When I was a very young child my family lived next to neighbors who seemed to be almost as avant-garde as Auntie Mame. While my parents purchased classic furniture much like that of their parents the Wright family was very much into mid-century modern chic. Instead of purchasing mahogany, oak or cherry wood they chose what was then called “blonde” accessories. Their chairs were low slung and built with strange curves and dark canvas seats. Their tables used wrought iron and glass to create a sense of visionary fluidity. Their artwork was more akin to Picasso than the old masters. Their color palette mostly consisted of blacks and greys and reds.
I think that both Mr. and Mrs. Wright were artists of some kind and before they finally had a child of their own they often invited me to their home for lessons in drawing and using color. I adored Mrs. Wright who very patiently worked with me to develop my first artistic skills. She constantly boasted that I was quite advanced in drawing and creating works of art given my age. I’m not so certain that I actually had any talent, but I did enjoy being with her and letting my eye wander through the rooms of her home. It was so very different from anything that I had ever before seen and somehow I understood that it was a lovely expression of the creativity that she and her husband so delightfully shared with me.
We eventually moved when I was six years old. My memories of the Wrights themselves are fuzzy, but I can still see their furnishings with great clarity. I am also able to hear Mrs. Wright’s voice encouraging me to follow my own creative instincts using words that a child would understand. While I never again saw either of the Wrights I have somehow never forgotten what I learned from them or the impressions they made on my pre-school mind.
My own home is rather old fashioned due to the quirk of inheriting antiques from the older members of my family. I am a firm believer in taking care of fine pieces of furniture that still have life in them. I am a recycler of the highest order. Thus my house is as eclectic they come. I somehow pull together a hodgepodge of hand me downs into a cohesive mix that makes it seem as though I prefer the old over the new when in fact I simply don’t believe in letting anything that is still useful go to waste. I have very few items of furniture that I have actually purchased aside from sofas and upholstered chairs. I use most of those things until they are hopelessly outdated and their cushions are sagging, so I often miss the fashions of some decades.
There really is no theme in my decorating other than voicing my independence. I color outside of the lines of trends either old or new. I use what I have and accent it with whimsy or whatever makes me happy. I mix the old with the new and care not whether I am up to date or behind the times. I just delight in being me just as Mrs. Wright once counseled me to be.
I like to think that I took the advice of Mrs. Wright to heart in all aspects of my life. I may appear to be old fashioned and conservative but my essence is forward thinking. I often identify more with young adults in their twenties thirties and forties than my older peers. I see so many possibilities in the future and have no desire to fall back on a time that was somewhat flawed. I’m a believer in progress and exploration of new ideas. At the same time I know that it is possible to combine the best of the past with the innovation of the future. I’ve been successful in melding these elements in my home and in my beliefs. Maybe it’s because Mrs. Wright taught me to really look at the world around me without filters or restrictions on my thinking.
Even as a child I was able to see both the beauty and the ugliness in differing ways of viewing the world. I was aware of loving kindness from the adults that I knew while also overhearing some of their prejudices and flawed thinking that bothered me. I have moved with the inevitable tide of modernity while also treasuring the best aspects of what I experienced in the past. I am not one who looks at the younger generation as being irresponsible, To the contrary I am certain that they are ready to take on the reins of guiding us into brighter days. I really do believe that the best is yet to come.
Most people don’t seem to realize that so many of the things we have today are far superior to the things from the past. I remember televisions that constantly needed repair whereas the ones I now own seem to keep going forever without any need for changing parts. Our cars are safer and more efficient than ever, especially the ones that are electric. We have windows that actually insulate our homes, appliances that use less electricity that the behemoths of the past. We have mostly embraced the delightful diversity that makes the human race as brilliant as it is. We have eradicated diseases that made me very sick as a child. Our school curriculums are more advanced than ever.
I suppose that when all is said and done I may be looking more and more like an old fuddy daddy along with my home, but appearances can be deceiving. I’m may be as thoroughly modern as Mr. and Mrs. Wright once were. Thanks to their enduring influence I am an independent thinker who sees problems as possibilities, the past as a lesson, a blank sheet of paper as a space of wonder.