After our mother died late last year, my brother, sister and I had the arduous task of closing her home. It was overwhelming sorting through more than 90 years of her life. From academic journals and clothing to household items, it was a staggering assortment of ephemera and treasures ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. While most items were simply tossed away, others were put in a pile to review later. At the end of the day we had collections of Indian baskets, pottery and one-of-a-kind pieces from the countries where our family had lived. We divided the contents with only a few "Hey, that was mine!" or "I always wanted that!"
I proudly brought my newest possessions into my own home, placed them where I thought appropriate and—ta-da!—they looked out of place. Boy, was I disappointed. They looked like that new kid in class trying to fit in but still standing out. Every time I walked into my living room, the pieces from my mom's house just didn't seem quite right. And I didn't know why. The colors were right; the scale was, too. So, what was wrong? Why didn't they look right? Now, before you think there is some deep psychological reason for this, I assure you there is not.
How do you integrate something that is so personal to someone else into something of your own? Does it happen over time or can it happen immediately? For me the trick was weaving my mom's pieces with my own collections and not displaying them the way she had. (After all, this was not a traveling exhibit!) You see, her collection was her vision and to make it mine I had to rework it. Collections must evolve with each owner, otherwise they will look out of place and unconnected to the home where they reside. The bonus in all this is that your room becomes alive and fresher with a change from time to time.
As I began to find places for my mother's objects in my home, I chose pieces that worked with what was already there. And yet, at the end of it all, there was a place for so much that belonged to her. What I learned through this process was a rediscovery of who she was, and a discovery of who I am.
Editor in Chief
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