It’s Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada. The first and only long weekend of the fall. This weekend, pumpkin patches will feature largely in the plans of families with small children. The momentous decision of choosing the family pumpkin must be made. The farm up the road from us which operates a garden centre and you-pick, and in the fall boasts a corn maze and gives free wagon rides out to the pumpkin fields, has been full to bursting all weekend. Hubby tried to estimate the number of cars in their temporary car park and along the roadway… and failed. Clearly, pumpkin season is upon us.
I love seeing ripe pumpkins in the fields, and the piles and piles of them at vegetable stands. It’s a sight that always warms the cockles of my little autumn-loving heart. Along with trees that have turned bright red and orange and yellow, winding country roads unfurling between said trees, and leaf strewn walking trails lit by weak autumn sunshine. I know, I’m a walking cliché.
For years and years, Hubby and I spent Thanksgiving weekend camping up the Ottawa Valley. I love fall camping. For four days, I’d loll around in sweatpants and old fleece, wearing no makeup. We’d walk the bush trails and drive the country roads. And on our last evening we’d get cleaned up and join the queue for the Saint Casimir’s Thanksgiving Day church supper in Round Lake.
Best of all on these trips were the evening campfires. Fall camping is great because there are no bugs, and fewer campers than summer. It’s cool enough to bundle up, and dark enough to make campfires kind of magical. I may have told you this story already, but one year as we sat in front of our campfire sipping our wine, we were entertained by an unseen singer who sat in front of his own campfire a few sites away. Hidden by darkness, he quietly strummed his guitar or played the mouth organ and sang all our favourites: Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Creedence Clearwater Revival. He did this each night for about an hour. A few times we clapped after a song, and we heard him say in an Elvis imitation, “Thank-you, thank-you very much.”
Anyway, on the morning we were leaving, as we packed up, I saw that the singer and his partner were about to pull away with their trailer. On impulse, I sprinted over to their site to thank him for the lovely entertainment. I stood beside his open truck window in my pyjamas and old sneakers, hair standing on end, no makeup, holding a tent pole, and breathlessly said my piece. And to my astonishment, the singer’s partner leaned over to her husband’s window and said, “Oh, hello Ms. Burpee. You teach our son.”
Jaysus. What? Crap. I attempted to smooth my hair with the hand not holding the tent pole, and tried to look sanguine. But to quote Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird when he greets old Mrs. Dubose, I’ll bet I “looked a picture.” Even more applicable is Scout’s reply, “Yeah, but a picture of what?”
I’d never in my life run into someone I know on a camping trip. And it would have to be a parent with a kid at my school. Me… who always took such care with my appearance at school, particularly on parents’ night… caught without makeup in my holey fleece pyjamas holding a tent pole. Ha.
Truth be told, that morning encounter was a kind of watershed moment for me. I mean, who did I think I was to expect to look good all the time? Actually I think most shocking for me was the fact that they recognized me. Guess my makeup and perfect hair weren’t much of a disguise afterall.
I know that I’ve always been too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my hair and clothing. I know that. But I’m getting better at setting realistic standards for myself, at accepting “good enough” as my mantra. Growing older helps a lot with that.
But for whatever reason, I’ve never applied those same unrealistic, perfectionistic standards to my home. In fact, I don’t like perfect homes. I like old things, and new things, and traditional things, and quirky things… it all depends on the thing. And I don’t feel the need to decorate to please anyone but Hubby and myself.
Which brings me finally to my point in writing this whole rambling post. Pumpkins. And with the advent of ripe pumpkins in the fields, pumpkin decorating season. Pumpkins abound on seemingly every porch or front step, along with gourds, corn sheaves, hay bales, and even the odd scarecrow.
Pumpkins on porches look lovely to me, but I harbour no envy for the pumpkin decorators. I do not desire to pile pumpkins on our deck. Or to lean corn sheaves in our doorway. With the exception of Christmas, seasonal decorating kind of leaves me cold. I avoid all the “How to Create the Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape” articles. And frequently marvel at how seasonal decorating, and even decorating itself, has become a competitive sport.
Recently I read an insightful article written by Haley Nahman in her newsletter Maybe Baby that goes to the main point of what I think I’m trying to say.
I’ve talked about Haley here on my blog before. She used to write for the fashion blog Man Repeller a few years ago, and left to go her own way before the blog imploded after charges of racism, classism, and toxic work environments. I enjoyed Haley’s writing when she wrote for the fashion blog, and I now subscribe to her weekly newsletter which is usually a personal essay on anything from relationships to knitting, from life in New York to social anxiety. I love the randomness of her topics, and even though she is much younger than me, I still empathize with her struggle to live her best life.
Anyway, this past week Haley wrote about decorating, about “perfect” homes, and what it means for one’s decor to be “deeply personal.” And since I have been clicking away from a ton of “perfect decor” articles lately. Particularly the pumpkin themed ones, her post resonated with me.
In her essay Haley discusses the new home of wildly popular social media influencer and YouTuber, twenty-one year old Emma Chamberlain. Apparently Architectural Digest conducted an online tour of Emma’s new home, dubbing it “deeply personal” in style. An appellation which Haley questions. How can a house decorated by a team of professionals for a mostly absent twenty-one year old owner (apparently Chamberlain was travelling while most of the work was being done) be described as “deeply personal” in style?
Haley says that to her a house in which everything is purchased at once lacks a key ingredient of personal style: the element of time. And pieces collected over time as one lives one’s life. She says despite the fact that Chamberlain has a few items she purchased herself from Etsy and her father’s paintings hanging in her living room the house seems to be “decorated specifically to solicit the envious gaze of trend-aware onlookers.”
And why are we not surprised by any of that?
I can’t help contrasting the story of Emma Chamberlain’s house with the home of the young couple I mentioned in my last post. The son of Hubby’s cousin and his girlfriend who have lovingly renovated Hubby’s cousin’s old home, and filled it with things that are quirky, and tasteful, and totally reflective of who they are. That my friends is “deeply personal” decorating.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to pumpkins on porches. Or to seasonal decorating. If that’s what makes you happy. But it should be undertaken because it reflects your taste, who you are, and because it makes you happy. And not because it reflects some article in a lifestyle magazine or blog designed to guilt you into conforming to trends, and ultimately buying what needs to be bought to further said conformity.
Anyway. Enough about soulless houses and seasonal decor trends. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And even though Hubby and I are not camping this year, we’re heading out tomorrow to drive some country roads. We’ll pack a lunch and a thermos of tea. I’ve bought us some treats to pack in our picnic basket. We’ll walk some bush roads and marvel at the fall colours. Then we’ll head home to our Thanksgiving Day feast.
Hopefully spying a few well-pumpkin-ed porches on the way. I don’t want to gussy up my own porch, but I do love the sight of all that orange.
Happy Thanksgiving if you live in Canada. And for those who don’t celebrate an October Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving at all, happy rest of the weekend. I wish crisp sunny days, and cool snuggling down with a good book evenings. Unless you live in the southern hemisphere, then happy spring weekend.