I had a very complicated relationship with my mother, but I suppose that’s true for most girls. I was given up for adoption, though, so it was doubly complex for me.
I don’t want to get too philosophical here, but it does tie in to why I am interested in home design, architecture, gardening, and space planning. Those interests naturally drove me to be a home and garden writer.
I can’t figure out why I was placed with the family that raised me. It wasn’t an easy situation. Now I am 60, both mothers have passed on taking much wanted, mysterious information with them, and I am just beginning to appreciate a childhood I have cried over for decades.
I’ll start by saying I never met my birthmother, so this essay is about my adoptive mother who raised me.
My mother was an artist. She was highly creative with several projects going on at once. For inspiration she took art classes and spent a lot of time in New York City (an hour from home) to go to museums and galleries.
My mother loved everything unique. She bucked trends and mediocrity. She had fine taste leaning towards classical and conservative, which seems like the opposite of one-of-a-kind. She managed to make the everyday unique.
The artist in her rubbed off on me, and she fostered my creativity. I tried everything she ever suggested to the point of overwhelm as a child. I was sewing my own clothes, quilting, making collages, painting and drawing, all the while spending a lot of time outside. I had no interest in tv.
Back in those days of dads working and moms staying home, there was no such thing as an interior designer. You were either an interior decorator or an architect. The two didn’t cross.
My mother didn’t let that stop her from doing both. She was an interior decorator by hobby. Our house was like a canvas for her artistic abilities. With her creativity and drive for perfection, she painted it with pillows and curtains that she sewed herself.
Our kitchen got Colonial-flavored makeovers on a regular basis. Her final choices before selling the house to downsize were blue curtains, dark stained cabinets, and maple table and chairs.
My bedroom was sunny, light and airy tucked up against the trees, and my brother’s room was darker and more masculine with built-in wooden drawers and shelves. Wallpapers were chosen to add to the proper atmospheres.
Her bedroom was neutral with drapes, a headboard, an afghan and an upholstered chair in floral patterns that did not match but that looked perfect together. The living room and dining room were also neutral canvases that gave her free reign to experiment with color and design.
Even the outdoor living areas were perfectly designed to blend furniture with the landscape. I think she was waiting for House Beautiful to discover her and photograph our home!
My mother was key in designing the house we lived in and the one she and my father built for retirement. She worked with the architect to get it just the way she wanted it. At one point, she stopped construction, because the ceiling was not the right height. She was instrumental in getting those houses built to her exacting specifications.
The floor plans flowed effortlessly, views and light were taken into consideration, kitchens were functional and beautiful, and bathrooms were always placed for perfect convenience. I’m sure she drove the architects crazy, but artists are like that – they know what they want!
I look back on her as an architect, space planner and interior decorator. Today those careers are rolled into the interior designer.
My mother’s influence on me
I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was 6. I opted for Space Planning as a compromise a few years ago. I have an eye for color and design, and I still sew, paint and make collages. I have designed a house and a major remodel, and I’ve been a contractor and a landscaper. My mind is always working on some creative project that may or may not come to fruition.
The older I get, the more I realize I’m probably a lot like my mother. I like being creative, thinking, planning, coloring, designing and all else it entails. And I love the unique. I am always thinking outside the box and doing things people don’t understand, because they’ve never seen it before. I know I wouldn’t have gotten that sort of exposure if my birthmother had raised me.
So despite all the pain of my childhood, I have finally come to the conclusion that it was all worth it. I enjoy being unique! Here’s to both my mothers on Mother’s Day!
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