Little known fact. High WASPs don’t say “Home,” as in, “Oh, what a lovely home.” Has to be “House.” “Home” can only be used as in, “I’m going home.” (I cringe at my own snobbery. I am in snob therapy every day.)
I believe, or at least I will invent, that this is because the concept of home is the closest we come to true love. To closeted passion. Clothes are for others, home is for us. Clothes enforce the social divide, at home the divide disappears. Because we are shy about strong feelings, this might not be immediately apparent, but we invite anyone who comes to our houses to join the family. At least for that night. Not, perhaps, a loud, warm, hugging kind of family. Not, certainly, a transparent and straightforward family. A family with a code of conduct and and a web of unspoken requirements. So, I suppose, a family like many others. More blue-eyed than usual.
I can’t find High WASP house style archetypes to name. Probably because we are not trying to make so many statements at home. However, consistently, in any High WASP house you will find some things:
a) from a grandmother
b) purchased on a trip to Instanbul (or Finland, or Ethiopia)
c) which required consulting a designer, traipsing through the Design Center, reviewing fabric swatches, and spending a not inconsiderable amount of money
Of course, today being 2009, you might also find furniture from Pottery Barn. What use is a culture that cannot evolve? Or picture frames. From Pottery Barn. (What is it with Pottery Barn and picture frames? In any case they are quite good at frames.)
In my house you will find:
a) a Federalist mirror from my grandmother’s Massachusetts house
b) a small wooden figure of Ganesh, brightly painted, from my trip to India
c) a Persian rug I bought in Brooklyn, sometime in the early 80’s, before Brooklyn became the cool side of Manhattan
And, yes, a leather chair from Pottery Barn.
The thing is, we High WASPs are unlikely to tell the stories of our homes to others. Home is, as they say, where the heart is. Not our favorite topic, hearts. Home is where we held our small babies on our laps, their lips blistered just that little bit from nursing. Home is where we sit around the table, with linen, with silver, on Thanksgiving, and make toasts choked with emotion. Emotion is appropriate on Thanksgiving, no? Home is where we store old scooters, and ski clothes, and earthquake supplies, for far too long.
Home is where the hurt is. I will invent a theory that when you lack for nothing material, you may feel, very strongly, the injury of inevitable human flaws in significant relationships. Simply because you can. Even if you aren’t supposed to talk about it.
Home is where we wander out of the shower, soles of our feet still damp on slate tiles, where we lay our bills across the coffee table, where someone we love comes up behind us at the kitchen sink and holds our shoulders. Just for a minute. Until we shake them off because, in fact, dishes still need to be washed.
Good thing we have learned to put Lenox in the dishwasher. Gold rims be damned. The task of adulthood is to build a home you can inhabit. Inhabit fully.