This week, millions of people are posting pictures of their kids with backpacks and first day of school clothes. It’s such a kick to see those eager young faces and their carefully chosen outfits that will one day serve as objects of extreme mortification, then amusement, then nostalgia and finally, inspiration for revivals. I wish I had a similar record of transformation of my kids’ rooms. The camera typically focused on the adorable kid in the foreground with just a peek at the decor morphing from cutesy, to boy-band posters, to extreme expressions of individualism; individualism that just happened to be identical to that of their friends.
Memory is a lousy historian. These snapshots offer proof of how they actually lived. It’s a more authentic record of the styles of a particular era than any archive of professionally styled magazines. I remember an afternoon when a chic childless friend dropped by our house to stumble upon a parade of plastic animals snaking through the front hall and into the living room where Hot Wheels raced through a complicated system of cardboard tubes, masking tape and building blocks. She didn’t mention the elephant in the room — or zebras, tigers and tiny metal cars — yet the expression on her face all but broadcast her inner thoughts and fears: How, exactly, did it come to this?
It wasn’t until years later when I found a snapshot of the kids standing before their brilliant creation that my friend’s horror of the scene fully registered with me. Real life can be unduly messy.
There’s an even older picture of the living room taken shortly after my husband and I bought it. The mortgage ate up most our income so the furniture consists of four white, wire garden chairs — $5 a pop— artfully arranged around the fireplace. This one picture really is worth more than a thousand walking-three-miles-to-school-in-the-rain-you-don’t-know-how-easy-you’ve-got-it words.
For a big chunk of my childhood, my family of eight dined on a door. It was a nice door. Wood. No knobs or hinges. My grandfather attached wrought iron legs to the corners decades earlier. Long before crafters would anoint this a cool DIY project, I naturally experienced the five stages of Good Grief! 1) Oblivious, 2) Curious, 3) Denial, 4) Mortified, and, finally, 5) Cruising the frames, legs and plinths department of Ikea to create something similar.
Take pictures, people. The evidence will come in handy. Your furniture is bearing witness.
Maybe that’s what this chair by Australian student Fiona Roberts grabbed me. Embedded in the red velvet upholstery are hundreds of freakishly life-like plastic eyes, some wide open, others semi-squinted in a really judgmental way.
Vivian McInerny is the managing editor of Oregon Home.