design into my cottage chic design.

    • I know what you mean about an English cottage garden–a riot of flowers, all types and colors and shapes, growing all over. None of this mow the grass baloney.

      I have two acres though, so there IS grass. Every few years I put in another flowering tree or shrub though. When I leave here, it will be prettier than when I bought the place, and that matters to me.

  8. I spent most of my teen and adult years (until my early 40s) rebelling against being like my Mom. I lived in rental apartments never really creating a home, just a place to sleep and grade papers when I wasn’t at work. My decorative style was eclectic bohemian for the longest. Then 9 years ago I bought my first home, a high rise, in a beautiful nature compound like being in a tree house. I took the place down to the studs and redecorated with my mom’s help but with my colors, taste and interests.
    I now have a home I love inside and out. It is my sanctuary. Every room is different. I never get bored in it. My friends and family love the place as does my Mom. Working on the place brought my Mom and I closer together and I discovered I had more good taste for decorating, style and entertaining than I had realized. I am still not really a cook or gardener though I am learning to do the basics some to get by for cooking where as my mom is a gourmet cook. Recently my Mom had to have work done on her house and moved in with me for a week and loved my place enough that she really felt at home staying with me for a few weeks. It was lovely and fun. Never would have happened before I had this place.

    • The first place I seriously decorated–paint the walls, choose the carpet, have the curtains made–was my law office, and I liked the results. The law office could use a face lift now, but the house is where my energy will go. Somebody else’s turn to decide where to put the potted palm, and what to hang on those walls.

  9. Getting to this one late in the week but had to post a answer.
    Oh my poor mother. I did not get the cleaning gene from her or the cooking gene. Well, I can cook I just don’t like to.
    My house is a disaster most days and livable the other days. I could blame the four kids on it but honestly, I am lazy and I have gotten lazier in the past few years since the health problems.
    When my mom comes over she always cleans something, whether it’s the doing the dishes or cleaning most of my house. The few times I have been in the hospital she has made it her duty to clean my house.
    I would love to get rid of half the stuff in my house, have one of those big dumpsters come park in my driveway and just throw stuff in it. We have way too much stuff and I just don’t know where to start with it most of the time. I guess that is the answer to what I would if I were stuck here for six months, which when I think about it, I pretty much am stuck here all the time. Unless I am running errands I am home. No wonder I want to go away on trips all the time.
    No need to enter me into the contest, don’t think I am eligible anyway. Lady Louisa is one my favorites.