Two lessons I’ve carried forward from the two men who had the greatest influences on my childhood:
First, from my maternal grandfather: order what you want, but eat what you order. I cannot even begin to count how many times I heard that. (And I lived it, so if I can’t put a number on it, you shouldn’t even bother with a guess. Oh, alright, fine . . . guess. 753? Maybe. Maybe so. Who knows.)
I’ve suffered (persevered?) through a fair amount of blehh as a result of following that rule. And not just food. I heard it enough times, internalized it to such a degree that the principle has carried over into things like marriage (marry who you want, stick it out through the stickoutable parts), law school (I chose it, it was hard, tough it out), laundry (don’t buy hand washables if you don’t want to hand wash, same rule applies to dry cleaning) . . . most everything, really.
Fundamentally, his was a rule of You Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It, only friendlier and dispensed on the front-end. Order What You Want comes at the beginning of the meal, when the menus are passed around; You Made Your Bed comes after the food has been served and you realize that it does not taste like chicken, no matter what the big people say.
Order What You Want was certainly in play back when the agony of trying to decide between career and stay-at-homing-it was at hand. I had already ‘ordered’ the education, could I bear to ‘waste’ it by changing paths? And what if I ‘ordered’ stay-at-homeness and discovered that it does not taste like chicken? Then what? Send it back and risk having someone spit in it? Wait. How would it even be possible to spit in that? Where am I? It’s like I made my bed, took a nap, and just woke up in a twisted chicken analogy. Again. Hmmm. How does this keep happening to me?
Anyway, Order What You Want applies not just at the table but throughout the Shelbyville universe – the Shelbyverse.
Second, from my father: be very sure you want it there. I heard this one far fewer times than Order What You Want, but internalized it the same. Oh, sure, there was a time when I was freshly out of my parents’ house that I might have gone a little crazy and hung things here and there without any planning beforehand whatsoever. Nail holes! Everywhere! Disorder! Chaos! HOLES!!
But in time I learned: Daddy was right.
And then the hammer-like pendulum swung so far back the other direction that since moving into this house in November I have been able to hang only two things (a clock, a mirror) on any of the walls (other than The Child’s room, where out-of-reachness was an immediate necessity and the misplaced holes are more symbolic of good parenting rather than of inadequate time spent being sure about the spot).
I’ve been frozen in place under the weight of Order What You Want and Be Very Sure You Want It There, leaving everything else that followed us here from former walls to huddle in a closet under the stairs. I’ve pulled things out, leaned them against walls, decided I hate my taste (both past and present), and put it all back in the closet.
Enter: a photographer friend who we had the fortune to meet up with for a half hour in June. I have followed her work, her specialty being weddings, and longed to be a bride again, to convince The Husband to play dress-up with me so we can have her take pictures of us (okay, honestly: me) all fancied up (WHITE GOWN!) in the newness of just-married love but with the faces of love that has weathered some storms and knows so much more about ourselves and our marriage than we did when we first wore those clothes. Such is her gift that she captures in print, in someone else’s eyes and face, that emotion and hope and love that I remember from my own wedding – and makes me want a do-again. (Admittedly: my dress-up reflex is much more easily activated than some people’s. Like, say, The Husband’s. Still.) I’ll talk him into some semblance of that fairytale remake some day – until then: family photos.
So she (being Treva Tribit Photography, go there, see her magic!) met us on a sweltering hot afternoon, patiently handled The Child Who Had No Nap and No Shoes Thanks To Her Mother, and captured us, The Other Such Family.
Afterward, I spent a few weeks huddling with Order What You Want and Be Very Sure You Want It There.
I did and I am.
To here (with room to grow, thus offering hope to many an item under the stairs):
Finally, a wall in this house is no longer blank. I know many of you creative and fearless-with-a-hammer types might not recognize this as a huge leap for decorating kind. But I’m telling you, around here: HUGE LEAP.
Also, interventions by members of The Sisterhood with skill and passion for these things are WELCOME. I’ll hand you my hammer, open the door to the closet under the stairs, and get out of your way. (Warning: if you leave random holes in the wall I am totally going to point my finger at you the next time my Daddy is here.)
Now to make time for my A Little to the Left, No Right, It’s Still Not Straight neurosis . . . .