I was recently asked to contribute a photo to a project that focuses on domesticity in all of its weird and wonderful manifestations. That got me thinking. Which is why I have yet to actually make my contribution to this domestic documentation because I am basically paralyzed by trying to manifest a photo that tells of my relationship with the most messed up partner I've ever had: my home.
I can't tell if my domestic situation is fairly typical or way crazy different. Talking about my home always makes me feel like I am being inadvertently weird and confessing something that will later make you judge me harshly. I mean, I am obviously a unique special snowflake, just like everybody else, and I'm going to do 'home' in my own unique special snowflake way. But does that mean that my home and family pretty much looks like everyone else's just maybe the cushions on the couch are a different colour and my soap smells like running water in Ireland and someone else's is rose blossoms? Generally, we kind of all have the same stuff such as seating spaces and cats and organized chaos, and all that is completely normal. Right?
Or, and this is what my paranoid shoulder angel whispers, maybe I've got the trappings of domesticity and if you were looking at my house from a blurred photo, it could be anybody's place, but if you paused to examine the details, maybe you might start to get that creeping sensation of jamais vu. Like how the interesting print on the wall turns out to be a cover on an ironing board and there is a glue gun kept by the bedside, right beside a glass of water and a tin of nail clippings. It's like domesticity pushed through the looking glass.
I feel like at some point, after finally making peace the fact that I am indeed a middle age home maker and a home schooler to boot (which is completely at odds with my self-image, which is embarrassingly juvenile and I'm choosing not to talk about it, but I will say that I still listen to angry punk music turned up loud every time I'm driving the childs around to their activities), I turned from cozying up my place with a couple of nice quilts and other soft furnishings and started thinking skulls and unexpected taxidermy was the ticket to domestic tranquility.
(Unexpected taxidermy is when you go over to your friend's place and you find her mom fussing in the kitchen, not making muffins or doing dishes, but flaying a rodent and stuffing it's skin with foam and polymer clay. Didn't see that coming, did you? Well, maybe you did, but you have been warned. And so has every child in our neighborhood.)
But it's not the creepy heads cuddled in by the pickled carrots or that fact that the soup pot may contain organ meat (we're big fan of beef tongue in soup too) or that the décor is reminiscent of natural history museum meets bookstore. That is just aesthetics. And nutrition. Soup anyone?
It's more that my home isn't actually homey. It's not really especially relaxing, domestic space. There is no conversation enhancing furniture arrangements, the entrance is not inviting, the welcome mat does not exist (thought there is a mat specially reserved for the cats since they like to throw up on it. Why do kitties vomit so much?) There is no bathtub to soak in and if you want to sit at the table, I'll have to yank it out of the corner and unfold it because I've got a jersey knit all over the floor I'm trying to cut a sports top from. I mean, it can be relaxing. For me. But maybe not for you, since I have a place that you can do a handstand if you want up against the wall and a dress form for spontaneous tailoring but not really a place to sit. I also have coffee for you, but hold on because I've got to wash a cup (which is less china and more novelty overpriced mug from a Youtuber). And while I do that, can you hold your finger on this horn I'm trying to glue here, it needs constant pressure until the glue dries. Thanks.
Shouldn't such a place that I've basically invested most of my adult life into - including the creation and maintenance of this blog - and the center of my family's world be more... nice? A little bit more thought out? Because it's more like a curio shop rolled over a hardware store and somebody covered the resulting debris with glue and glitter. Then sprinkled the whole mess with books and bones.
See, this house is a workshop that we happen to sleep and eat in. Or a classroom that has a shower and a slow cooker. It's home because we keep our dirty dishes here and wash our laundry but it's also a huge storage locker for craft and art supplies, educational materials, and sports equipment. It's six hundred and forty four square feet of locker.
Nearly everything in here is seen as tools or resources for whatever it is that we are working on at the moment. Nothing is safe from craft here. If I don't patch it and add text, the girl will cover it in washi tape and suspend it over the dining room table. The walls are drawn on, scuffed up and patched with sewing supplies, books become furniture and the furniture gets embroidered with quotes from the musical Chicago and then sent out to the garage because there is not enough room for it while we turn out living room into a fort that never gets put away. The chairs are end tables, the tables are book drift holders and not a single wall was built using a plumb line. If you found a coffee table here, you'd actually at the neighbor's house.
Which is fine! Really. It suits us. My children can hardly complain about the freedoms they experience at home. But is it domestic? You probably aren't judging me (mostly because you don't have to live here) but I am judging me. I judge me especially when someone is dropping off a small child for me to look after for an evening or when the child's friends visit. I mean, are you sure you want to leave a baby here? We believe scissors are functional décor and the carpet is mostly made of stray straight pins.
(Just kidding! Your baby is safe here! Please let the baby visit! I watch very carefully! I can make a playpen of books and they'll be fine!)
I've always had this niggling little uneasiness about calling this place a 'home' and being asked to share my so-called domestic life has definitely brought up all this weird insecurity about not actually having a home-home but more of a workshop-home. Or funhouse-home. Most of the time it doesn't bother me (because I'm busy and have to deal with a bag of rabbit heads while getting us all off to roller derby practice) but sometimes when I look at Goodnight Moon or a vintage picture of a Victorian parlour séance or a box of Sleepy-time tea - all scenes of what I would think of as ideal domesticity - I think, I may be missing the mark here.
(By the way, this has nothing to do with Internet generated inadequacy. Pinterest is nothing but an enabler to my weird house ideas (books in the fireplace! Ladders as towel holders! Stools used for everything but sitting!) and if I want to be inspired by something incredibly weird and dead, my Instagram feed is a great place to start. No, this is about when I walk into the home of real people that I actually know in real person. Friend and family who are also creative and do interesting things, but do not live in what seems to be a middle school science fair project gone wrong. Did y'all take a course or something where you learned how to acquire a coffee table and use book shelves for holding books? Because I must of been sick that day.)