Murder Of Crows

Murder Of Crows

Murder Of Crows
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January 01
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Been known to annoy humans, but mostly misunderstood. In mythology, the crow symbolizes integrity and doing unto others as we would like them to do to us. Crow teaches us to know ourselves beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws. It is about bringing magic into our lives. This animal teaches to appreciate the many dimensions both of reality and ourselves, and to learn to trust our intuition and personal integrity. There is magic wherever crows are. They give us the message that there is magic alive in our world and this magic is ours to use and create a new world for ourselves with.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
JULY 21, 2011 12:37AM

The White Room

Rate: 50 Flag

         

 

             I descend from women with white living rooms. 

 

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Gramma Esther
  

            Gramma Esther came from the Old Country, Prussian peasant stock, who never in her life imagined she would own a home with brand new furniture to say nothing of indoor plumbing.  To protect these amazing treasures that made her feel like royalty, to keep it "for new," everything was covered with tough clear plastic slipcovers -- the sofas and chairs, the lampshades and the draperies – and the white carpeting was crisscrossed with hard acrylic runners like garden paths throughout their small suburban bungalow.   It was as if the contents of her house were encased in condoms, meant to protect them while all the while turning the white to a dingy yellow.  At least we kids were allowed to sit on the furniture, even though in the agonizing heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers, in the years before central air conditioning and color television, peeling yourself off the sofa was like ripping bandage off of blistered skin.

 

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Mother, gleefully preventing Sister and me from entering the Sacred Space.  That is not a hug; that is a death grip.

 

            The next generation, the mothers in our neighborhood including my own, also had white living rooms.  The sofas were white, the chairs were white, the carpets were, and the drapes drawn to the sides of the big pictures windows were white.  This generation dispensed with plastic slipcovers and acrylic runners.  The houses in which my friends and I grew up had family rooms; family rooms were rooms in which a child finger-painted, spilled glasses of juice, made forts out of the cushions of less expensive, tweedy couches, and put sooty feet on yard sale coffee tables and no one cared.  Dogs, cats and kids could shed and vomit and no one went into cardiac arrest. 

 

        Living rooms, on the other hand, were reserved for grown-up parties and for sitting shiva.  My mother had a carpet rake for our living room to keep the nap from compressing from the footprints of the imaginary people who evidently trampled the fine pile while stomping through the living room in the dead of night.  One time, I was walking home from the school bus stop and, from the end of the driveway, spied a group of people sitting in our living room in the middle of the afternoon.  I panicked.  I raced up the driveway, threw the front open in hysterics, crying, "Who died?  Who died?"  It turned out my mother was hosting the other mothers from my Brownie pack.

 

            Like Gramma Esther, like Mom, the first piece of new furniture I purchase with my own money is a white sectional.  I can't help it; the white living room gene gallops through my family's DNA like the deviated septum we all share.  It is so pristine, so symbolic of this crazy rite of familial passage.  It makes a museum of the living room of the small, crappy two-bedroom apartment I finally make enough money to afford.  No one is allowed to sit on it.  No one can eat near it.  Look but do not sit, touch, or enjoy.  This includes me.   

  Natuzzi_sofa

 My White Sectional At Birth

 

 

 

           When my very English boyfriend-future husband moves in, he doesn't know my crazy rules – why would he?  The English are eccentric but they have nothing on Jewish mishugina.  So, he sits on it.  He stretches his long body out on it to watch the Spanish-language channel that broadcasts all the European football games.  He enthusiastically throws his arms in the air, Guinness bottle in hand, every time the announcer cries out:  "Gooooooooooooooooooool!"  I bite my tongue.  Love my couch, love my boyfriend, love my couch, love my boyfriend.  Oy. 

 

            Eventually, his two young daughters begin spending a lot of time with us, and they sit on the sectional.  They eat jelly sandwiches on the sectional that leak globs of purple jelly on the cushions.  I take a Valium and bite my tongue harder.  One of them gets up to get a glass of milk in the kitchen, and, like a crazed Hamlet the Housecleaner, I race with a cloth and fabric cleaner to try to scrub out the damn spots. 

 

            I get lost one day in a maze of one-way streets in the bowels of downtown trying to find the office of an agent.  I pull into an alley between two towering buildings to look at my Thomas Guide and figure out where I am.  I see a young, skinny, brownish dog at the end of the alley eating trash near a dumpster.  We aren't allowed to have dogs in our apartment, but he jumps happily into the back of my little brown Toyota station wagon, and I bring him home.  When I call my boyfriend-future husband at the theatre where he works in the pit orchestra, I mention I rescued a puppy.  I don't mention that the dog is the size of female Mastiff.  In the dead of night when my boyfriend returns home, the wee puppy he expects to wiggle cutely at his feet instead "greets" him by standing on his back legs, pressing his big front paws against the boyfriend's chest, looking him square in the eye and licking him on the nose.  We name him B.J. (after "Bad Joke"), and pretty soon, B.J. sleeps (and drools) on the white sectional, too.  My tongue is numb and calloused from constant biting.

 

            "Sheesh, that sofa looks like hell," mentions my boyfriend-future husband one day. 

