September 24, 2010

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

In the end, good taste displays love and sharing

Cynthia DewesWe all seem to think we have good taste, don’t we? We try to dress appropriately and as attractively as possible. We make our homes reflections of our interests and our perceptions of ourselves, while at the same time offering a warm welcome to visitors. We admire classical music or auto racing or whatever other activity is deemed worthy in our particular circles.

My friend, Barb, and I agree that we are the only two non-crafty members of our local Extension Club, both of us being inadequate in that department. We don’t produce potently scented candles or dried flower arrangements or create clever household items from old thread spools and bits of dryer lint. We are clueless in this way.

Thus, my house is quite bare of certain kinds of artifacts. You know the kind, those cutesy little items that people exclaim over while secretly wondering, “What was she thinking of?!!”

I believe the litmus test for keeping such things is: a) In two years, will we know what it is? or b) Will we care? If the answers are “no,” into the trash they go—or, if we’re feeling particularly sadistic, into the church rummage sale bin.

Now, I hasten to add that gifts from loved ones are not eligible for such harsh scrutiny, especially gifts made by their own hands or selected by them to please my—naturally—good taste. We can only be humbly grateful for such declarations of affection, and eager to display them.

My house is full of such treasures. Hung on my walls are a needlepoint rural scene made by a daughter-in-law, a needlepoint sampler created by yet another daughter-in-law, a photograph of a “See Rock City” painted barn from a good friend, and a crucifix which was a wedding present from the priest who married us, my husband’s uncle.

We have shelves devoted to our son Peter’s ceramics, a painting by our daughter Kate and other objects from our children that we find delightful. In the dining room are watercolors painted by my mom, and calligraphy about the Eucharist made by a longtime friend when she was in the convent. Artistic creations of our dear ones are extremely important to us.

There is a framed display of Lewis and Clark memorabilia, and on the mantel there is a string of model trains, both honoring a couple of my husband’s passions. I like to think that I am another one of them. There are many photographs of our beloveds, and pewter plates sent to us by a Norwegian cousin at Christmastime over the years.

Speaking of Christmas, we have visited a house where every surface, floor or wall decoration is related to Christmas. This person loves the holiday so much that her home is cluttered with reminders of it, many of which, like my things, have been given to her by family members and friends. Others we know are collectors who display Precious Moments figurines or airplane models.

Although these examples of “good taste” don’t fit my definition of it, they do illustrate what is meaningful to their owners, what gives them joy and what is meant to give joy to others who see them. And it is the same with the clothes that we wear or the gifts we give or the pictures we display. They are a way to share.

I think “good taste” must be good because it expresses love, and God always makes loving joyous.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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