Archive for the 'Shopping Trips' Category

Prelude to Decoration

March 12th, 2010

The last tears of raindrops from the roof and a mist tumbling about on the ground made this a magical morning meant for adventure, created for creation. You came around the corner, coffee cup in hand, already dressed for the day, while I just admired the scenery, still clad in the old bathrobe, with a notebook on my lap writing stories of far off lands.

“Are you sure this is a full shopping day?” you asked.

“Made for it”

The sun was fighting the overnight clouds and the reds and blues of the battle coloured the sky and made for a painting I would have killed to be able to put on the wall if only you would have agreed on having those bold colours in your beautiful room.

“Coffee?”, another question, with an nod for an answer, and you, the magician, appeared two seconds later cup in hand, tiny kiss to flavour the brew, gentle hug to warm up the man, and the vision of you seating yourself across from me to frame the morning.

“I know the perfect town for our expedition”, I said, which was unusual, for it was normally you who knew every store, every shopping destination, each bargain planned like a campaign, and actually, this was no exception for we had visited this place three months ago in the dregs of the winter and vowed to come back when the time was right, or in this case, when the time was today. This was finally the day that the family room got changed, and there was an energy in the air born of my creation and your taste, my practicality and your class.

“Budget?” you asked, and I answered that it was only limited by our imagination, and what we found.

“I would rather the perfect room to relax in and worry about how to replenish the bank account, than lots of zeros doing us no good. The zeros come from inspiration and we can always get more of those, but today is a day for excitement and rebirth, and we do not want to worry about what we are doing, just enjoy what we are creating”

The quiet smile that I got in return and the look in your eyes made me consider postponing the trip, at least for an hour or two, but I went upstairs to dress for the road, and came back to find you, camera and measuring tape in hand, pacing off the room one last time. Yes, you were prepared for today.

“Come, breakfast on the road, for we have to get out early”

An hour or so of driving through mountains and greenery set the stage, and I loved the feel of my hand on yours as the car seemed to know where we were going. The soft murmur of the GPS would provide counterpoint to the silent concentration, as every 10 minutes or so you would write something in your little book, or pull up the laptop and recolor the walls, new ideas tumbling one over the other for ascendancy or direction.

The town came up over the top of a hill, a perfect storm of large stores to the east and quaint antique and paint stores in the village, spaced between cabinet makers and tissue shops, clothing stores and restaurants. We parked and left the car, prepared for adventure, hungry for breakfast, open to new ideas and old possibilities. The smell of the rain was still on the streets, although the sun was now starting to rise in a pristine blue sky and would dry the sidewalks in the next few minutes. It was a perfect in between time, and the smell of coffee and croissant led us into a small restaurant, barely 10 tables each already full, except for the one that seemed to have been held just for us sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, freshly cleaned by the same waitress who had served us three months ago when we discovered this town. She looked at us and smiled, and indicated the table, and for a second I wondered if she remembered us.

Breakfast was good, but the conversation was about colours and textures, plans and sizes, and the payment of the cheque a starting gun for the day ahead.

We left the restaurant for a walk down the street, and each shop in turn opened its’ doors as we walked up to it. The owners started their day with us, and we, in turn, hunted inside each one, clicking pictures, making notes, admiring dentelle and bibelot alike, making a small purchase here, another there, but waiting for the inspiration of the big items that these would compliment.

You dawdled in the paint store for half an hour, bringing paint chips out into the sun, then back into the shade, before settling on your color, the base for all that was to come, and an opportunity for me to walk back to the car, two cans in hand, to be transferred to the trunk instead of lugged down the street.

I caught up to you, a fast walk there and a short run back, as you admired rustic hand-made furniture pieces, each lovingly crafted, each carefully considered.

One set of love seats caught your eye in a small store, and you played with a full book of swatches, matching each to the holy grail of the new paint color like you were planning a marriage, some discarded, three or four hanging out of the sample books, dog-eared possibilities or seating to come. At times you asked my opinion, and I have to admit, sometimes you even listened as I made a comment, or shook my head a flat no, but you were in a heaven of your own making and there was a room at stake here.

In and out of stores we went, each lovingly scanned for treasures, ideas, possibilities, surprises. Sometimes communication would be a look and a nod, a purse of the lips, an eyebrow raised, and almost imperceptible shake of the head, sometimes a find would bring a long string of sentences as a new direction opened up before our eyes, casting doubt on the colour choice at times, enhancing it at others. Excitement would pile on excitement as the idea finally ran its’ course and was discarded or a wonderful find was filed away in our wishes for action only when the accompanying players could be found.

