As I like to think, in retrospect, it was a tribute to my mother’s dessert specialty – that silky brown confection of mocha icing brocading over two layers of yellow cake.
Most every house on Greenway Avenue was either white or a grim red brick. In fact, those were the top choices for nearly every house in my suburban neighborhood. It was central New Jersey in the 1950s and paint colors were about as blank as our writing tablets and coloring books.
Perhaps it was in respect to The Good War – World War II – that the houses were somber and the housewives were demure. We were, in fact, giving birth to babies and hope at an alarming rate, but, nevertheless, these passions did not translate into color statements in my childhood.
Consequently, I was awed as a little girl that I lived in a home with an expression of personal identity. I couldn’t conceptualize this at the time, but, I did take note that there was a difference between my house and the houses of my friends.
The mocha icing seeped inside also. My mother had slipcovers made to update our hand-me-down furniture. And these were stitched in tones of brown and autumn gold. They created a soft, warm inviting effect that drew au courant comments from many a middle-class visitor. They also connected my family with our autumnal birth dates . . . all October’s children were we.
Yes, Mom had a knack for making life look pretty and taste delicious. I think I inherited a tidbit of her talent. For as I grew into adulthood, I collected ragged old antique furnishings and clothing. Junking became a passion. And transforming an anonymous person’s trash into my personal expression of being became my art form.
I’ve always had a quirky tilt toward the abandoned, the rusted, the flaking, the fraying, the desolate.
I’ve always wanted to adopt the jilted objects of affection and buoy their souls with color – or – perhaps it was simply ferreting out the innate color of their souls that I’ve spent a lifetime questing for.
Regardless, I credit my mom for painting our aged, shingled house with a blend of chocolate and coffee.
Mocha. Probably the first color that shaped my destiny. And most likely to be the final color that places the psalm of a grace note on my life.
I may not like the taste of coffee, but, I love its velvety color and its fragrance of Home.