Wednesday, 12 July 2017

How My Mother Ruined My Life (Part 4 Of 7,000,000,000)

Do you remember the family room?

Not the living room, the fun room where Christmas happened, and where the sleeping bags went when you had sleepovers, but the family room.

Neighborhood get-togethers happened there, with the adults all drinking whatever weird drink was in at the time (vodka gimlet, anyone?), and dipping chunks of bread into beer-laced melted cheese. The record player was in there, too, and your parents' vast collection of Air Supply and REO Speedwagon 45's reverberated perfectly, thanks to the acoustic magic of that mildly creepy, spiderey textured ceiling.

The wallpaper was that thick, strange heavy stuff (usually with a hint of gold in it) that you helped your dad hang for your mom's birthday one year. It was the one she'd been eyeballing in those massive sample books during innumerable 'just to compare' outings at the Paint & Paper store. They had saved for ages, as it cost slightly more than a billion dollars a square inch. I had flashbacks well into adulthood about trying to get the stripes to line up evenly- there's a reason 70's kids don't have wallpaper as adults.

Your family birthday parties happened in there- grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles gathered there to stare into your soul as you tried to graciously accept that one weird gift. You didn't get to eat your cake in there- the adults did, though, and not once did I ever hear my mom warn THEM not to drop their black forest cake on the carpet. You ate yours in the kitchen, with the rest of the cousins, and it didn't matter if whipped cream got on the walls.

It was the room where the good stuff lived. The grandfather clock stood in the corner, bonging away incessantly till your brain learned to tune it out. The coffee table actually matched the end tables, and was pristine, with not a scratch on it. In a million years, it would never have occurred to you to put a glass down without a coaster (we weren't allowed to bring drinks in there, so I guess it's kind of a moot point), but that didn't stop your mom from dancing on it to the Beatles one night in elementary school. What was WITH the double standard, anyway???

And the furniture. Mom had painstakingly picked hers, agonizing over what shades of rust and ecru matched the eggshell walls best (replaced by a debate over which tones of pink best matched the brass when she redid the room in the 90's), and what fabrics held up better over time.

That was back in the day where stuff was made to last, and was priced accordingly. The family room was 12x18 feet of your parents' vision of the grown ups they wanted to become. It wasn't the motley collection of mismatched family hand me downs, wood paneling and Ikea Boxing Day deals you saw in the basement- it was the room they worked hard to make beautiful, and where some of their most treasured memories took place. It was the first room you saw on entering the house, and it was the face they presented to the world. (I was an idiot back then- I just thought it was a room).

Which leads me to how my mom made me the nut job I am today.

She bought a new loveseat when I was in junior high school. It was gorgeous- solid, overstuffed,  covered in embroidered flowers of varying shades of blue, with dusty rose accents. It was parked in front of the bay window. When the blinds were open, the back of the loveseat was covered in a bath towel to prevent the sun fading the fabric. Not a plastic slipcover (that would have been tacky), but one of the good brown bath towels. It was whisked away when the room was used, but the instant the guests left, the towel was returned to active duty, tirelessly guarding against destructive UV rays.

At that point in our lives, my sister and I were starting to be allowed unsupervised into the family room. We still couldn't take food, drinks, or frivolity in there, but mom had begun to trust us not to explode with sudden insanity, taking an axe to the coffee table, plastering the walls with gore and brain matter, and smashing David Winter Lilliput Lane Cottage sculptures with abandon.

That loveseat.

She allowed us to sit on it, but did so grudgingly. She knew NOT allowing us to sit on the thing was unreasonable, and she adored us, but you could see her visibly tense up if you sat sideways on it, imagining what your awkward posture was doing to the structure. She REALLY didn't want your friends sitting on it, because they didn't know the rules- best if you just didn't entertain in there at all. But my sister and I were so thrilled by the prospect of actually being allowed to use the furniture that we refused to see the inherent parlour-ness of the room, and insisted on trying to enjoy it.

And every time we sat down on that gorgeous loveseat, within 30 seconds of landing, you felt your head being gently lifted off the high backrest, and before it was returned to its former position, a tea towel was lovingly laid behind your neck, lest your scalp oils eat away at the 11,000,000 thread count fabric.

TO THIS DAY, I don't rest my head on furniture (unless I'm napping on the couch). The instant it touches the fabric, my head reflexively bounces back into a 90 degree sitting position. It even happens in the van- it stresses me out to take advantage of the head rest- it feels weird, and I cringe forward a bit so I won't make contact. One day, I will develop a hump.

I'm naming it 'Mom'.

The loveseat, which grandkids are now allowed to sully with shoes.

This picture is intended for wallpaper-viewing purposes only.
Any other things you see going on, just ignore.



  1. I think we require a detailed explanation of what is happening in the wallpaper picture. You can't show and not tell.

  2. HAHA! I believe we are in our 'dressing like Madonna = undergarments as outerwear' phase. I don't know that Mads intended my mother's good slip be part of the outfit...