After a trade show whirlwind in San Francisco, I escaped Wednesday evening to Long Beach, California - to my mother's house. It is the home I grew up in and I type this now from my childhood bedroom.
My mother's home is famous among many for its warm, homey atmosphere and its magical sway in making you want to eat and drink. The moment you walk in the door, you feel a sudden urge for meatloaf ... and perhaps a cocktail? The home is located in a tidy suburb along the Lakewood border. When I brought a boyfriend here, he'd commented, "It looks like something out of "Edward Scissorhands." (Obviously, he was referring to the 'hood where the Avon-selling Dianne Wiest character lived, not Vincent Price.) Another friend simply refers to my mother's house as "The Americana Museum" which sums it up nicely.
Mama Iva's place is the Safe House where all are welcome and fed. Friends of both mine and my brother's have lived here for months at a time and many a pal has eaten their way through the kitchen as my mother is famous for having endless amounts of food. Right now, she has 2.5 refrigerators and one giant freezer. We think it may be due to her NoDak childhood where a family could be snowed in for months at a time. The thing is, Mama Iva has been a Californian since her senior year in high school so we're not sure if that theory can explain the giant bags of Swedish meatballs and shrimp cocktail.
Quite simply, the home fully reflects my mother and the essence of who she is. She is, first and foremost, a mother but she is also a mother who is a woman who is an American who is from North Dakota. She likes food (cooking, serving, eating), she likes wine, she likes music and she likes to laugh. She is proud of her family's history and it shows in antiques and old family photographs. It also shows in her care of the 1953 jukebox that gave my dad a hernia when he was dragging it up to the second floor.
I'm especially pleased with the photo of Betsy, the old horse from her childhood that she rode to the one-room schoolhouse every day in NoDak - bareback, of course. Betsy would often flip her off when it was time and little Iva would pick herself up, brush herself off, tie up the old horse and begin the day's learning. That the horse is still beloved and remembered by my mother, well, I think it's pretty damn cool.
Gather 'round children: Before the Internet, little Robbie and Heather Clisby learned everything they needed from this set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Knowledge was more tangible before Wikipedia.
Closets contain magical secrets at Mama Iva's House. This one is the Games Closet which is upstairs, also known as The Party Room.
The contractors thought my mother was crazy when she requested a cutting board for the upstairs bathroom. "For cutting limes, of course!" she replied. Those of you who know me, is it all starting to make sense?
Picture books that sit on the antique piano belie our family's favored regions.
The Disco Ball in the den has always represented the apex of style here at Case de Mama Iva. It hovers above antiques, Sinatra CDs and furniture involving mechanical back massagers. This is the room that occasionally holds the large dance floor my mother had specially made. It takes two guys to bring it in from the garage and piece together. She usually sprinkles it with corn starch to keep her friends from slipping while they boogie down.
Behold, The Party Closet. I'm not making up these names. She'll say things to me like, "Can you grab a bottle of red out of the Party Closet?" She keeps all kinds of goodies here. Just this morning, she apologized for waking me as I sleep in the same room as said closet. "Sorry, Heather, I need to get some chips out of the Party Closet for the boys at work." There are also several Craft Closets left over from the 70s and a couple of Gift Closets too - both are dangerous to open.
My mother owns tons of great albums and she has been a quiet influence on my musical tastes over the years. It was she who opened me up to Billie Holiday, Sinatra and Les Paul, not to mention the joy of big bands. I've openly admitted that I plan on 'borrowing' at least one album per visit with only a vague intention of returning it. As I now enjoy mostly vinyl (another blog post entirely) these days, I feel it makes the most musical sense. Let's hope MI agrees.
As I mentioned, antiques galore decorate the place. Here are some shoes that belonged to my Grandma Myrtle (who was married to Wilbur - that's how White I am.) The shoes on the top were those she wore on her wedding day in NoDak.
This typewriter belonged to my Grandpa Wilbur and he LOVED it. He would type with his two index fingers and made labels, wrote letters and used it long before it became mainstream. It's strange but Wilbur had a specific typing style and family members might say, "Oh, Wilbur must've written that - you can tell by the typing." The tradition has been carried down as my mother prides herself on her secretarial skills. I used to play 'office' on this machine as a child and as an adult, was once clocked at 95 words per minute with zero errors. I owe it all this baby, right here.
Then, there is the teddy bear that my brother and I had as children. It is the only possession that we get competitive about. "Hey, my teddy bear!" he will say. "No, that's MINE!" I will counter. My mother will sigh and inform us that it was simply passed along and to just move on since it's now hers and hey, how about a glass of wine?
It's good to be home.