I have a dear and patient friend to whom I send the pictures I snap of the most annoying decorative signs I find in cute shops everywhere. She rewards me with a “HA!” of solidarity. Janet, I think, is the only person to whom I have so far admitted how much those signs, which can be roughly divided into two camps: the Bossy and the Boastful, bother me. That will all change now.
The bossy ones are those that yell at you to “Dance!” “Laugh!” or “Leap like a Lizard!” When there is a row of them leaning against a wall at a gift shop, they overwhelm. Like a gaggle of old aunties sitting around a table at a wedding reception, doling out advice you didn’t ask for, barking out instructions for how to fix what is wrong with your life. Or the too cheerful friend who always, no matter what, has a bright side to share. A silver lining commando.
Nothing would bring my spirit down on a daily basis like a sign in my kitchen telling me to lift my spirit on a daily basis.
Then there are The Boastful plaques that trumpet what kind of family this is. We are a family who….forgives, dances, laughs crazily, cries, eats, whispers….
Believe me, I know how cynical I sound. In fact, I think I’ll have a decorative sign made up: “Believe me, I know how cynical I sound.”
The signs are meant in part, I guess, to be internal messaging. Your six year old is strangling the four year old, so you point her to the sign, “Chloe, as you well know, and as the sign says, we are a family who forgives, not strangles. Loosen your hold!”
A billboard hanging in our living room would not have made a dent in our family life, I can assure you. So, then I think the signs (many of which I suspect were given as a gift because they really are their own industry now), can carry with them a tinge of…the aspirational, a kind of decorative boasting of how healthy and real everything is here in this place especially, and then of course, the blatantly obvious.
Because of course family is always where you are hurt and where you heal, where you spill your milk and sometimes someone does yell at you, because constant spilling actually gets annoying and quite tiresome. And sticky. Even though the decorative sign, in what is often false advertising, says that this is where spills happen and no one gets mad. Our homes are, of course, where you learn to forgive and ask for it too, for all the dumb crap you do, and yes, it’s where we do dance like mad in the living room even if there actually is no one watching, and usually, let’s face it, more often than not, no one is watching you dance.
And yes, oppressive sign-maker you are correct, that life is better at the lake. That one, for the most part, is true.
Sometimes when I see these signs I make up other versions in my mind like: “We are a family who pours tea and then loses whole, full cups somewhere in the house pretty darn quickly!” or “We are way messier than we ever thought possible!” or “It’s okay, you’re not less than a human if you don’t actually dance, hardly at all, ever, for years, because the opportunity has just not presented itself.” But I think even those signs, so much closer to the truth, would get tiring after a while. I really do think so.