The Things in Our House

**Note: This blog post was originally written in January 2011 for a previous personal website


The things in our house were always old. We’ve had the same brown couch since I was born. The same red rotary phone sits in my parent’s room, though used much less frequently. We have the same electric mixer and had a wood-paneled television until at least 2005. I suppose we were an, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” family. But, as a young child, I resented my parents for not updating their outdated furniture and kitchen supplies — at least once a decade!

The little designer in me yearned for sleek, modern couches in a bright color, which of course my mother would hate. I wanted more Eames — less little house on the prairie. And because I couldn’t have this, I tried the best I could to at least make my sanctuary filled with colors and shapes not so reminiscent of a neighbor’s garage sale. I chose bright, bold colors for my room. I hung square mirrors from Ikea in patterns on the wall and simply rejected anything that looked, “old.”

One “old” tradition I did appreciate at the time was that in the kitchen, we made things from scratch. The idea that brownies could come from a box probably shocked me somewhere around 1998. One of our favorite things to make were egg pancakes. I would reach for my mother’s wooden recipe box with the odd rabbit design on the top and find the recipe scrawled on a 3×5 card. I would get out our dark blue apron with that same odd rabbit on the front. I would search our cabinets for the for the Corningware pie dish with the three blue flowers on it in which we always made egg pancakes. Near the pie dish would be our burnt orange Pyrex nesting bowls with the wheat stalks in white. In them I would mix the eggs, flour, salt and milk. The pie dish would go into the oven and 20 minutes later, a tradition would be complete.

I am sure at the time I probably slightly resented these old pieces of cookware which, to me, were so obviously outdated. But, we pour our memories and experiences into objects and before I knew it, I came to love these objects even more because of that. While to me, much of our house is woefully antiqued, these came to give meaning to the kitchen. They help me connect to a time when box cake was out of the question, and I find myself wondering why can’t it be like that again?

In a time when everything is so mass produced and cookie cutter, where do traditions go? If the objects of a culture change, can the depth of our experiences with those objects change as well? Does “pouring our memories and experiences” into objects which have seemingly less cultural value give our memories less value as well? Or does it not matter what the object is so long as some experience was created surrounding it? I suppose it depends on what you see as valuable, but I can’t imagine anyone longing quite so deeply if what they’re longing for is their mother’s fluorescent plastic mixing bowls. Somehow it’s just not the same.