Sunday, September 21, 2008

Picture Perfect


A bowl of flowers and a photo from a simpler time replace night stand clutter.

Picture perfect.

Those two words kept running through my mind as I prepared our house and gardens for my brother's wedding and reception on Saturday. As I worked through each room, I felt like a zealous dermatologist eliminating pimples, blackheads and unsightly wrinkles. I was ridding the world (or at least my house and yard) of imperfections one flaw at a time.

The night stands in our bedroom were prime offenders. A pitcher of water, a half-filled (or was it half empty?) glass, a box of Kleenex, a dozen prescription medicines and TV remote control littered the top while newspapers, magazines and books filled the bottom shelf. It looked like a collision between a pharmacy and a book store. I cleared the debris on both stands and replaced it with simple ceramic pots overflowing with variegated leaves from our garden and fresh hydrangeas and mums.

I swapped an old dresser for an antique armoire that had been taking up residence in Cynthia's room for the last decade. With its rich bird's eye grain, cavernous hanging space and full length mirror, it was the perfect bridal accessory.


Room for storing bridal party finery inside and reflection for primping outside

Like an aging actress preparing for high definition TV, our bedroom was ready for the scrutiny of a camera.

But then a funny thing happened. Families flooded in and chaos ensued. A two-year-old flower girl transformed into a princess, but refused to wear her ballet slippers. Three other small boys streamed in and out . The bride and bridal party slipped into their dresses and fussed with hair and makeup. The bed became cluttered with clothing, coat hangers and makeup, with a small space left for a sleeping five-month-old baby boy. And, once again, my night stands runneth over. It was a glorious mess.

Through it all, two photographers clicked away. The room had been stripped of its picture perfection and replaced with more interesting qualities: life, emotion and depth.

The whole experience made me realize how hard I work at attempting to put on a picture perfect facade in my own life. Sometimes I fear what lies beneath the surface, and other times I fear that there's nothing beneath. But during the worst of my recent illness, I was completely stripped of veneer. I looked sick and acted sicker. I had no energy, talking was tiring and I was content to do nothing for hours at a time. I could barely put on my clothing, let alone put up a front.

In short, I was a mess and the worst possible company. I could only take and had nothing to give. But, to my surprise and delight, friends still wanted to spend time with me and care for me. I am still so touched by this fact.

The beautiful flower arrangements on my night stands will soon fade and clutter will no doubt take its place. My energy is returning and I feel myself slipping back into attempting to put on the picture perfect front. When I become overwhelmed with the self-imposed expectations, I'll remember the chaos in our bedroom and remind myself that the most interesting shots are the real (and sometimes messy) ones. And that my friends will be my friends regardless.

15 comments:

Ronni Gordon said...

Beautifully said!
I'm not hosting a big party at my house, but I've been going through a cleaning phase myself. I feel like throwing a lot of stuff out or giving it away or selling it. I haven't stopped much to think about what this de-cluttering phase means. After reading your post I'm going to think about it more.

Susan C said...

I'm still on a clean and purge kick too. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if things get a little messy, in spite of our efforts, then that's OK too.

Petrea said...

Your post says it so well. We try so hard but I think it's the imperfections that make people love us. Who can stand to be around perfection for very long? It's too much pressure!

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Wonderful post.

Through my illness, I, too, learned how much I was loved in a way I didn't know before. And I realized that things don't have to be perfect for life to be wonderful.

Like Ronni and Susan, I've been on a "de-cluttering" kick since my youngest left for college last fall. My husband and I, together, are reorganizing to prepare for this next phase of our life. Fun.

With hope, Wendy

altadenahiker said...

Love that first photo. Is the photo in the photo you?

Susan C said...

The girl in the photo with the China-doll haircut t is daughter Cynthia. She's now 19, but was four when this photo was taken at Lacy Park in San Marino.

Nancy said...

Susan, very impressive! Love the nightstand flowers and picture of beautiful daughter. Love the armoire... You must have most of your energy back to go on with throwing a wedding at your house. It would take me a year to get ready for something like that. I'm sure it was beautiful. I've all of a sudden began decluttering my home office, too? What does this mean??? For me, I think it just means, there was no more room to put stuff in the files. It was just time... Take care & continue recovering. love, n

SAMO Calling said...

Smooky:
Perfectly stated. I know just what you're talking about! I have been getting rid of "stuff" lately too. I think it does have to do with entering another phase in one's life. There is such a freedom that comes with each thing I cast off.

Susan C said...

One of the things that several of us commenters have in common is that we have children who have left the nest recently.

So if women "nest" when they are expecting children, do they "denest" after the birdies fly away?

Susan C said...

Oh, and thanks, Nancy. It was a miracle that we pulled it off, considering that I was basically bed ridden two weeks ago. But I had a LOT of help.

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

A beautiful post (and beautifully written, as usual!). I am quite the clutter queen (much to my occasional chagrin). I go through spurts of trying to de-clutter. And now that my nest is empty too, I have been on a renewed effort to make space. I like the visual relief of no clutter, but I'm so in love with print media it's difficult to completely get rid of the newspapers. magazines, and books. So my big achievement to date has been getting all my Vanity Fairs in one pile, and all my New Yorkers in another.

One step at a time...

Susan C said...

Stacking magazines by type? Now there's a concept! Actually, I need to start cutting off the potential clutter before it hits the house. It's so easy to get "free" magazine subscriptions these days, and I've ended up with 9. I think I only pay for three.

I've always subscribed to three newspapers, but got a free 26-week subscription to the Wall Street Journal, so now I'm up to four.

Too much!

Paula L. Johnson said...

Yes, yes, you will be my friend no matter what. Love you lots, etc.

However, a REAL friend would GIVE me that FABULOUS antique armoire. I have furniture LUST.

I'm just saying...

hope said...

reading what you write always brings a smile,even when what you have written may be a range of emotions.i think that happens because i know i am not the only one who has had an experience that brings one to the knees,to the pit,to where it feels impossible to stand,breathe,or... that the cushions of support are there,that thosec who care and love us,like us remain:next to us,beside us,and behind us. alweays thank you,hope

hope said...

it would help,i am laughing,if i could spell(always,not alweays/those,not thosec).warmly,hope