How I Decorate My House and Other Stories
I call my house in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania "Z Barnes Museum of The Suburbs." No longer young, I moved in when I was a lass of 45, and worked as a psychotherapist at Bristol-Bensalem Human Services in Bensalem, PA, where on a few lunch hours, I would enter the iron gates of the Buddhist Monestery and stroll around.
The agency has not only been shut down but there's no sign it ever existed. Why? A new housing development has sprung up there, as if an alien ship deposited it whole on the soil.
What a feast archeologists will have, if we haven't ruined our planet by then.
Now, nearly 75 years old - which freaks me out - I have taken to decorating my house and leave practically no empty spaces.
Let's go into my kitchen. White linoleum floors that are beautiful to behold.
"Would you like some tea for breakfast, Ruthie?"
"S'ils vous plait," I say and unwrap the gorgeous cover of a tea bag. My, my, my, I have quite a collection and they're all over the bright pink kitchen walls and gray walls.
Quelle contrast, the gray and the pink, but me loves it!
Hold on, while I bring up a bowl of Snyder's pretzels and unsalted peanuts to nosh on.
Hi, I'm back.
The front of the fridge has magnetized designs of my friend Imani, an envelope from my friend Rem, a post master, who sent me stamps in there, and because I so love stamps, the large panels of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, the latter of whom did indeed have manic depression, but who cared?
One playbill is on the wall: "Peter Starcatcher" from a play I saw in the resort town of New Hope. The play was so bad I persuaded my boyfriend Scott to leave at intermission.
My sister Lynn's sign "Enjoy your coffee" is on the wall. A white cup of steaming coffee summons me like a command. Coffee is my dream love, my dream drug.
Problem is, and, yes, there is always a problem, coffee keeps me awake at night. Once I brewed Maxwell - or Maxhell - House coffee in my glass Chemex container and didn't sleep for two whole days. Not fun. Like when I used to have manic-depression and would stay up for a couple of days until I took a Navane - thiothixene.
Quick note: yes, sometimes manic-depression - or its newer and ridiculous name - bipolar disorder - does often go away for good, although people refuse to believe it.
So the kitchen is a riot of colors and quite dazzling, even to myself, who is the only person I aim to please.
The lavender-painted living room is the reason I bought the house. My mother bought it for me, having inherited part of Aunt Ethel's fortune. Cathedral ceiling of fake beams. So dramatic! A mobile, made from a Yuengling Beer carton, with six decorated egg cartons embedded therein, is stunning. I've cut out stars from the American flag and use them as design motifs.
Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but I'd like to invite you up to my boudoir.
What a comfortable room this is. Recently, I had Bob's Home Improvement paint half the room a gorgeous dark shade of green. Really wallops you when you walk in.
When I climb in bed and yes it is high off the ground, I do a yoga pose to prepare me for lying down, looking at the lovely objects straight ahead on my wall and closet doors.
At the downtown Kimmel Center, I saw a ballet performance and tore out several black and white pages of the playbill and there they are, high up, taped to the wall. A man lifting a woman high in the air. I have always loved ballet and there they are, permanently aloft.
By the way, I recently read a book called "The End of the World as we Know It" by Paul Tremblay, who has a vocabulary unequalled.
The book is a horror story that made me gasp as I read it. Just about everyone we got to know and love dies a horrible death.
My bedroom is no place for the American flag.
Gramma Lily's marble table stands next to my bed. I keep the remote on there for the only television in the house, which is atop Aunt Ethel's long ivory-colored bureau. I love Aunt Ethel very much and sent her bundles of letters which I have in My Reading Room, which used to be my daughter Sarah's bedroom.
It took me a week to clear out the bedroom, joyfully tossing things out, so I could have one silent, quiet room.
I'd bought a red-checkered couch-bed at Gamburg's in nearby Hatboro, PA. It still has the price tag on there. And it's not very comfortable to sleep in. When I sit on the couch, I simply stare for a while.
"Look what you did, you darling girl," I think. Clearing out that room was akin to Heracles cleaning the Aegean Stables.
Ooh! What's that unquenchable itch on my PJs?
The worst room in the house is My Office where I'm typing now. It's a mess. I do have lovely things to look at as I type. A cement-like plaque made by my friend Claudia McGill. What an inspiration she is! And on the wall a mirror I found while doing my daily constitutional. There was no pandemic at the time so I bravely put it in my car. I keep passcodes on the meer.
A framed photo of John Lennon tattooed on the back of someone's leg was given to me by my dear friend Ron Abrams who one day called up everyone in his family and told them he was going to kill himself. And did.
On my street lived an air controller. His father was slowly dying of Parkinson's disease in the basement and the air controller was moving his dad to his own house in Arlington, VA.
He asked if I wanted anything he was throwing out of the house. He carried over a four-shelf book case which I use to hold reams of paper, New Directions' stationery, and other items. Another book shelf is in my basement, stacked with books and magazines.
Everything gathers dust.
Wasn't there a product "Endust?"
My heart melts when I see my grown son Dan's New York University bus, purple and yellow.
God, I love my children. Sarah gave me her kidney since I lost function after taking lithium for nearly 17 years.
I hope you have enjoyed this stroll around my house.
Again, tea bags have been designed by someone. Next time, look at your tea bag and marvel.