The end of the village came up too quickly, but was a call to the outside of town, and, as the car came around a turn there were not the three or four that we had seen from the top of the hill, but at least 10 behemoths crouching before us, a feast to your eyes, a widening of mine. We decided to take them in order. In overly heavy glass doors, uniform in their feel, around a track designed to expose us to the maximum number of pieces, each set with the correct painting, or the perfect bed linens to make you feel as if this was your next home. Every new piece was inspected, appreciated, pushed aside, walked beyond, or surrounded and inspected. Most got curt “too big”, “too small”, “too light”, “too dark”, “we are not doing bedrooms today”, “we are not doing kitchens today”, “oooooooooh I like it!”, “oooooooh yuchhhh!!!”. Some came within the parameters that we wanted. A few got the “too expensive” from you, but a quiet “keep it in mind though, if it is perfect, we can afford it, or maybe think of it as, we cannot afford to be without perfection in that room” from me. You were being practical, and in the long run, I would accept that verdict, but for now, I was trying to expand your definition, financial at least, of practical.

Four giant stores, and lunch called out to our feet, a rest was needed, a moment, or an hour of reflection, discussion, practicality, dreams, and a lot of hand holding and eye to eye admiration.

We debated whether we should go back into the village for something good and homemade, or stay out among the giants for something fast and close by. We settled on a more upscale restaurant among the big box stores, meant to keep the affluent in the vicinity with better fare and a more soothing environment. Comfortable benches, slip off shoes, and sighs of relaxation were the order of the day, or at least of the lunch time, and quick waitresses took efficient orders and mostly left us alone to our plans and trade-offs. One after another the ideas of the morning started to give shape to the family room. A painting here, a toutou there, a dash of fabric as a throw, this couch or that love seat, no, a matching pair of love seats, or perhaps four comfortable club chairs around a table and rug. How would the fireplace be oriented, how would the large, large flatscreen fit in, what would happen when company came, where would we put the current buffet, the room divider, how would we camouflage the bathroom and the laundry room, or would we shut the doors and brazen it out… Wait! Maybe pebbled glass French doors, to let the light in, or, or… the ideas tumbled out like marbles all over the table, skittering here and there, each an excitement, a blessing, a mitzvah, a wonder to be combined with other ideas and shuffled, diagrams made and discarded, new napkins brought by bemused waiters to become blueprints. Energy erupting from the booth like a volcano of decoration.

I loved the lunch with its’ creation and ideas more than the safari through the furniture jungles, but desert came and went, the hour passed in a moment, and the door opened to a warm afternoon and 6 more stores to canvas. Actually, make that five. I dug my heels in and declined to go into one with a reputation for cheap furniture, although you said there might be treasure among all the bargains. I asked if you had ever actually bought anything there, and you replied that it could not hurt to look, but you had been the first to slip off your shoes in the restaurant, so yes, it could hurt to look. We settled on five, and I knew that the branch in the city would be scoured during the week, but that is a battle I was willing to lose, for I would not be there, and the unpurchases would still not be made, but the curiosity would be satisfied.

Each store went by smoothly. Each became a practiced dance, a well worn routine. Items were found, and items were scorned. At last the final store swooshed its’ door behind us and we sat on the hood of the car arranging the re-visits.

“Sure you do not want to go to the cheap store”

“No, but you can go during the week, there is one down near your work”

The shine came into your eyes, “ok”, and the battle I planned to lose was lost, and you had your sixth store. Wonderful compromises can be found anywhere.

We went back to two of the stores and had our short list of furniture.

Then we hit “our” rule. Never buy then and there unless the bargain is too good to miss. We decided to take some time in the clothing shops in the village, a sorbet between furniture stores, have a nice dinner, then make up our minds and book the deliveries. Besides, I had seen a beautiful pair of Pajars on sale, this being summer, that were just made for your legs. We changed mental gears to let the excitement die down so that we could distinguish between what was there and what was wonderful.

We drove a short three minutes back into the village. There were still three hours of shopping left in the day, and we decided to take two of them to ponder, calm down, refresh our thoughts, and, my favourite, just be together with nothing important to do and all the important work just fingertips away. You looked wistfully at the pair of loveseats from early in the day, but a chuckle from me brought you back.

