In which Deb Kristina’s life story is told on her walls

Excerpt from REAL LIFE & LIARS: For a time, Van had a poster of his hero taped on his apartment wall. Bob Dylan stared down at him every night and every morning, heavy-lidded, cigarette drooping. Then Van got drunk and whiskey and self-pity one night and ripped it down, and in the blazing light of morning, through his hangover fog, he’d noticed that the paint had faded all around where it was taped, so he’d been left with its imprint. It was like a chalk outline around the corpse of his ambition.

One of my favorite things about launching the book so far has been listening to other people react to my book. And this right here is one of the parts most often singled out. I’ve mentioned it here before, in a post about heroes.

What we display in our homes says so much about us. If I were to decorate my home now with an unlimited budget and only aesthetic concerns, my nest would look markedly different. The art on the walls would be spare, in a warm color spectrum of reds and golds, and represent nature. I would have old, antique-looking pieces, but nothing heavy or overbearing.

That’s not what I have, and it’s not just the budget.

In my bedroom, I have two framed photographs of Venice, not taken by us when we were there for a second honeymoon, but purchased later at an art fair in Charlevoix, Michigan. I also have a framed photo on our dresser that I did take, of a fountain in Florence. It’s gorgeous, only there’s a stupid moving truck in the background and a pigeon on the figure’s head.

At the end of a hall is a pencil sketch of my husband and me, back when we were just kids going to my prom. One of my oldest and dearest friends sketched it as a wedding present. She’d snuck a prom snapshot out of one of my albums, and worked in secret for weeks while she was also trying to keep up with her classes and work her kiester off to pay for school. Then she had it professionally matted and framed. That will always have a place of honor wherever we live, both for the innocent time it represents, and the love that came with that gift. That was worth more than any china place setting.

In my family room is a print of a snowy sawmill scene, in a battered, weathered wooden frame. When my grandma died, my mother told my sister and me we could pick out something to keep, as a memory of her, provided it hadn’t already been claimed. Since my grandma had five children, that didn’t leave lots. But that picture had hung in her dining room as long as I could remember, and now I see it every day and think of her, and my grandfather, and that old, white farmhouse, where the country silence kept me awake half the night.

Across from this old print is a poster print I bought for my husband. It’s a photo montage, an optical illusion that turns a cathedral interior into a city street. When I see it, I think not only “That’s cool” but also of how my husband had admired it during our poor newlywed days, and I put it on layaway — imagine! layaway — for weeks, putting down $10 here and there, until I gave it to him for Christmas. (You can see the image here.) Obviously, it doesn’t “go” with the old snowy print in the old wooden frame.

I’ll never get in Good Housekeeping, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

6 Replies to “In which Deb Kristina’s life story is told on her walls”

  1. What I love about this post is that it’s kind of like life – don’t we all aspire to be the size of J. Crew models, with the perfect closets we see illustrated in Container Store catalogues? And yet life isn’t perfect (damn moving truck behind the fountain!) — it’s messy and complicated and rich. All the things you singled out sound so much more lovely to me than a home flawlessly decorated by a top designer. The stories of your life are all wrapped up in your home, surrounding you. Oops — speaking of a messy (er, realistic) home — the baby is about to chew on a battery he managed to get out of the remote control by banging it on the floor. Gah!

  2. Good morning Sarah. Those darn babies….they’re too resourceful for their own good (and ours!) I am trying to get my closets better organized (as I blogged last week) but I love my sentimental decor.

  3. I think the key (not like I’m an expert) is to separate the crap from the meaningful stuff when you declutter. My problem is I tend to imbue the junk with meaning sometimes… yet if I do manage to part with it, I don’t miss it. How is the decluttering going for you, Kristina? I’m going to try to do some today, as I’m a bit blocked with writing, and hope that opens things up. It’ll also give me more space for my things that have true sentimental value. I love the idea of the sketch Deb wrote about. One wedding gift I cherish is the invitation to our wedding, which a dear friend had matted and displayed in an unusual and perfect frame. Okay, off to mainline coffee and declutter!

  4. I strongly believe that our art should matter to us–not be expensive or picked out by a decorator. It’s beautiful and meaningful to you, and that’s what’s important. Your house sounds wonderfully cozy!

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