Let us now revisit the cranky, snobby, but good-in-a-pinch High WASP world. We will turn our blue-eyed, sun-crinkled gaze on home decor. This is dangerous territory. We take our houses very seriously, even more so our homes.
You see, High WASPs don’t do intentional vignettes. We only find ourselves, mysteriously, in possession of some stuff. Sometimes our kids make things. Or objects return in suitcases, from travels. We collect early American folk art, or saucers, or Vietnamese betel leaf holders.
And one day these things appear, also mysteriously, on surfaces. Because one cannot suspend them in midair.
Let’s say one day you realize you’ve put three boxes in a row. When, you do not remember. You consider that two are for addictive substances, betel nut and tobacco, the other for jewelry, which is also an addictive substance in your culture. Two are from Vietnam, the other from your mother and father’s 1950’s New England wedding.
You survey another surface.
You see the plaque for longest alumni voyage to an old Nassau function. The prize, by the way, was you got to donate A LOT OF MONEY to your alma mater. There’s the photo of your daughter at 7, dancing, intimating future brilliance. Clay fish and penguin origami courtesy of son. More intimations of brilliance. To say nothing of the howling coyote from a Colombian-American friend.
You decide the time has come to Change Things Up.
You place the box next to a bowl retrieved from the vignette formerly known as The Inside Of Your Cupboard, and study the ratio of gleam to patina. You admire those goggle-eyed goldfish, and wonder about their Chinese symbology. You think for the 1000th time, “Mom, thanks for the wonderful present!”
Then you realize the cigarette box needs polishing. Right. Into the cupboard with its other tarnished silver friends it goes. Who knows what kind of nefarious fun they’ll get up to.
You sigh, and move the betel nut box next to some other betel nut boxes, all in the vicinity of an old Chinese export hatbox. On the hearth. Hey, it’s not yet cold enough to use the fireplace for anything else. Huh. They’re all similar colors. Serendipity.
You retrieve the goggle-eyed goldfish bowl, and nestle it next to the coyote, something Swedish is just across the way.
Now stand back, survey your work, and retrospectively invent a narrative. Let’s plot, meaning both to invent and to diagram, what we actually did. Vignettes are only props for stories, and let us make our stories as true as we can.