Keep it real

On any given day, I always say to myself that I need two weeks off — yes, just 14 days straight to get the house in order and put everything randomly lying around in their proper places.  Keeping them there even as life continues to flow daily will be another problem altogether, but that is something I do not have to worry about just yet.  I just need my two weeks off, ASAP, as a step in the right direction. The fact is, I already recognized that need over a year ago — and despite my best intentions, it still has not happened for me.

For the longest time, Richard and I have turned down proposals from different publications to feature our home.  Besides, it has been featured many, many times in the past, when it was very new and very bare and always picture-perfect, with just art pieces and bare essentials and us in it.  It hasn’t changed much, really, structure-wise; we have had no major renovations unless you count the fact that we now actually have a modest garden and there are decidedly more elements in practically every room in the house.  What do you know, as life moves, so does the furniture.

A couple of weeks ago, the guys over at Yes! magazine (Summit Media) asked if they could feature our house again (the last time they did was in 2001).  What is there to feature? I asked, it’s still the same house.  And besides, the two weeks I always say I need to clean up and make it picture-ready does not seem to be forthcoming, definitely not before their deadline.  But they can be very charming, and I found the slant of their story very refreshing.  To cut it short, their idea was to just keep it real.  Ten years down the road, how has this house turned into a home?  They did not want me to clean up and make it perfect for their cameras, they wanted a real home, lived in and scratched and battered by wear and tear here and there.

And that was that.  Before I knew it, I had said yes to Yes! and probably because it was meant to be, everything just fell into place.  The part of the sofa that Gaston, my brother’s little black French bulldog — who is a dog but looks and sounds like a pig — chewed on was repaired beautifully just in time for the shoot and Tess Vargas of The Bowery did a fine job with the upholstery.  From the blues and greens and whites of many years past, we settled on a buttery yellow fabric for the sofa.  Richard and I found a common free date for the whole-day shoot and we were all set.

Ever since we did the whole garden thing I have been enamored of the beauty of plants and have welcomed them indoors, my only regret not having done so much earlier in my life as a homemaker.  But for the shoot I needed even more beautiful floral arrangements and I knew I wanted the ones that Gaita Fores does so well, from her flower shop called Fiori di M at Adora in Greenbelt 5.  She sent her girl, Kay, to the house and I just brought out several vases and pointed out which areas I wanted to be dressed up with her lovely arrangements, specifically the dining table, the restroom downstairs, and the round wooden Claude Tayag shelf in the living room. They came in very early in the morning and by the time the Yes! team came the house had lovely touches rendered by green carnations and green cymbidiums, cactus roses and yellow calla lilies, curly willows, Picus Nanas and Jennifers.  What joy!  They were propped serenely in driftwood vases and my own vases, the ones I have had for years and years.  They looked so pretty.

Admittedly, the night before the shoot I was still quite apprehensive about the whole “let’s keep it real” theme and I even attempted to clean up at least my work table in our room and a little of the den.  But I soon realized it was an exercise in futility. I would not be able to weave some significant cleanup magic, single-handedly at that, in as little as two hours even if I wanted to (I reiterate that I need two weeks off!) so I just let that dream go with nothing more than a wistful sigh.  Besides, sleep has been so much of an elusive luxury of late that it was so much easier to succumb to some glorious shuteye instead.

I woke up lunchtime on the day of the shoot; my husband, the early riser, still rose earlier than me despite the fact that he had gotten home very, very late (actually, early morning already) from work the night before and kept our guests company while I wallowed some more in dreamland.  We served a home-cooked Filipino lunch of pork adobo, sinigang na bangus belly, tortang talong, kinilaw na tangigue, inihaw na pusit.  There was toyo with calamansi and the ever-present pinakurat vinegar.  Dessert was some delicious mousse-like cake from Conti’s, the name of which I now forget.  For merienda we had pizza and fried peanuts and chips with salsa, and for dinner Richard cooked minestrone from scratch, served it with salad greens and some dressing he made by combining strawberry jam, lemon, salt and pepper, honey and olive oil.  With that we laid out bread, cheese and cold cuts and different spreads for the panini press.  The fresh fruits we used for the photo shoot earlier we ate.  When it was all over, we just lounged around the table and had coffee and conversation.  There was lots of laughter that day, it was casual and easy and light.  Perhaps it helped that we were very comfortable with the people we were working with; that does make a world of difference.

It rained comfortably that day, making the afternoon misty, to my eyes at least, but still bright.  I was happy the rains came when they did because it made the air cooler.  I was hoping our two wandering lovebirds would at least drop by for a quick hello during the shoot but they stayed out of sight; I did not even catch them hopping from one bamboo pole to the next like I sometimes do.

I was very amused with how the photos turned out.  I never realized our house has changed so much!  Sure, the structure is still the same, the walls are the same color, but it is now obvious that a family lives here.  I wish I could share some photos but I can’t just yet because it will preempt the September issue of Yes! magazine.

I like where our house is now.  True, it is never picture-perfect anymore, it no longer looks like a model unit the way it did when it was just a couple of years old, but it is, well, real.

The changes have been constant and have dripped and poured out to the rooms slowly, as time passed, as life moved. They were seemingly mundane additions, born more out of necessity and circumstance than by whim or design, but as I looked at the test shots, only then did I see … the very things I always complain about. The stuff that never seems to be in its proper place at the proper time are the same things that make this house a home.  Maybe I should really stop whining about how I need two weeks off to get things right.

From this day forward I suspect I will be looking at our home in a different light.  I can now always choose to see these little imperfections as gracious instead of frustrating and irritating, a healthy and happy reminder of how fulfilling, and how much more important than a spic-and-span home, a happy home life can be.  As long as it is always clean, it does not have to be always neat.

In our home, happiness is found in the scratches on the floor, the watermarks on the heavy wooden tables outside, in all the little, undramatic, matter-of-fact things that lie here and there, that peek over and under, that contribute to the perfect, anti-perfect shot.  Ten years down the road our house is a home.  I’m glad we said yes to Yes! magazine.  What do you know, keeping it real does make life and (photo shoots) so simple.

Maybe I really do not need two weeks off anymore.  Maybe one week will do, after all.

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