more, better, best

Everything I recall about my childhood home can be summed up in a few paragraphs. It was a typically suburban three bedroom home in a smallish town in southwestern Michigan. Red brick, single level. Pussy willow on the porch, plum tree at the end the driveway, crocus blooming under my bedroom window in spring. I remember the things that filled the house only in terms of their use, and their sensory and emotional significance.

Gold corduroy couch: The Muppet Show, way past bedtime, Dad engrossed in the newspaper.

Piano: Mom leaning in to read sheet music, spectacles and a cable-knit sweater, rare good mood.

Oil painting of a lion: expression as inscrutable and mysterious as my parent's marriage, deep fear of wild animals that has yet to abate.

Kitchen telephone: avocado green, cord wrapped around my mother's skinny hips, pot roast for dinner.

I know we had wallpaper, but I couldn't describe the print. I know the house was carpeted, but I couldn't name the color. What I can tell you is that my brother and I had a front yard big enough to host kickball games, and a backyard with a swimming pool, a swing set, a shed full of toys, and enough land to fence in the occasional turtle plucked from Lake Michigan. Fucking glorious, in other words.

And among the gratitudes I have for what, on balance, was a pretty awesome childhood (above implications notwithstanding), is that my mother lived pre-Pinterest, and pre-social media. That decorating her home, planning her children's birthday parties, and choosing outfits for PTA meetings were endeavors undertaken with the knowledge that only those in her immediate social circle would see the results.

God, how nice that must have been. How nice that the only Joneses with which she probably felt compelled to keep up were the ones directly next door. How nice that she could concern herself with the business of mothering, undistracted and unstressed by comparison with how her peers were doing their mothering.

How lucky that my brother and I survived to adulthood without ever having lain eyes on an overpriced cake pop, frosted to match an overpriced paper party straw.

Pinterest never comes up in my daily (offline) life. I know most of my friends have heard of it, and a few of them are on it, but it's nothing we talk about when we get together. I only feel the need to account for my disuse of it when I'm internetting, because hello. Pinterest. What, Ellie, you don't like to be inspired? What are you, an animal?

What I like is not overwhelming myself with the pressure to More, Better, Best my life to death. And anyway, I like to think I did the Pinterest thing, in a way, in my twenties. It was called Lucky Magazine, and then Domino Magazine. It was Holy shit, I didn't even know that existed until I opened this magazine, but now I'll be MISERABLE if I can't have it. And it sucked.

I More, Better, Bested my last apartment without ever even looking at a pin board, and that was hellish enough. I consulted exactly one decorating book, nearly wearing it out with study. Okay, so since my bed frame is structured, I should have more organic, free-form nightstands. Got it. What should have been a fun exercise in creativity and self-expression was instead an exhausting, obsessive search for material things to make my home look OMGamazing - and for the most part, that search was limited to three or four sources within my price and geographic ranges. I can't even imagine how quickly my brain would have exploded had I opened myself up to the ten billion options Pinterest would have shown me.

This time around, I am opting the fuck out of that particular rat race, at least as much as I can. This time around, I am keeping the procurement of what furnishings we need as quick and simple as possible, so that I can get past making sure there's enough light to read by and on to making sure we're stocked with our friends' favorite drinks. Because when I think back to the things that filled the living spaces I inhabited twenty, thirty years ago, what I remember isn't whether or not the coffee table complemented the sofa - it's that it did an efficient job of supporting four slices of pizza and the original Together Box, aka Monopoly.