 

            The sectional is on life support.  The voices of my Gramma and my mother are pleading, "Save the sofa! Throw the heathens out!" and "The sectional is the only thing that matters, Katie Scarlett!"  I weigh the pros and cons of pulling the plug on the sectional, on the boyfriend-future husband and his children, the dog.  Or simply bucking my genetic coding and telling my Gramma and mother to beat it.  My tongue asks for some consideration. 

 

            Why does it always come down to a choice between a white sofa and true love?  Why, why, why?

 

            The day the jelly-stained, dog worn, cat-scratched, flat-cushioned, dingy off-white sectional sat in pieces at the curb waiting for bulky pick-up to haul it away, I know I have made the right decision.  I finally have a family of my own. 

 

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Out into the white spaces of OS!
Why in the world are you posting this in the middle of the night??? Maybe because actually being able to get a page to load at this hour is so tempting, I answer my own question. This is far too good to have the paltry number of readers it will get until morning. Hope it's still around tomorrow when lots can read it.

White. [sigh] I know this story far too intimately.
Thank you, Candace. It's the only time I have to write. And post. I almost titled it "Waiting For Open Salon" because this site is so damn slow. And it's only 9:45 PST. So, not quite the middle of the night for me.

MOC
Fantastic job here Murder of Crows. I did not grow up with white furniture however when invited to the President of my university's home - along with some other students -, I was nervous and spilled thick spaghetti sauce on their white carpet. It felt like white death.

Love your ending here.
I loved this tale. You did the right thing. I made that choice too.
Scarlett, I am also the person who spills things in museums, rich people's homes, etc. I trace it back to my heritage of maternal-induced fear. Naturally, I am a klutz. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Zanelle, thank you for your kind words and for confirming I made the right decision. A white couch can't give you what a family can.
Thank you, Kate. Very kind of you to read and comment.

I must admit I have rarely seen the white living room thing in England or Ireland -- they are far too sensible (and into chintz and brocades) to "go white" (unless, of course, you were John & Yoko in their White Period).

Thanks again. MOC
Loved it! Your words, so aptly woven into "white period furniture."
R
I remember the plastic on furniture, but I think we had plastic see-thru stuff on the carpet. I would rather sit on a cactus!
Glad to see ya 'round these parts, sitting on a plastic colored white sofa or not.
gawd this was funny.
One of my favorite pieces ever. ~r
Two kids, two dogs and five cats in this household and it is no wonder we can't have nice things. Hailing from South Florida, I have ripped my sweaty thighs from plastic covered furniture on many occasions. Like Candace, I related.
This was gorgeous and so true. My grandmother had the clear plastic runners and sofa coverings and I remember that room as being the ugliest in her house. I've been watching my formerly new car grow old over the past three years...the process is inevitable and so interesting.
Candace, too funny. Yes, we now have to post at weird hours hoping the OS glitches have gone to sleep.

Wow, look at Joan H.'s ringing endorsement. You should put that in your header somehow, like a testimonial.

Thoroughly enjoyable, tightly-written piece, MOC. And relatable - because I think everyone one of us has encountered or been part of that white couch family. Or that damned plastic covering.

[A sidenote from a theater gal, for what it's worth: it's Lady Macbeth who tries to rid herself of those damn spots.]
gorgeous and an obvious EP thank you for this r.
I enjoyed this. We travel a long road through the actions of our mothers, grandmothers and ancestors It is how some of our behavior and thinking gets formed, at least it seems that way to me.Great piece, I think white is very symbolic...
White on. I mean write on. I mean right on! (Oh, you know what I mean.)
White always made us whisper...Only Mrs. Long could keep us out. Here glitchy glitchy glitchy. Wow this mess. Great read thanks.
Mahvelous! I probly shouldn't tell you this, but I believe they make Scotch Guard now even for white furniture.
"Save the sofa! Throw the heathens out!" Oh, how I'll recall this line throughout the day. Wonderful and applause w/ rating!
The carpet rake! Hamlet the Housecleaner! Katie Scarlett!

This had me howling. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Well done! Me, I chose the White Sofa instead of family, and have never regretted it, not for an instant.

That is what friends are for, is it not? You can live the pristine, white-sofaed life through me, and I can live peanut butter & jelly stains and dog vomit through you.
I am having my furniture slip-covered in white as soon as my kids grow up and my pets learn to stay off the furniture.
This made me nod and sigh with agreement.

When my mother decided to re-carpet the family home in white from front to back, we all cringed in anticipatory guilt. Who would be the first to sully its purity?

Of course, it was me. It was 7-Up, not coffee (small miracle) -but I still got the stink eye.

Me, I went with the brown flecked berber and chose cats and dogs and husband and boys to populate and decorate my world.

I only sigh occasionally, and then pull out the vacuum.
Thanks to all my "white roomies" for your comments.

Beth, I know it was Lady McBeth but chose Hamlet the Housekeeper for the fun of how it rolled off the tongue. Also, why is it that men get to make the mess but women have to clean?? Thanks for coming by.

Joan, thank you (as always).

OOAL and Mission, good to see you, too.

