I love shabby-chic. (I love new things with clean lines, too, but then, I have eclectic tastes.)
And let me be clear, if it’s sold at Target or Macy’s or Anthropologie as “shabby-chic,” no. That’s missing the point for me altogether.
It’s not really about an aesthetic. It’s a desire to live in a space that reflects who I am, that is an outward expression of my life.
That life has a history.
The brass bed that my great-uncle rescued used from the basement of a furniture store something like seventy-five years ago. After his early death, it came to my father in his teen years, and by the time I’d started school, became mine. Daddy, military school student that he was, kept it shiny and sparkling. I like its aged patina (and dislike constant polishing).
The narrow bookshelf with a clock face mounted on top. My grandfather, who I never knew, collected the wood (including the finials and clock) the day Prohibition went through and they tore out the bar on Main Street. He took it home and turned it into a bookshelf.
A bald eagle and shield needlepoint. In the early 1970s, as Daddy’s ALS began restricting his activities, he wanted something to do with his hands that didn’t involve arm strength, and decided to try the needlework my mother did so beautiful. He chose a bicentennial design (produced by AVON, according to the bag) and outlined and filled in maybe 20% before the disease took enough of his dexterity that he had to give it up.
Roughly thirty years later, I found it and finished his project. It now hangs over the Prohibition bookshelf, signed with both our initials.
The canister set that sat on my grandmother’s kitchen counter and held her baking staples – the ingredients for all her wonderful homemade cakes and cookies.
The funky printed, wide-legged denim jeans my grandmother custom-made for my mother in the 70s (and that actually fit my hips and sometimes my mood).
The small, personalized photo album – a high school graduation gift from Kenny, a popular upperclassman who befriended an awkward middle-schooler and in doing so, gave me the gift of acceptance and a sense of worth, just as I was.
And so many books – old friends and mentors in the journeys of my life.
Most everything in my home has a history, a history I’ve inherited or a history I’ve given them.
Things don’t match. But they belong. They fit somehow. The beauty is in the relationships between them, the lived-ness they reflect.
Like my life, it’s a beautiful mess – full of story and legacy and love and change and unfinished business and moving forward anyway.
I don’t want a life of matching sets.
I don’t want the registered china. I want one setting of your favorite design, a table full of the unique gifts of friends, mixed and matched for this particular celebration of togetherness.
I don’t want a life that fits neatly. Cleanly.
I want questions and discovery and the chaos of living in a world of surprise and revelation. I want the assumptions I don’t know I have disrupted, my expectations interrupted.
I want the beautiful mess.
A life – and faith – with cracks in the foundation, layers of paint and wallpaper that are worn down and showing through, corners that don’t meet at right angles, walls that don’t meet at all, doors that won’t shut right.
A drafty life where the sun and the moon leak in light and the holy wind is always whistling through and tossing things around.
Things get broken, but that’s what happens when you use grandma’s crystal rather than leaving it to collect dust in the china cabinet. When you stop saving it all for special occasions and celebrate every moment as a special occasion worthy of celebration or mourning – of honoring.
Things get broken, but then they get glued back together and the cracks become part of the story.
Things get broken, sometimes too broken to glue back together. But then it’s time to make a mosaic.