My husband and I find ourselves, at present, in a curious situation for a military family: that of living relatively near family. Wonder of wonders, we are actually in a position to play host to family coming into town for my cousin’s wedding this weekend. My mom, dad, and little brother (who has yet to see our house, having been busy finishing up undergrad for most of the time we’ve lived here) are descending upon us this Friday. I suppose the courteous thing to do would be to have the guest room cleared of my beading and sewing paraphernalia and the floors free of the cat hair tumbleweeds that spring into existence when we turn our backs. I swear we could make three more cats out of the fur they bestow upon this family like it’s fairy dust.
Luckily for me, while I am going to make an effort to get the house cleaned up, I don’t have to develop a case of OCD to do so. My folks are wonderfully easygoing houseguests who don’t mind when a home looks a little more “lived in” than “museum-quality and dust-free,” and my brother lived until recently in a college apartment with five other dudes. You do the math on that one; I should probably set out a pizza box and an arrangement of empty beer bottles to make him feel at home. (Maybe not. Lest you get the wrong impression about my brother, I should tell you that he is fastidious by nature and not inclined towards indulging in the usual 18-to-22-year-old male schlubbiness. I understand that the six-dude apartment was far from the disaster area one might expect.) In any case, while we’re going to clean up the place, we’re not living in fear that anyone is going to bust out the white glove treatment on us.
I tell you all that so you know that the domestic guilt I feel tugging at my nerves is of my own neurotic invention, not anything inflicted upon me by my extremely good-natured family.
I regret that I have not put up curtains anywhere in the house. It didn’t particularly bother me not putting up curtains at our previous duty stations, because those places were temporary and so it was completely understandable that we wouldn’t want to waste time and money decorating that which wasn’t ours, not really. But this is our house, bought in mortgage payments rather than rent checks, and I feel guilty that I wasn’t overcome by a new homeowner’s zeal to mark her territory with carefully chosen window treatments. We don’t even have blinds or shades in our bedroom. (Get your mind out of the gutter — we did have the decency to preserve our neighbors by blocking the windows first with cardboard boxes, then with marginally less trashy tea towels.)
I clearly would like to have curtains. It does, in fact, bother me that we don’t have any up. So why in the name of all that’s good and holy don’t I get off my tuchus and put up some curtains? Good question, and I have a litany of excuses with which to answer it.
- Curtains are too expensive for the simple lengths of fabric that most of them are — you’re paying for the convenience of having pre-made panels. I cannot bring myself to pay that much of a premium for something that isn’t perfect when I know I could spend a fraction of the money on fabric and thread for handmade custom pieces.
- I want to make curtains myself, as I know I have the skill to sew straight lines with my sewing machine. When I go to the fabric store, though, I am overwhelmed by choice and pop mental circuit breakers when I try to divine exactly what this mythical “perfect” is.
- I know, I know, perfection doesn’t really exist, and for something as trivial as home decor I should just make something and try again later if it turns out I don’t care for it. Curtains are not house tattoos. Changing them does not involve painful and expensive laser treatments during which one wonders why in the hell their younger self thought a unicorn leaping through a heart of flames would represent their “true inner self” forever and ever. (This is why I will never get a tattoo.) Knowing perfection doesn’t exist doesn’t make the fruitless pursuit of it any less seductive, though. It’s great: I can agonize and go back and forth and hem and haw ad infinitum without ever having to make a decision or do any work. The excuse, “Oh, I’m still looking for the right fabric for my glorious home decor vision. Boy, it will be fantastic when it’s done, you wait and see!” can be stretched out for years if you like.
The real biggie, though? The real reason we’ve lived here in our own house for over a year and haven’t put up curtains? I am scared that the instant we make this place too much our own, the second we get all our rooms set up the way we want them, someone will jump out at us from behind a tree with a set of orders and a pack-out date of tomorrow. I like living here. I would love to find out that we’re staying here for my husband’s first fleet tour, because three years — three whole years compared to the three months we were at the last duty station and the bare year we were at the one before that — sounds like an eternity. It sounds like time to get really settled in and worry about fussing with window treatments and maybe painting a room and gardening.
Yes, gardening. I have guilt about that, too: a good-sized front and back yard all our own, and I haven’t planted a single flower. That might have more to do with being too lazy to get out and water any plants I might choose than weird hang-ups about getting too attached to a house we might be leaving in a matter of months.
There is one home-related task I think we can cross off our to-do list before my folks and little brother get here on Friday, and that is to finish Rustoleum-ing the outdoor furniture my grandparents passed along to us when they got new stuff for their deck. By Friday evening, I hope to be relaxing outside, gin and tonic in hand, on our shiny new-to-us chaise longue and laughing with my family at a low-key backyard party before the big bash my cousin’s wedding promises to be. That’s pretty motivating, as is the fact that the grandparents who so sweetly gave us the furniture might drop by to see the house the morning after the wedding, and I don’t want them to see the paint job half-done.
All right, enough rambling. I’m off to have breakfast so we can get going on what we need to get done in order to enjoy our time with family. I’m really looking forward to it, because my family’s not going to care whether or not I have the perfectly coordinated curtains of which I feel I ought to dream.