In the living room, letters spell LOVE
in bright cherry red, the color
of lipstick mothers wore in the eighties
of dragon’s blood snowballs
of a shade we once favored when dressing
to go out and dance.
But the color in this space
feels more like
blue-gray, like the spray
of ocean salt, like the touch
of rainfall, like something
not as tidy, not as shiny.
What does the world know
of these letters
of this room
this family, this moment
our hearts —-
Let's paint it in lush purples
deep greens and wavy blues
fill it with ripples
zigzags, silly stripes, funky dots
break apart its letters
build them anew.
Pull it wide open, create a nest
of its fragments — then maybe
that thing with wings
will fly in
perch upon this new
in all its messy, magnificent
multi splendored glory.
this room will feel
like a place we know
a place where
back at us, winking
Copyright @Stacie Eirich February 12, 2024
*Note: ‘thing with wings’ is a reference to Emily Dickinson’s poem Hope is a thing with feathers
Read her poem at the link below:
It’s that time of year where the living room can feel empty without the Christmas tree and its lights. That time of year when you’ve probably picked up the clutter and made a trip or two to donate things you never used, wondering why you had them in the first place. That time of year when cold temperatures keep us indoors and we find ourselves looking around, wondering what we could do to make our homes feel as new and fresh as the frost on our windows.
In other words, it’s the time we’re thinking of redecorating.
For some of us, this may mean a large project that requires a hefty amount of time, expenses, and elbow grease — a kitchen redo, a room addition, a porch. For others, it means something smaller — a different picture on the wall, a changed quilt on the bed, a rearranged bookshelf.
Whether your idea of redecorating is big or small, free or expensive — we think of it as the act of changing or reorganizing things in our home. To accommodate new tastes, fresh ideas, or a sense of the seasons we are celebrating. If we’re lucky, we get to spend a lot of time in our homes, time relaxing and recharging, connecting with and entertaining ourselves and others, feeling comfortable in the spaces where we live.
One of the things my family is navigating anew this season after our child’s cancer treatments is being at home together. Sharing a space when we all have different likes and dislikes, different tastes and preferences, and different ideas. But I would wager that in this, we are not unique. And I would also guess that everyone has had that moment like I did before I wrote this poem, where they look around their living room and wonder: Why did I choose that color? Or…How could I have possibly have thought that looked good?
For me, this moment wasn’t just about seeing bright red in a room of otherwise neutral and soft pastels — but also feeling what it represented, and wondering: Is that really us? Suddenly I felt as if our family’s definition and everyday images of love wasn’t so shiny, wasn’t so tidy as the décor on our mantle proclaimed. And then I began to wonder: What does our love look like?
Yes, by this point, I’d gone a few steps further than debating whether to take that discount-store-décor on my mantle to the donation bin or not. A simple swapping of knickknacks or hanging of a different picture on the wall wasn’t going to be enough. And so I spent time looking, really looking — not at home décor, but at my family and the things we treasure.
One child prefers bright, tie-dyed colors, one dresses mostly in grey, navy and black. One chooses to watch musicals while the other is a fan of Star Wars. One always asks for cookie dough or cookies ‘n cream ice cream, one for strawberry or vanilla. And their Dad? His favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip, his most-worn color is blue, and he’s likely to be watching the ‘big game.’ Me? I prefer to read books, take walks, listen to music playlists or poetry podcasts — and I like all the ice cream flavors.
But knowing what ‘things’ we are into, what colors and ice cream flavors we prefer, is only part of us. Maybe they aren’t even essential, and of course they are subject to change (one child once loved the color orange and bananas — neither of which are on the radar today). And yet these things are part of what defines us, part of what influences our everyday choices, including what we display on our desks, bookshelves and on our mantle.
So what is the other part of us? I think this can be, like love, hard to define. And like what we are into — this inside piece of us is always changing. Right now, my kids are teens, experiencing a wide array of changes to their bodies and emotions. As their Dad and I enter middle-age, our bodies may not be changing quite as much — but our emotions continue to ebb and flow in waves. Sometimes those waves flow with our kids, sometimes crash into them.
We are learning that living with each other again after our child’s cancer can be challenging, and that maybe it requires some rethinking, redefinition — and redecoration. This redecoration includes the things in our home, but is mostly a transformation of ourselves and our love for each other.
We are finding new ways to love each other just as we are figuring out how to live with each other again. We are shedding some things of the past, some pieces of ourselves that are no longer helpful to the life we are living.
And isn’t that home and family is all about? Finding a space to live your life in, and people to love in that space?
I’m looking up at LOVE right now on my living room mantle, and considering keeping it. Because maybe it isn’t about what love looks like, but instead what it feels like. And every day is a new chance to make love feel like something good, like something you want to live for.
But if you look around your living room and find that you want to add a splash of color, a new painting or houseplant — a little redecorating might just be the way you find a little love.
Thank you for being here, and for reading. If you’d like to listen to this poem and the thoughts that followed it — you can find the audio on my podcast, Poetry for Peace, Season 4: A New Dawn — available on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google & more.