Off Trend

”If bad decorating was a hanging offense, there’d be bodies hanging from every tree.” – Sylvester Stallone

I admit it: I’m a HGTV House Hunters fan. What other place allows me to snoop through people’s homes, to critique their decorating, to find out what houses cost all over the country? Lolling on my couch, I can inspect the closets in Chicago high rises, gawp at kitchen cabinets in Phoenix, or eyeball lanais in Orlando.

Part of the fun of House Hunters is sneering at the buyers. Recently, a young missus had “cookie cutter” on her wish list. None of that dreary “character” stuff for her. She wanted new, new, new. When a realtor told her that a home was built in 1978, she shrieked, “That’s older than I am!” Apparently, homes past thirty should be bulldozed.

Well, honey, you with your chevron throw pillows, free-standing soaker tub, and industrial-tech light fixtures, I have some news for you. Trendy coolness is fleeting. Before you know it, you could be asking yourself, “What was I thinking?”

I’ve been feathering our nest for over forty years, and some of my design choices now make me cringe. Or gag. Or laugh. No, I never succumbed to wall-to-wall shag, or flocked wallpaper, or crushed velvet, but  it seems that I lost my way once in a while.

Evidence: Over the years – not all at once — our home featured the following:

  • Fuzzy toilet tank and seat covers
  • Foil wallpaper in shimmery rust and gold
  • A burnt orange feature wall, to complement the orange and rust paisley bedspread
  • A living room sofa in a bold navy and yellow chintz
  • Pepto-Bismol pink sponge-painted bedroom walls
  • “Paintings” checked out from the Rock Island Public Library hung on our living room walls (We rotated them in and out when they needed to be returned.)
  • Harvest gold appliances, bronze appliances, almond appliances, white appliances
  • A country blue and mauve kitchen, with small print wallpaper and Pennsylvania Dutch-style squiggles on the border
  • Formica counter tops in a butcher block pattern
  • A yellow and green stenciled border, my own DIY, in our daughter’s bedroom
  • Calico wreaths, lovingly made and proudly hung on walls and doors

In our “new” fifteen-year-old home, the brass bathroom fixtures, the hickory cabinets and faux painting in the kitchen are pitifully passé, but they haven’t yet worn out their welcome for me. Unlike a young House Hunter who proclaimed, “I could NOT live with brass light fixtures!” I’ve made my peace with ours. Our honey oak floors, the kind that that HGTV buyers disdain, aren’t going anywhere. The pretty cherry dining room table and china cabinet stay, too. For now, I’ll drool over someone else’s rubbed bronze faucets and rolling barn doors,  and won’t be tempted one bit to hang the now-trendy foil wallpaper again. Let’s hope those fuzzy toilet tank covers never make a comeback.



Cubs: It’s a Way of Life

“Chicago Cubs fans are ninety percent scar tissue.” — George F. Will

It’s been over five years since my mother won the Cubs: It’s a Way of Life contest and threw out the first pitch one sunny June afternoon in the friendly confines. Now at age ninety, she remains a faithful and knowledgeable fan, basking in these October games. Tonight, her Cubs won the series against the dreaded Cardinals and move on to the next round. Could a World Series be within reach? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m posting the essay I ghost-wrote for my mother back in 2010.



Cubs: It’s a Way of Life

“Gabby Hartnett hits one out of the park,” crackled the kitchen radio, and I cheered, then grabbed my pencil, marking my homemade scorecard. It was 1937, and I, a child of German immigrants, was captivated by the Chicago Cubs. Now I’m eighty-five, and the Cubs continue to be my way of life.

No one game, one superstar, one amazing play inspired my devotion. Instead, my life as a Cubs fan is a scrapbook stuffed with treasured images and cherished moments.

In the forties, my sister and I, teenagers, shared Sunday double-headers in the left field bleachers above the ivy, sighing over our favorite player, Augie Galan, yelling for Phil Cavaretta and Stan Hack.

In the fifties, I was transplanted to the Southwest Side. Wrigley trips were a luxury for this wife and mother, but I set up my ironing board in front of the TV, and didn’t miss a Beckert grounder or an Ernie homer on the twelve-inch screen. The voices of Boudreau and Lloyd, then Brickhouse, were a steady soundtrack of our family life.

Sometimes, my husband, five kids, and I piled in the ’57 Merc for Ladies Days at Wrigley and created memories of hot dogs, pop, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” while rooting for the boys in blue. From our third-base-side seats on a sunny day in July,’62, we waved at the Telstar cameras filming the first overseas broadcast of the friendly confines.

From Santo clicking his heels in ’69, the triumph of 1984’s pennant win, the almost-there heartbreak of 2003, my loyalty never wavers. I’ve delighted in Williams’ RBIs, the Reuschels’ pitching prowess, Jenkins’ golden arm, Dawson’s powerful bats, Grace’s fielding, Theriot’s hustle.

At any game I attend, I’m in full regalia – personalized Cubs jersey, cap, and earrings. My passion is renowned among friends and acquaintances who wouldn’t dare call during game time. Family visits to Arizona must include a cactus league game. Even my dish soap sports a Cubs apron!

Nowadays, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are my companions on summer afternoons, though I’m no longer behind that darn ironing board. From opening day to season’s end, I’m glued to my TV, engrossed in every play. Hurling pep talks at the screen, wringing my hands when the going gets tough, I stand by my Cubbies.

Cubs – a way of life? Hey, hey and holy cow! For me, it’s always “Go, Cubs, go.”