Friday, March 18, 2011

It started with floor plans

You know how it is when some snatch of memory from the far past comes out of nowhere and sets you musing? This is how it was for me recently. From nowhere a remembrance of my mom and her interest in collecting house floor plans came to me.

I thought of how much she enjoyed studying floor plans. She kept a file. They were clipped from newspapers and magazines.

Mom had comments on whether a plan had practicality and good flow. Sometimes she showed us one of the house plans. They weren’t my interest but I politely looked.

I was never into dimensions. Give me a house to walk into and I can tell you right away if it’ll work. A blueprint or floor plan, an artistic concept mathematically set down on paper, is something else.

Sometimes she wrote her comments on the margins of the plans. She saved the plans she liked. Reluctantly, after time, she got rid of others.

I didn't say anything but in my mind I had a question: Why are you saving them? She wasn't going to build a house. No renovation was going to happen either. She wasn’t going to knock out a dividing wall and say to her builder, "Refer to this plan which I just happen to have."

Now I realize the floor plans were for her a wonderful escape. They were her hobby even if it wasn’t thought of as such. Personal pastimes are our interest and our interest alone, another dimension of our life which is often lived out in the mind - where maybe some of the best living is really done.

In a subsequent email to my sister I mentioned being reminded of mom’s liking for floor plans. She was glad I shared this. It caused her also to think back on them. She noted they were such a part of her life.

"Makes you wonder what our kids, years later, will think back on and say - this is where mom curled up in her head and had her own separate life," ended my next email to her.

My sister wrote back. She'd given thought to what her kids might say of her interests and, in the email, listed the interests which they might single out.

The self-summary, as might be supplied by her children, prompted me to want to make a similar inspection of my interests.

A personal assessment turned outward, as if the work of others, can make you look at yourself differently. Visualizing what others see of us can make each one of us consider the picture we give out.

We're in the act of describing ourselves at every moment whether we know it or not. Actions and interests very accurately communicate to others. They suggest what commands our time and what we, by choice, lend ourselves to.

Somewhat like scanning the mental impression I have of myself, here’s what I came up with that might be said by those who know me best:

“She loves sunshine. She gravitates to sunshine at all times. She has her favorite places in the sun and sits in the full strength of its light. She avoids the shade if she can. Sun nourishes her. She needs hot weather and has never liked the cold.

She loves to walk and read and write. She’s good at writing letters. She can talk and philosophize at length, and just as easily curl up with a magazine or book and be so quiet you have to go look for her.

She loves going anywhere in the car. Being in a car, like the action of walking for her, helps her think. Decisions fall into place with wheels under you she says. Decisions, ideas and the simple enjoyment of all there is to see from a moving car make her appreciate the open road very much.

She loves to travel. She has a lifelong curiosity about geography. Place names fascinate her. She studies maps and atlases and pores over street maps as if they're clues to treasure, which for her they are.

She marvels at local gems tucked away in the neighborhoods. These places of interest, revealed by maps or – more adventurously found by car or hiking through – make her an urban explorer. She’ll take any new street. Any place that leads off the main track has her attention.

She notes the parks, trails, creeks, churches, retail centers and pockets of historic homes or beautiful residential gardens which many entirely miss. She assesses each visited spot for its good points. When she especially likes an area she adopts it enthusiastically as an extension of her own neighborhood.

She’s animated by quirky place names. She is amused by the quaint place names common to Appalachia, the Ozarks, New England and the West. The sparkling names of coastal Florida and the heritage-rich Spanish names of California quicken her pulse. She ponders and searches out the background of all place names new to her, digging out their provenance like an excavator for gold.

She loves her coffee. Breakfast is her favorite time of day. Breakfast out is her spin on a fun shared meal. She is at her happiest making spaghetti sauce. She is partial to her daily glass of wine. She likes to sip it and know life is good.

She likes steak, hamburgers and salads with her own homemade Italian dressing, heavy on the olive oil and seasoned with the sunny herbs of oregano and basil.

She’s enthusiastic about many things or the idea of them. She likes the New York Times daily crossword puzzles in the local paper, and the local paper for its news, comics, general information and local perspective. She’s an avid daily newspaper reader. Life is interesting to her.”

My file turns out to be different from mom's. No doubt, however, the same conversation will ensure. Out of the blue the kids will recall facets of who I am. They'll trade comments and laugh as they review. "Funny how it came to me" they'll say. "Those things are such a part of her."

Ro Giencke - 2011

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