I am staring at a 50-year-old embroidered bouquet of flowers, repeated thrice over on my newly thrifted kitchen curtain. I am cursing the Instagram friend who commented that all he can see when he looks at the pattern is clown faces. At first I dismissed the observation out of hand; an abstract clown maybe, if it had two different-colored eyes and no mouth at all. But eyeworms, like earworms, work at us until we can’t unsee what’s there to be seen. The tiny yellow pinstriped curtain with its scalloped edges and delicate white ribbon embroidery has turned sinister now, the uppermost leaves in the pattern morphed into the furrowed brows of an angry clown stripped of his painted mouth.
When I found the tiny wisp of a fabric yesterday in the pile of vintage scraps, I thought only happy thoughts. Whimsical thoughts. (But even the word whimsical brings to mind circus music, doesn’t it?) My house needs whimsy. We need shaking up. Our home needs some mismatching, and I dare say a little old-time magic is in order.
“Perfect!”, I thought. Hanging a curtain on a rod is just my speed. You can’t half-finish a putting a curtain on a tension rod, the way I crapped out and left the poor china hutch hovering in the spray-painted wasteland between shabby chic white and modern glossy red and black.
I hung the dainty piece of cotton as soon as we walked in the door. I felt accomplished, purposeful. My daughter and I cooked supper beneath the yellow pinstriped glow. We made Puttanesaca and chocolate pudding based on a chapter in the first Lemony Snicket book. Then, we watched The Lorax even though at first Jack pitched a 15 minute nuclear shitfit because he would’ve preferred to dine in his room and play with Legos.
The internet turned the curtain evil. I hold this up as an example of the conversation of my life: The internet ruins everything, strips the innocence from all I love, and seeks to diminish the joy of my simplest moments.
I know this isn’t true, yet I find myself doggedly clinging to and bringing home things that evoke a feeling of Back Then. Before. Before it all went to shit. I found a worn set of Tupperware salt and pepper shakers, marked simply with an S and P, and a dog-eared copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I keep composition books stuffed with pencils scattered throughout the house, which I fill with random bits of terrible prose throughout the day. I quit Facebook.
Look, I don’t know what works. I don’t know how-or if I’m supposed to-insulate myself or my kids from phrases like “legitimate rape” and the statistics about breast cancer, and clown serial killers. I don’t know if reading Lemony Snicket aloud from the hardback copy of these books every morning while we drink our hot cider will keep my daughter from ever knowing what it feels like to be cyberbullied. Oh, how I want to believe.
Here is what I know: There is a value to the insular world of the unplugged household.
This feels like a good time to confess that I am typing this from my laptop while my daughter works on a poetry lesson in her online home school classroom.
Guys, I don’t know any answers. But you didn’t come here for declarations. You don’t come here for answers. Did you come here to buy a vintage floral pinstriped kitchen curtain? Just so happens I’ve got one for sale.