The Culture of Beauty in Our Home
My oldest daughter is a 10th grade English teacher in the Washington D.C. area. Amy is spending some of her summer vacation here at home. She graciously offered to guest post for me today. I didn’t know what she was going to write about until it was finished, and of course, I cried. I hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit more about our family and the culture of beauty in our home.
by Amy Nicholson
I’ve always thought of our home as the one described in Little Women:
December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain, for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it. ~Chapter 1, Louisa May Alcott
Our home is well-worn and threadbare, but there is beauty hiding beneath each afghan, dust jacket, and jar. This has always been important to my mother. She takes great pride in her “scapes” as we call them–or tiny arrangements of mementos and objects in a pleasing pattern–preferably in small alcoves where one might stumble upon them with a smile.
Just as in the March home, books invade every possible nook and cranny here. One time, as a young girl, I was in charge of entertaining a friend of the family’s son for an hour or two. He was in awe at the number of books we had in the house. I was alarmed. This poor child has no books?! I immediately sat down and commenced reading to him for the remainder of his visit. Later, the boy told his mother that we had read for an entire hour. She chuckled, saying, “We have the Bible of course, but reading is not a big deal in our house.” Mama graciously tried to conceal her sad eyes.
My mother instilled in me a respect for art at a young age. When I was six or seven, we were waiting in the checkout line at the library. There was a large statue of two men wrestling carved in a Greek or Roman style. I think every child had the urge to touch those smooth stone muscles or those wavy heads of marble hair. One didn’t see art like this every day in rural Ohio, after all. When I reached out and felt the cool statue, Mama exclaimed that I must never touch artwork, but only, “Look with your eyes.” She wasn’t mad, only embarrassed that the librarians might see and think that we hadn’t the proper respect for art. From that day forward, I would shake my head like a grandmother at any child I saw touching that statue. They didn’t know that it was ART and not there to be touched. Silly children.
I can’t count the times we stopped to look at wildflowers or a curious piece of architecture. We were always on constant alert for something interesting to point out to each other. When driving, we would do this by tapping on the window 3 or 4 times. Mom and Dad even use their wedding rings to add urgency to the cause of an especially pretty sight. “Click, click, click. Everyone look out my window.”
One day, we were riding along and Mama stopped the car abruptly and pulled over. In hushed tones she directed my attention to a nearby field where a cow was in labor. We both stared in amazement as a hoof stuck out of the cow’s body in slimy wonderfulness. Soon, as Mama was telling me how incredible it was that we could see this, a slightly annoyed farmer told us that the cow was delivering the calf backwards, and he needed to take her to the barn. We mumbled apologies about “the wonder of the thing” and “that we had just wanted to watch.” Then we quickly got back in the car, and drove off.
It’s interesting to think about the thousands of little moments that form a young mind’s opinion of the world. As a girl, I was a careful observer of my mother’s reactions. I paid special attention to how she behaved when she was happy, embarrassed, or tired. I found that my mother always acts according to a certain code. This set of rules is based on what will be the least invasive to whatever is lovely in a given situation. One must keep Grandma’s bowl because she made the yummy cookies with it, not because of any practical use it might have. One must smile at those around you because it will brighten their day. One must never touch a statue because, if everyone did so, it might wear away. Whenever I come home, Mama’s lovely set of rules brings that “pleasant atmosphere of home peace” to each comfy room.
Beauty is seen, but more importantly, it is treasured and appreciated.