Monday, January 26, 2015

Proper home for a proper homme

Middle class American homes still amuse me. I do feel like a bit of a tourist when I travel up the class ladder to visit a "proper" American middle class family household. Sometimes it is the "talking points" that I can't relate to, other times it's the arrangements of stuff, showroom-style.
Case in point. The other morning I observed the immaculate air of a neatly organized home where a child under 4 resides! Everything was in its place, no speck of dust to be found anywhere. Most amazingly, each item in the house was being used for the purpose for which it was intended!

In such homes, order is established and upheld from the big to the little things. The playroom is designated for playing, and that's where the toys stay. Kitchen is for cooking, dining room for eating, living room for relaxing. There is not much crossover, and one feels awkward and cautious uprooting an item that belongs in a particular part of the house. Tea bag holders are used for still hot freshly discarded tea bags on their way to the compost; a mixing spoon rest sits in the middle of the stove, sparkling clean, waiting for its next date with a busy mixing spoon; a toy holder with a mesh bottom to drain water holds bath toys on the side of the tub; a plant table displays a beautifully arranged and perfectly watered array of succulents lining the dining room window. Shiny brass fireplace tools show no sign of ever having been singed.

I did not grow up like that. Yes, in the Old Country we had plumbing, electricity, TV, and even a living room and dining room. But what was most striking about our home, wherever we moved, was original art on the walls and a large quantity of books filling the bookshelves. We weren't sticklers for order or restricted use of household items. From the time my family immigrated with just one suitcase full of summer clothes, for quite a while we had almost nothing to use as utensils, nothing to arrange or rearrange. Cardboard boxes or crates wrapped in fabric served as shelves and coffee tables; toilet paper doubled as napkins, paper towels and tissues for cold-afflicted noses; and we've never had enough proper furniture to even sit on. Coming home from the houses of dot commers, lawyers, doctors, and the like can still be a shock.

My son's classmates practically live in mansions. Our house is small, humble and yes, generally a bit unkempt. Sometimes I actually steer away from inviting the fancier echelons over. There. I said it. Our "perfect home" is closer to a shanty. That's right, fancy people. Come over if you want to see how the primitives live. Come over at your own risk.

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