Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ethan Allen Houses

Six pairs of gnome eyes stare at me from my desk…the gnomes are refugees from daughter’s room as we tear apart walls and paint. They mix well with the silk screened poster of a horse in vibrant primary colors (a gift for my daughter on her birth), the Native American “courage” fetish (my sister gave me that when I started a new job so many years ago), the big pink H (brought back by The Beast and the Husband from their visit to the Sesame Street backstage over a decade ago) and the cup from Lithographers’ Union (scored at Housing Works Thrift Shop in NYC). These tokens of my past and present are mixed in with my old philosophy books, poetry collections and theater of the absurd books that my father passed down to me. This is one small corner of our house. But everything in our house is a memory and also a reflection of who we are…who we were…who we want to be.

Like my childhood home, we live in a busy, messy house which constantly annoys The Husband. We do not live in an Ethan Allen Showroom House. Sometimes when I pick up The Beast from a random birthday party at a McMansion development and I am forced to enter these showroom style homes. Here, where every bit of personality has been scrubbed from living spaces, I desperately search for information about the parents. I look for books, travel souvenirs, hobbies, interests, yet there is nothing to help me.

Walking past the matching wing chairs that flank the seemingly never used fireplace and into the perfect kitchen which makes me clandestinely look for Alice from the Brady Bunch—I wait for The Beast to collect her things from the basement “family room” after a sleep-over. I smile at the flawlessly coiffed mom in leisure attire. She is holding a small dog that is so perfectly groomed he looks like a plush toy come to life. I think—drugs would make this experience truly enjoyable or, maybe, scarier. I wait for the commercial to start, because for a second I think I am transported to a commercial for a cleaning product when suddenly I remember—“oh that is right—this IS reality. “ I continue to search for clues about who these people are or what they do or what they are interested in…a photo of a vacation, a memento of an event, signs of interest in cooking, music, art so I can strike up a conversation….but there is nothing but clean. I finally sink back into the alternate commercial reality and I know my lines…“How do you keep the white rug by the fire place so clean?”

Sometimes when life is surreal—you just have to go with the flow and wait patiently until the commercial ends.