Scanner! Word has it that you are always sitting on a cactus - that's what makes you so funny. :)

Linnnnnnnn, totally related. I have never owned anything white again thus far in life.

Greenheron, thank you, fine writer and champion of others.

Jonathan, thank you.

Sheila and Lea, thank you for reading and commenting. Sheila, there are many more stories in that genetic material from moms.

tg: okay, I give. Who is Mrs. Long???

Matt: Scotch Guard, while helpful, is not family-proof and is actually toxic (which should please M. C) Thanks for reading.

Scupper, Jeanette, thank you. Glad to bring laughter into a corner of a world so bleak. Somebody has to keep a light on!

M. C -- Sadly, the husband died young, the kids grew up, the dogs and cats don't last much longer than the sofa, and if I wanted to, I could go back to white now. But I like color in my life and animals. My house looks like a box of crayolas. And yes, that's what friends are for, and I'm delighted to have you as one of mine, cher.
Your all white by me...
I choose to live in an apartment that looks like a yard sale waiting to happen. It's helpful when the wine bottles get knocked over - I find the rich colors of a wool oriental absorb many, many errors in judgement.
White?! White is one of my enemies, I think!
I DO recall having a parlour, in my youth - and, in a different house, a living room we were only allowed to enter to practice the piano.
White knuckled. Battering the ivory.
Lovely piece, MOC. Great comments too.
Lord, I can't even keep our brown sofa from looking like a dump find.
Thanks for the laugh :D
katie scarlett - you are so funny!
wonderful and funny!!! Congrats!!!
lovely, funny, silly, and so very true.
thanks for that visual.
Murder of Crows,
What a sweet and funny story! Congratulations on the EP.
What a liberating decision that must have been! I could identify with your story not from personal experience, but through a close friend I had in junior high. Her mother also covered all their furniture in plastic, and I could almost re-live that sensation of peeling skin like ripping bandages off blistered skin. Well done ! Lovely photos.
♥R
Oh this is so true. I also have a husband, two kids, and a black dog. My husband tries to keep food out of the family room, but to no avail. Taco chips, root beer, and spaghetti adorn the rug, and the sofa is green and used.

(but the movies are great).
My grandmother and my mother had the same arrangement, except they're (respectively) German-Irish and Polish-Ukrainian. My grandmother's was like a shrine: white carpet, white embroidered sofa, lots of porcelain. My mother inherited that same sofa which, at least twenty years later, is STILL pristine. I think a total of fifty people has ever sat on it. I've only done so a handful of times, if that. To this day, I can't sit comfortably in a "living room." Inappropriate name, that. Well done.
very nice. Loved this little jewel of a piece of writing.
I happily read this when it first was posted and glad it got noticed by so many.
I have been in one such home as a child, a person our mom worked with. I did not understand why she threw herself bodily in between us five children and this magnificent white room they had. Why anyone would have a room no one used. You have helped me to see another side of this white room and it makes me happy you chose family.
This was hilarious and so well told. We didn't have white furniture, but did have white carpeting. My Aunt had the plastic thing going on. I can relate so well with this story. Congats on the EP. -R-
A well-deserved EP - very well written and a pleasure to read.
Holy cow OS friends! First, OS has kicked me off this comment 3 times but I would be remiss not to wrestle with the tech-manure and thank you for reading, commenting, telling your stories to me and posting more comments than I have ever received. Thank you all. MOC
I grew up in the same city as the actor, Paul Newman. My mother’s friends all went to high school with him, and one friend lived on Paul’s street. They would talk about him at parties and I would listen in. Here’s the part you may enjoy-- None of the kids on his street were allowed into his house because his mother had white carpeting and white furniture in the living room. If for some reason they were let in, they had to remove their shoes and leave them outside.
I loved this and the way it was written, seeing the inside of your mind. Funny with serious undertones. The kind of writing I most enjoy. Glad to see it made the cover regardless of the time posted.
The white living room is an oxymoron. This brought back many bad memories of my mother's shrieks as she ran for the bottles of white vinegar and salt. White carpets should be illegal.
Wonderful essay!
Yes, I remember the white living rooms … though ours was not. But in 1973 we moved into a modern house with orange, and I mean red-orange, carpeting in the huge living/family room. It took some getting used to.
Yay!!! I'm so glad the sofa didn't win! (This said while my two dogs bask on my [leather] sofa). I know how hard it is to extract yourself from ingrained traditions that don't necessarily make lots of sense -- and I know when I'm clinging to one of them because my sons will say "Oh, mom, you're such a Bacz!" (Bacz: short for Baczi: Polish for grandmother: used to describe a slightly loony behavior of my mom in a loving way.)
This is a familiar story for me as well. I love how you told it : )
"Death grip" or not, that photo looks like a loving Mom-- the room around you could've been our living room back when.
I've been dreaming of just the right white couch for years for our finally-bought house.
When I saw this photo you posted, I drooled.
I want that couch.
The kids are (mostly) grown, the dog has her own bed...it's perfect timing.
Oh, too bad for the future couch's lifespan, the grand-baby arrives soon. : )
you got it, Mary. Thanks.