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I was five years old, and I was hiding under the table. I waited patiently, having endured what seemed like hours of boring conversation, starring imaginatively through the translucent yellow tablecloth at the familiar feet nearby. Slowly, a hand came down to eye level, with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in tow. My grandma always knew how to make me smile.
Visiting my grandmother’s house in Providence was always the same. Family, food, and conversation around the table. As a kid, I cared more about the adventures beneath the table than the stories going on above it. But now that I’m building a family of my own, the stories matter.
Last Christmas, we told my grandma that my wife was pregnant with our first child. She was 94 years old, and hadn’t seemed to age a bit. She was sitting at the same kitchen table when I called, and I could hear her smiling through the phone as she told us how happy she was.
Unfortunately, my grandma passed away this spring just a few months before my son was born. She never got to meet him, but there’s no doubt that she’ll be in his life, through the family, food, and conversation around the table.
A House Full of History
When we first moved from the east coast to Arizona, our home was completely utilitarian. We had silverware from college, a few pieces of furniture that no one else in the family wanted, and the entire 2009 IKEA collection. But slowly, over the last few years, we’ve curated items that we love.
I read that Steve Jobs’ house was almost entirely empty for years, because he had such high standards for the items that he would look at every day. While we’re not that discriminating, we’ve gotten comfortable leaving empty spaces in the house rather than trying to fill everything at once. Instead of buying mass-manufactured items, we want to fill our home with history, stories, and experiences.
When my grandma passed away earlier this year, walking through her home was almost a therapeutic experience. My dad and I found my grandfather’s birth certificate, old photos, and hundreds of pieces that had a place in her life, some which now have a place in mine.
I remember her making Italian wedding soup when I came to visit (with the little meatballs!), and now we use her ladle in our kitchen. I remember walking through the pristine rooms at her house (no shoes!) and looking at the museum of china on display, and now we have a set on our table. We have ornate espresso cups and whiskey tumblers in our cabinets, an old typewriter in our living room, and one of my grandfather’s ties hanging in my closet.
The memories are everywhere.
Passing Down Traditions
One of the first nights after we brought my son home, I was sitting with him on my chest and he was crying. Almost instinctively, I reverted to singing the songs that my dad used to sing when I was a kid. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis… the lyrics had worked their way out of my subconscious as if I’d been singing them all week. It’s incredible how past and present seemed to unite.
As my son grows up, I want the experiences and memories from my life to find a way into his life. Last year, I built a kitchen table for our new house. This year, we decorated it with my grandmother’s plates. Next year, it will be coated in baby food. And some day, maybe it will find it’s way into my son’s apartment or house, and play a role in his life.
If you want your grandchildren to remember you, tell them stories about your grandparents. And nothing quite encapsulates a story like the items that were a part of them. My son may never meet my grandmother, but he’ll know about her. Through family, food, and conversation around the table.
Chris Ronzio helps business owners organize chaos and get things done through efficiency consulting and the use of online tools. As a high school student, he founded a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. He’s a traveler, entrepreneur, and a new dad living with his wife in Phoenix, AZ.
Got to love a man with a vision. Robert Couturier, the New York designer, has a new book out, Designing Paradises, and was interviewed in New York Social Diary, the online who’s/what’s in New York put out by David Patrick Columbia. First of all, only knowing him from his interviews, he is what my friend David Jones, the Los Angeles society florist, would have called “raffiné”- candid, funny and cultured.
“I’ve never believed in perfection, even in interior perfection. In the work that I do, I strive to make people happy, which is why I only work with people I like … because why make people you don’t like happy?! But the role of fantasy is hugely important and we all [fantasize] all the time. And that is true for interiors—we need fantasy.
So relax. Make people happy. Fantasize. To help, here are some images from Mr. Couturier’s Soho loft… Continue reading
The flood of catalogs has begun. Everything you could possibly need and more for all your holiday entertaining can be yours!! Now, all you need is a storage facility to house your off-season furniture and accessories… No disrespect to these mighty retailers- but the reality is you really don’t need a whole new set of everything to feel like you can celebrate the upcoming holidays. Here are some tips to help streamline the seasonal holiday decorating:
2. That all important fruit bowl filled with what’s fresh and in season. Pears, mandarines, grapes, lemons- these colors conjure the fall harvest and help communicate what Thanksgiving is all about.
Pomegranates or oranges that have been transformed into pomanders can do the same for Christmas. And don’t forget: a few snips of green leaves really dresses things up.
3. A swap out of candle color. If you have candlesticks on your table or anywhere in your home, a sure-fire redux is to change out the ivory candles for a warmer color- maybe a natural honey tone for now and either a red or dark green for December.
Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the upcoming holidays- a few simple changes can bring the right amount of festive cheer to your table. And remember, it’s the people around your table that are most important!
Tis the season. With the first snap of cool mornings, thoughts are beginning to turn to that Super Bowl of meals, Thanksgiving. Travel plans are being hammered out as well as “Who is doing what?” lists for this decidedly American holiday. Feeling a bit stressed? Could it be because of the shear number of things to make or procure for this one meal? Honestly, who prepares 8-10 dishes for one dinner on a regular basis?! And then comes those awkward moments around the table with kids not quite sure what to do or say and adults who may be trying to right every wrong in terms of having “Family Meals” in one fell swoop. Yes, it can be quite a stressful day. The saving grace here is that you have time on your hands- at least for a while- to think through the what’s and how’s, so that when the fourth Thursday in November rolls around, you won’t want to throw your hands in the air and give up. Some practical things to do consider: Continue reading
The big three. It’s not hard to imagine that once upon a time, these fellows were quite necessary townsfolk. But for the moment, let’s consider the candlestick maker. Light has the ability to extend day into evening, and it wasn’t so long ago that the flame was the source of this light. As a matter of fact, the United States wasn’t fully converted to electricity till the 1930’s (I know, right?!). Before whale oil, gas, and kerosene, this flame came from candles- hence the importance of the person who created these. Quick side note- the opening scene of the film Dangerous Liaisons has a moment when you see a magnificent chandelier being lowered by rope and pulley and the candles being changed out and lit in the late afternoon glow- it puts things into perspective! The need for sparkle and reflection makes sense! Continue reading