Being a Home Artist — Lessons My Great Grand Mother Taught Me

This article is for my great grandmother; she passed away more than 10 years ago.

It is April, the prettiest time of the year, when flowers come back to life as well as their green leaf buddies. I open the bedroom window to look outside: the sky is light blue with marshmallow clouds; the water of the river is flowing near the house, with its transparent shade of jade green reflecting the dancing willow trees; there are 2 pots of flowers I planted last summer sitting near the doorway, with some pink buds smiling at me. I can smell the sweet soup with nuts and dates being cooked in the kitchen, as I am going downstairs to eat my breakfast.

It is the spring vacation many many years ago. Before I go to elementary school, I spend my day in my great grandmother’s house. Her house is tiny but chic: the vases are always filled with flowers on the dining table; a linen curtain with blue handmade printing flies in the sunshine each morning when the window is opened; there are some chicks running after each other she raised outside that wear the scarfs handmade by her to keep them warm. She is not rich, but alway dresses neatly; she owns a few pieces of jewelry that are made of gold and jade. The oval jade ring she frequently wears is my favorite ring style.

I love staying with my great grandmother, because she will allow my creativity to happen in her house, with only one requirement — never go out without her companion. There is a big river right next to the house; she is concerned about my safety; other than that, I can do anything at her house. I play my little drama with her, pretending I am a housewife, using her favorite tea pot to serve myself and my guest — my great grandmother plays the role — two cups of tea. The water splatters all over the table, but my great grandmother never gets angry. When I hide under the bed, pretending I am living in a small cave, she will get down to feed me lunch. I act as a hairstylist designing a hairstyle for my client — an old broom my great grandmother gave to me — by cutting and trimming the fibers. The best memories of her are not only that she never gets angry at my creativity in her tiny house, but she also cooperates with me in my drama: she performs the script I gave to her. Today, I can still feel the warmth, laughter and kindness of her, when I write down those memories. I am a little monster that only dares to unleash my creativity in her house. I became a designer when I grow up: she might have contributed 90% to my creativity.

My great grandmother’s house is a traditional house in my hometown — a small, clean, peaceful two-story cabin near the river, with a kitchen shared by 3 other families. She does not own much furniture, not to mention modern appliances, but she keeps her house clean with her creative tricks. She uses a rice cooker to dry the dish clothes, plants flowers in broken washbasins, makes the best vegetarian dishes with her minimal cooking pots in that shared kitchen.

Her house is always neat; I seldom see her clean heavily, but her habit of keeping things neat every second leaves the room bright and fresh room all the time. Her kitchen is filled with the good smells of dates and nuts with her secret recipes; she said dates and nuts are best for women’s skin. The dining table is always clean, adorned with a set of tea-ware. She owns some high quality dining ware, and allows my cousin and I to choose our personal bowls for dishes. My personal bowl is a ceramic one with blue flowers on the rim. I still remember her homemade dates porridge served in that bowl.

It has been more than ten years since she passed away, but I always think of her, especially when I begin to rent my own apartment. I keep a small garden on my balcony with roses and succulents; the roses smell amazingly each summer. I love using ceramic bowls with small flowers on the rims, with my own homemade dates soup served inside. I am not good at doing housework, but I am learning because I want to have a place like hers — fresh and neat all the time.

Taipo (how I called her in my fork language), thank you for inspiring me with your taste for what makes a home sweet. I am not doing great so far with my housework, but I am learning; I hope I will inherit your wisdom for creating a sweet and neat house like you. Thank you for encouraging my creativity. I think you would have been really happy to see all that I become. I love you and miss you.

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