On Blinds and Other Familiar Things

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Yes, this is an actual picture of my new cupboard. Yes, those are travel mugs.

I was sitting in my aunt’s living room on my latest Whirlwind Tour of Western Canada. Comfortable couches, soft lighting, great art and fabulous company. It was the day before I would catch my flight for Another Adventure and I was absorbing the experience of familiarity.

Reclined in the chair, I rolled my tea cup lazily between my hands. Judy sprawled to my left on the love seat, feet dangling over the arm, precariously close to my tickling fingers. Peggy on the right, nestled in a blanket over her lap. A coziness existed in the air. The type that is present when women who share the same blood are sitting in a room together speaking about their inner worlds, about things that are important.

Late afternoon sun was shining on the houses across the street and I looked at the edges of the windows. Judy has these elegant vertical blinds. They’re a soft, neutral colour made of sturdy fabric. Delicate chains loop the panels together along each side on the top and bottom, where they gracefully nearly touch the floor.

Judy has lived in this house my entire life. (Needless to say, we live a very different type of existence and often talk about the steadiness of her external life compared to my own. She’ll pick me up from the airport as I launch from or return to YYC, with uncountable Adventures in between.)

Now let me tell you a little about Judy. Judy is my mother Peggy’s younger sister by ten years. Given the age difference, and how famously we get along, as I tottered close to adulthood, Judy came to feel like a sister to me as well as an aunt. We’ve stayed that way for over half my life now. She’s endlessly creative and hilariously fun. She can conduct whole conversations using only words that start with a single letter of the alphabet. In fact, she can do that with each letter of the alphabet. Sequentially. Well, with plenty of breaks for fits of laughter.

Judy’s creativity has revamped her living room design a number of times in my life. But you know what? Those vertical blinds have stayed the entire time. There’s something there about the timelessness of elegance, a characteristic trait that both her and the blinds have in common.

Mulling this over a couple of things came to mind.

One: that I’m terrified of commitment. No surprises here, folks. When I owned a house (which I only agreed to because it was promised that we’d be moving West in five years) I changed things all. The. Time. I moved furniture and painted walls and never had any sense of permanence in design choices. Why would I? I’d be moving within a few years, anyway. It’s what helped me and my aversion to commitment make it through. There was no other way that I could have accepted such stagnancy unless I changed the parts of the house that I could.

Two: that Judy made a pretty great design choice to last through the changing interior design fashions of over three decades.

In conclusion: my utter incomprehension over something like having the same blinds for decades is not shared by the rest of the world. There are humans who create their lives to include this kind of permanence. I simply can’t understand it. I’m blind to the rationale. (Couldn’t help it!)

Sharing these thoughts I was struck, yet again, by how similar and yet how different I can simultaneously feel compared to my family.

That evening, before snacks and a romantic comedy and the three of us cuddling under blankets on the couch downstairs (I’m sensing a theme), I’d finalized the packing of my luggage. If there was anything I didn’t want to take, now was the time to bag it up and send it back to BC with Peggy. She’d take it and store it in her basement along with all my other things a 31 year-old doesn’t need when she spends her time frittering around the globe.

In that bag was my travel mug. Travel mugs are pretty easy to come by. People tend to collect them in their cupboards. (People who live in one spot, anyway.) They get handed out at events, branded with logos for free advertising. They’re a common sight in our consumer world.

Yet as I passed that bag over to Peggy, something in me was hesitating. Judy could see my indecision. “I’ve taken that travel mug all over the world with me,” I explained. “From Las Vegas to New Zealand and Hawaii, it’s been a constant in a life otherwise filled with change. But I bet when I get to England and find a place to live, I’ll open the cupboard and my flatmate will have a shelf full of travel mugs.”

“Take it,” said Judy. “It’ll be your blinds.”

I looked her in the eyes. Eyes of warmth and quiet wisdom. Eyes that know, despite our vastly different ways of being in this world, the human need for comfort. I smiled.

I took the mug out of the bag and returned it to my luggage.

Full disclosure: I’ve written about window treatments before.

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One comment

  1. Peggy · May 9

    After having three older brothers I am glad you finally have a sister now. I am pleased to share my sister with you. Hey, wait a minute–that makes you and me sisters…just like the clown in Nelson made us sisters.
    Cheers to your health when drinking from your travel mug.

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