The warm day called for a beer, and a glass of wine for you, white, well chilled, clear gold contemplation. Answering that call was easy, and once again the feet took a rest, and each time the conversation steered itself toward the future of the family room, we would tack in another direction, sailing our dreams towards late summer trips and early fall vacations. I asked if you could take the time off work, and you assured me that if the destination was right, or the company acceptable (as you flashed me one of your heart melting smiles) you could find the time. The talk veered towards cabbages and kings, and just when you had lost track of the furniture, I asked what you thought of the day.

In an instant you were back, this time with decisions that were the first thought. The little store down the street would get the love seats, in a lighter leather than you had decided upon before, and the three matching tables from one store, and two brass studded and leather chairs from another that would go in the club room in the basement but would match the style of the family room when friends or, for that matter, family came over. One rug from a third store and three throws from a fourth. You wanted to compare two table lamps but were quite set on the standing light, and all three would have matching shades at which point we both said in unison “to tie them together” and realized with a laugh that decoration shows were having an impact.

The cheque was paid, and the shop with the love seats delighted to have the order, you kept pressing for 6 weeks, and she promised to try but we settled for 8 week delivery. It would be worth it.

We were in full steam ahead mode now, and it was no more a shopping expedition but a fully fledged campaign. We headed through stores at a pace that would make any man proud, if it had not been for the previous 8 hours, and bought cleanly, packed quickly, then moved on to the next find. The choice between the table lamps turned out to be very easy now that decisions were made, as one just did not go at all with the total look, whereas the other fit like it was designed just for us. The thee shades were stacked inside each other and the back of the car was getting full. Deliveries were arranged, credit card swiped repeatedly (to the accompaniment of me sighing slightly the last few times), and like that minute of peace at the last moment of battle, it was over… with 20 minutes left, and, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles (where is a fiddler when you need him), you actually walked past a full display of dentelle with barely a glance. I wondered if I should get out my Christmas toy and use it to film this historical moment, but satisfied myself with a turned away smile, and a gentlemanly pull at the last glass door.

There was still two hours of sun left, and I suggested a restaurant almost all the way home. I knew that if we went to one of the nice places in the village you would think of one other thing, or stop once more in one of the little shops in town that stayed open for the tourists. The drive back was very quiet, with an occasional turn into the back see to look again at one or another of the throws and compare them edge over to the lamp shades, the rug, or the lamps themselves. I abstained from any remark, knowing that you were now into full decorating mode, that in your mind the paint was already on (and I had, in my toy, the phone number of a good painter who was not me), the lamps assembled, the chairs in place and the rug lying in wait for the two love seats. Looking over as you looked up at me and smiled, I could see a color change coming to the kitchen in the near future, but that is the joy of knowing you well enough to read your mind. I knew that this smile would be reinforced by a long hug in the garden after we got home.

The restaurant came up over the hill, and you asked if we could skip the dinner and just get this home. I promised to make us up a little something while you pondered your treasures, and sailed past the restaurant. Truth be told, I was not hungry, but I had just wanted to sit in an elegant place and see you opposite me.

Home brought a flurry of carrying items into the house, then emptying the family room into the basement (just when I thought that I was about to have some rest), then the items in the car got laid out and you actually put a streak of the paint on the walls. I went into the kitchen and scrounged up two mutton sandwiches, thinly sliced for you, with Dijon, thicker for me with commercial mustard. A red wine cork popped out of its’ neck and the bottle and two glasses followed the sandwiches out to the dining area in the garden. I knew that this was a time to wait, and did so, two big bowls upended over the sandwich plates, as I walked the stone paths and fed the fish. The waterfall called out to me, but I just listened to the melody it sang and let it make my day.

At last you came out, with more than one glance backward as a rearrangement came to mind, or a possibility reared its’ head. You did however, sip the wine, and sit down, and when your eyes met mine, and the smile under them made the whole day worthwhile, I could not help thinking that everything was right with the world.

The dinner was punctuated with possible paintings, either from the “gallery” in the basement, or from Courtemanche out in Magog, or even the frame shop around the corner. Your mind was still racing and the night would be filled with dreams of change, hopes for beauty and the soft satisfaction of a sculptor on the last few strokes of a masterpiece. I knew that it would change over the months and years to come, for, around you, change is inevitable, but I was pleased at the base that we had built, one more room chalked up, and other challenges that were now capable of being taken up…

In the long run, it is not where you live, or how you decorate that is important, it is how you satisfy yourselves with the way you live.

You satisfied me very well….