As I close out a year that saw more changes than a newborn — a year during which I cleared out and sold my childhood home, sent my youngest off to college, moved into my fourth home in three years, and managed to cover the gray — I am raising a Waterford crystal flute filled with something bubbly to toast ...
My editors, who make me look better than I am.
The many experts I've talked with, who make me look smarter than I am.
And my amazing readers, who remind me who I am — your humble home improvement scribe.
Last week I shared best lessons from the first half of 2013. Here's what life taught me in the second half:
• In July, I learned that those little design elements embedded in our homes mean something. Fleur-de-lis represent French pride; pineapples symbolize welcome; chevrons telegraph masculine dominance and rank; laurel wreaths are the sign of champions; and the ancient egg-and-dart motif means nothing less than life and death. Knowing what motifs mean matters. Using the right one in the right place separates the amateur decorator from the pro.
Lesson: Think twice before you wallpaper a baby girl's room in pink chevron-patterns, or put chairs covered in fleur-de-lis fabric in a Japanese tea room.
• In August, I came to terms with my attachment issues. While clearing out my elderly parents' home, where they had lived for almost 50 nears, I let go of a lot of stuff. It felt like opening a vein. In the process, I came across an old brown crocodile purse my mother had kept tucked inside a red velvet drawstring bag, like a bottle of expensive liqueur. Inside, I found a brittle, folded-up menu from a big night Mom had with my father, at a posh hotel in France decades earlier. It was a dinner she talked about for years. The butter came curled, she said. And they had escargot.
Though tempted to cling, I looked again at the purse, too passe to be fashionable, the handle cracked with age. I asked myself why she saved it, why I should. She saved it, I realized, to remind her of her dashing younger life, and to show me who she once was. The purse had done just that. I let it go.
Lesson: Whether you keep an object or let it go won't change your connection to a loved one.
• In September, I sent my youngest child off to college, and got predictably invested in her dorm decor. In a fit of mothering, I filled carts with bedbug-proof mattress protectors, x-long twin sheets, and accessories to coordinate with her comforter. Back home, reality hit: While I had created her nest, mine was as empty as a discarded eggshell.
Grief expert Russell Friedman consoled me. “The definition of grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern or behavior,” said Friedman, co-author of “Moving On.” “An empty nest is that and more.” he said, then gave me this advice, and I am not making this up, I swear: “Remodel.”