With the Autumn Leaves Festival coming to town today and the streets of Mount Airy being swamped with retail opportunities; birdhouses of all descriptions, wooden hats, bric-a-brac best described as “pseudo-primitiva” and other objectionables d’art, it is as good a time as any to defend my generation against the charges of crimes against taste in the area of home decor that are often leveled on us by our juniors.
I’m speaking to you, Millennials. Yes, I admit shirred fabric on ceilings was an affront to the goddess of good taste and I’m sure we feel a little remorse about that. But don’t point and laugh on the social media until you get your facts straight. Shirred fabric is not wallpaper. And Pepto-Bismol pink is not mauve. Not even close. Snark requires pinpoint accuracy. Work on that.
And just for the record, you millennials did not invent minimalism. And neither did we. It goes back to the time between the wars. The Greatest Generation gets to claim that one too.
Along with doilies. We Boomers are not responsible for doilies. That is not on us. They were here before we got here and so were upholstered toilets. Yes, we Boomers grew up in homes where the toilet lid was covered in the same shag carpeting as the throw rug on the floor and if we had a fancy mom, the toilet tank was likewise sheathed. But our moms were not Boomers, and on behalf of my generation, we refuse to be considered accomplices in attacks on good taste in which we were helpless bystanders.
It is a rarely acknowledged side effect of the well-upholstered toilet that most of us Boomer men are hopelessly unable to lower the lid after using the toilet. While it’s well-known that most of us lack this life skill, the reason why is not so readily apparent.
It simply wasn’t something we needed to do in our formative years. A fully-raised toilet seat confronting at least three layers of shag carpeting — both sides of the lid and the front of the tank — defied the laws of physics and gravity to stay upright. Simply put, it was self-closing. It was never necessary to lower the seat.
No, we were required to go to significant effort to keep it raised. A knee, a hand perhaps, some effort was required. Please, don’t make me paint you a picture. And if one ever thought the seat was fully upright, locked and loaded, that thought would be shortly proven wrong.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but that mistake was less than sanitary. So the Millennial outcries against Instagram photos of upholstered Boomer toilets that they consider nasty are deserved as far as the nastiness. Nasty they were. But we Boomers were not responsible. Our parents were. Lighten up a little bit. We may have let a lot of evils into the world but the upholstered toilet was not one of them.
And you young whipper-snappers can laugh at wicker furniture, in general, and wicker peacock chairs, in particular, but I stand by the wicker peacock chair. I mean really, don’t you need somewhere for Morticia Addams to sit if she drops by?
The first piece of furniture I ever bought for my very first apartment was a wicker peacock chair. Borrowed my Dad’s pickup truck to drive to Belk in uptown Charlotte to snag that bad boy for my off-campus apartment.
Laugh, millennials laugh, but it was glorious. Everybody who visited that and every other apartment over which that chair reigned wanted to sit in it. Guests took turns. And it was not particularly comfortable. But it was regal. I’m still finding photos of friends and friends of friends, even people I cannot for the life of me recognize, sitting in that gloriously ridiculous chair.
And let us not forget, taking a picture required a bit of effort in those days. You had to find a camera. Not everyone had one in their pocket. In fact, no one had a camera in their pocket. And you needed to have bought film and flashbulbs for the camera and you had to be able to find the film and flashbulbs as well as the camera. And then when the roll of film was full, you had to take it to be developed and printed and then get around to picking it up. We wern’t just wasting our time walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways, we had to work for our photos too. There was an investment of cash, time and effort required. So you young folks should remember when you see a picture from back in the day, it was a memory someone thought worth preserving. As opposed to, say, Tuesday’s lunch.
Eventually, that wicker peacock chair went to New York in a U-Haul truck and moved all over Brooklyn with me until the sad day that it landed in a living room totally covered in glazed paisley chintz — walls, furniture, curtains, virtually every surface. Even a Boomer in the shoulder-padded ’80s knew there was no other choice but to heave Morticia’s throne to the curb. It was with both relief and jealousy that I found it missing from the garbage heap when I looked out the front window an hour later. It had gone on to be a part of some other Boomer adventure.
This weekend when I’m walking on Main Street covering the festival or searching out my favorite barbecue sandwich vendor, maybe I’ll be keeping an eye peeled for another wicker peacock chair. I’m a middle-aged man now with a sun porch and a home completely denuded of chintz, glazed or otherwise, and if Morticia does drop by, I want her to feel at home.
And if any tastefully minimal Millennial points and laughs, they will not be allowed to take a selfie in it.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.