My father called on Saturday to tell me he mailed a Southern Living cookbook to me he found while cleaning out one on my late mother’s stashes. I was touched my father thought I would like to have one of my mother’s cookbooks. I’m sure it will smell like cigarette smoke when it arrives and, without a doubt, spend a few weeks in the garage airing out.
My father filled up the recycling bin with copies of Better Homes & Gardens magazines my mother was saving. He still has a few more years of the magazine to recycle which will take several weeks.
My mother bought Better Homes & Gardens every month at grocery store. I don’t know why she didn’t subscribe to the magazine. It was just another one of my mother’s quirks. She read it cover to cover. Perhaps it was her way of escaping her suburban life as wife of a man she hated and mother of three kids who drove her to Valium at an early age. I can still picture my mother sitting in the living room smoking an Old Gold cigarette while reading the latest issue of Better Homes & Gardens. She would be off in a dream world as the ash on her cigarette grew longer and longer while a cup of weak coffee sitting on the end table turned cold. It was a sure sign TV dinners would be served that evening.
I remember looking at those magazines and wondering why our house didn’t look like the pictures in the magazines. None of the decorating tips or garden ideas were ever implemented in our house or garden. My father left all decorating decisions up to my mother because that was a woman’s job. Just like answering the telephone was the wife’s responsibility. Deciding on a paint color or a fabric tortured my mother. It took ages for my mother to make decision. The house I grew up in had mismatched furniture in most rooms. The only room that looked halfway decent was the dining room only because my mother bought the whole room display at the furniture store. Pictures were hung in odd groupings too high on the wall (Perry insists on sixty inches from the floor to the center of the artwork). A woman who devoured Better Homes & Gardens couldn’t decorate a room to save her life.
I had the important things like a house to live in, utilities, a bed, and food on the table. It just wasn’t like the pictures in a magazine.