A Picture’s Worth…

As mentioned in Under Construction, I hope you’ll join me as I navigate the re-entry stage in our repatriation journey. Every three months I’ll share a series of ‘snapshot’ blog posts about the particulars of building a new life from scratch, filed under the post category Re-entry Reality. I’ll look at everything from making a home, engaging socially, staying healthy, and stretching creatively,  to becoming part of a community, launching new career endeavors and addressing spiritual needs and emotional well being. The first post in the initial three-month review, Why Here, examined where we decided to repatriate.

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It’s been almost four months into our rather sudden repatriation from The Hague, and Husband and I hit a milestone this week. No, it wasn’t our anniversary – that was back in October. We finally got around to hanging up our artwork. Before you roll your eyes and think ‘why on earth should it take so long to slap up a few framed pictures or a print or two?’, let me explain. We’ve been together a long time. Twenty eight years, to be exact. We dated for four years before tying the knot, and last month we celebrated our twenty fourth wedding anniversary. (I was a child bride, thereby putting my current age in the late thirties mid-forties early ahem, prime of my life.) We both value art. By ‘value’ I mean putting our hard-earned money in amounts large and small – mostly small – where our aesthetic interests lie. And by ‘art’ I don’t mean expensive, pedigreed, fussy pieces. I’m talking prints, paintings, posters, pictures, ceramics, textured pieces and sculpture that move us. Speak to us. Inspire us. Demand we take them home and add them to the menagerie. There’s even an exquisite postcard or two among the bunch. Over the years and across the miles, wherever we would go, we’d stumble upon some inexpensive treasure that ended up carried back in a suitcase or backpack or hand luggage, even occasionally in someone’s fist. They range from posters of all ages, sizes and nationalities which go on to be matted, framed, or simply left au natural on poster board, to the discovery of four hand-drawn flower prints from an 19th century botany book in an obscure shop in the shadow of the Vatican, to gaily painted arte folklórico from Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico. Our haul includes small icons painted on wood and other materials from Israel, Hungary, Russia, Morocco and Greece, a Spanish box of inlaid wood, a religious statue from Belgium, Dutch tiles and Turkish trivets, a pair of sculptures from here in the US, painted eggs from the Czech Republic, fertility totems both large and small from various African nations, Christmas ornaments from all over the world. Expatriate life and travels have brought us batik prints from Indonesia, a moody painting of dark clouds, windmill and windswept flat land from the Netherlands next to the bold, vibrant pair from an elderly local artist, the ceramic plaque marking our wedding date acquired on our honeymoon in Bermuda, and small drawings of landmarks and landscapes in Estonia, France, Jamaica, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Egypt, and Germany. Our painted plates are unique and colorful yet look as though they have always existed as a set despite being collected over many years from places as diverse as Sicily and Assisi and Majorca and Delft. One piece claiming a special place in our hearts is a charcoal drawing of Rome’s Spanish Steps from Husband’s time there growing up as a Third Culture Kid. We can point to the exact spot on an upper landing of the Steps where we had Son’s and Daughter’s likenesses drawn – also in charcoal – several decades later when we were showing our children where Dad grew up. The original piece now draws yours eyes when you enter our home, and the latter have pride of place on the upstairs landing. Over those twenty eight years we’ve added to what is now a fairly sizeable collection of memories, of cross-cultural remembrances, not trophies. When each piece literally represents a story or set of experiences, you can’t just throw them up on a wall or stick them on a side table and be done with it. No, the recollections of a shared life – of marriage, parenthood and growing older together – deserve extensive thought as to where they belong. And that is how we’ve spent our spare moments over the past few days. Curating life’s moments, putting objects from a lifetime of love in their proper places. Making this house our home.


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