My work schedule and my mom's work schedule magically coincided last week and we ended up having all the same days off, so I took a bus home and got to spend a rare four February days with her and Dad. While my motion sickness wore off last Monday night, I sat in the window booth Dad built a few years ago and unpacked a bag of Honeycrisp apples for him and a foil pan of gluten-free cinnamon rolls for Mom.
Usually my visits home are much shorter, so Mom and I find ourselves staying up much later than we usually would in order to have more time together. This visit, that wasn't the case, so we were in bed by ten every night, better for me since I've been making quite an effort to take better care of myself lately, and better for her Mom since her Lyme disease tremors were troubling her the entire time I was home and they ease up a bit when she's resting. Likewise, a visit the next night with my younger brother and his wife and baby was a bit short since the baby was suffering from her first cold, and what was to have been a Wednesday dinner with my older brother and his family was cancelled when he called to say he and his wife were sick. It was an even more leisurely four days at home for me, Mom, and Dad, then, which meant more rest for everyone, all-around.
Mom's been redoing the kitchen, which has alternated between blue gingham and red gingham my entire life. This winter, it is red gingham with creamy butter-yellow walls. The booth above is the one Dad made for her and is one of my bird-watching spots when I'm home. I haven't yet learned to use the zoom feature on my new camera, but even without it, I could sit at this window and get good shots of Chickadees, my favorite birds, in the Rhododendron bush, and I spent a good bit of time doing just that last week from the warmth of this gingham-windowed booth.
My parents moved into this house in the summer of 2003, so it's not the home where I grew up. I gave up my apartment in 2003 and moved in with them here, though, while I finished graduate school and worked and re-built my savings after a few rough starts in my early twenties, so being in this little blue and red house always reminds me of that time in my life. That's sometimes nice and sometimes not. I was twenty-six when I had to move back in with them in 2003 and thirty when I moved out in 2007. . .a frustrating four years of having my own furniture and most of my own things stored in their basement and garage, of coming to understand that my ex was my ex and not yet knowing that my just-a-friend Mr. Mike would hold such a place in my future, and of struggling with school and depression while working toward getting back out on my own. For a long time in those years, I thought that my parents' perennial gray-blue and red gingham would forever remind me of those sad times, but I wasn't gone long at all before I wished I could see Mom and Dad and their cute little house more frequently again, of course. Such is life.
I have told Mom many times that I can't look at her kitchen now without marveling at the fact that she and Aunt Laurie transformed it into such an airy pastel pink and green wonderland for Mike's and my anniversary party a few years ago. She laughs every time I bring it up and just says it was fun for them. It's been a joke between us since I was a kid that someday she would want to "be like me" and have pink everywhere--Picture me coming home from elementary school to find her wallpapering the kitchen in yet another Colonial blue print and yelling at her, "Aw, come on, Mom! Give up the blue and red, and try PINK! Just think: Pink roses and pink gingham and bright WHITE everywhere! And we could work in some GREEN! You should at least tryyyyyyyyyyyyy it! You don't know--You might really LIKE it!"--so walking into our surprise anniversary party a few years ago and seeing Mom's kitchen and dining room finally in pink, white, and green was such a treat. We laugh together every time the subject comes up. ♥
So many of these items in her collections were in the kitchens of my childhood too--The hen-on-nest-beside-red-milk-jug-against-fence wall hanging that's behind the hen shakers above was a piece we found together at a Ben Franklin store in the mid-1980s--but she is always finding and painting something new for her home too. The nut didn't fall far from the tree, etcetera. When Mom's in "Blue Mode," she repaints the milk jug in blue and brings out her blue Spatterware and copper mold collection. When she's in "Red Mode," it is gingham and hens. The adjoining dining room is almost always blue and filled with her Americana and tavern signs, though. Every now and then, she'll move the pewter and Colonial things into the living room, but they always seem to find their way back out here.
Dad built the corner cupboard below for her to store her cherished old Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne dishes in, and the collection is yet another thing that automatically, and forever and always, equals "Mom" to me.
The red gingham wing chair in the photo at the top of this post was one I saw on eBay years ago. Mom had been wanting one just like it for decades--she has magazine clippings from decorating magazines from the 1970s that show similar chairs--so even though the eBay seller mentioned in her listing that the chair was "local (Texas) pick-up only," I emailed her to beg her to be willing to ship the chair. She kindly agreed--and that still delights me ♥--and I won the auction (as if I wouldn't, in this case, right!), my brothers and I divided the cost, my older brother drove to the local bus station to pick up the chair in his truck, and we somehow managed to surprise Mom with it on her birthday in 2006. :)
Giving Mom with this chair for her birthday that night is one of my favorite memories of all our times in this house and certainly of my four years living in it. She moved it into this spot right away and sat down with my nephew, and these are the first two pictures I took that night. ♥ And Mom and I both mailed thank you notes to the eBay seller for her kindness.
Sweet, happy memories--and now this chubby little toddler is almost ten years old. ♥ And the chair now has a skirt. "Never too much gingham" is one decorating creed on which Mom and I agree. :)
When I'm home next, for my birthday in May, the views from Mom and Dad's windows will be green, and the Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Chickadees will be more than outnumbered by the buds on the Rhododendrons.
The snow on the hill outside their house will have melted to reveal the spring's first wildflowers.
And since Aunt Laurie and her family will also be in town next visit, coffee cake and homemade bread will likely be on the counter beside the cinnamon rolls covered in gingham dish cloths, Mom and Dad's TV will seem permanently set to a baseball game, and their blue and red house will smell of brewing coffee in between everyone's walks and fishing trips and flea market jaunts.
In the meantime, February has turned to March, and we had our rare four winter days together. And that, as Mom is known for saying about something she loves, is "not! too! shabby!" ♥