My parents moved into a new house a few years ago. Because my mother is the nesting sort, I was required to come and visit and help her come up with a design scheme for the interior. I’m pretty sure I disappointed her greatly because despite the fact that I used to watch Trading Spaces (I know), once I approach a wall of paint chips, I freeze up, melt down, and pick either the ugliest color available or a very boring palette that doesn’t even really go together.

She decided that the kitchen would be “Tuscan” themed, which apparently means “hemorrhaging grapes.” She bought a wine rack and a few bottles of Sonoma “just for decoration” because neither of my parents really drink (though they did serve one bottle to friends that came over for dinner, and then my mother refilled it with pink-tinted water and set it back on the rack), and proceeded to cover every available surface with grapes, grape vines, and signs that say “Vino”.

It’s awful, simply awful, but she seems content.

The rest of the house ended up looking like their old house because she had to match the new design scheme to the accessories she already had. The only other conundrum was coming up with something to hang behind the bed just over the headboard. She agonized about it for days and I suggested every single thing that I could think of: The series of pictures of her beloved children that had been displaced by the signed Ronald Reagan picture hung prominently in the AMERICA themed living room, my dad’s running medals; finally I suggested that she get a long shelf and put knick-knacks and trinkets on it since she had run out of shelf space for many items and they weren’t grapey enough for the kitchen.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to do that,” she said emphatically, “I don’t want things falling on me when I sleep.”

My mother has lived in the Midwest her entire life– she’s never lived anywhere where there are earthquakes or any kind of seismic activity that would cause items to fall off of shelves onto her as she sleeps. For about a year, we lived very close to the railroad tracks, but I don’t recall anything scarring happening in that time except my brother almost sleepwalking out his bedroom window. Eventually, she settled on one of those bundles of decorative sticks that middle-aged women seem to love saying, “This is light enough that it wouldn’t really hurt even if it did fall.”

I didn’t point out the risk of getting ones eyes poked out, or choking on the tacky silk flowers and ribbons– it wasn’t worth it.

I asked my brother about this and he informed me, “Yeah, mom is totally worried about things falling on her when she sleeps, and why not? You wouldn’t want that to happen to you– makes sense really.”

“Are you afraid of this as well?”

“Well, I have seven foot longhorns hanging above my bed, so, no, but I made sure that they’re bolted in very securely.”

Now I’m in the throes of a decorating crisis as I have acquired the greatest item of kitsch that I’ve even seen, but I don’t know what to do with it.

The walls in my living room are very odd in that there seems to be a layer of metal just under the surface so nails go in about 1/8 inch and then bounce– clearly not deep enough to secure such a large piece of art. I’ve been toying with the idea of hanging it over my bed, but my mother’s irrational fear seems to planted itself in my brain, and I know that I would not be able to sleep with a black Jesus above me just waiting to crush my head.

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