Friday, May 2, 2008

Making a Home--Lessons from Philadelphia

Picking up on a strand of yesterday's post, I want to talk more about making a home.  It is interesting that we have such a negative association with the label "homemaker" (a synonym for housewife), and yet as a culture we love many of the tasks that fall under that label, most notably decorating and hosting.  

I can remember distinctly when I viewed my first episode of TLC's "Trading Spaces."  I was a college student, living with my parents to save money, and though I had no decorating space of my own, I immediately loved the show.  Sure, some of the designers were kooky, and some shortcuts were cheap, but they were fun to watch, and their transformations impressed me.  

Now, you have to understand a little history about my life just prior to my introduction to "Trading Spaces."  I had just returned to school after living and volunteering for a year in inner-city Philadelphia.  My accommodations in Philly  And because we were all given a monthly stipend of less than $80.00, we had no means to make it any different.  I didn't really think much of this at the time, since we were there to serve the community, not make our home look pretty.  And in fact, I probably would have been highly critical of spending money on such "superficial" things when there were so many other pressing needs in the world.  
But then I met Diane, who also lived in the neighborhood.  Her home, almost identical to ours, was so warm and inviting.  She didn't have expensive things by any means, but she did have furniture that matched, and took the time to personalize each of the rooms in her home.  Diane chose to live in the community to serve as well, and shared many of our convictions about living simply.  But for her, simple included making efforts to beautify her home.  

I soon recognized that I felt totally different there--more relaxed, peaceful, even hopeful.  Whereas my bedroom, with its medical-green plastic roll-down shades that cast a sickly glow onto our faces, was a place I avoided, hers was a place to escape.  It was then that I realized that making a home really is important, even when choosing a life of material simplicity in an impoverished community.  

And so, I carried this lesson with me when I moved back to Colorado, and then later when I married and had a home of my own.  Shows like "Trading Spaces" made sense to me after my lessons in Philly, and I found that decorating was a creative expression for me.  

But...there is a distinctly commercial side this homemaker trend that I find myself tempted by on a regular basis.  It is a side that I will delve into more in the next post.  

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