The other day I went out to the mail box and there was a little yellow bird perched there. A plastic bird. Glued there.
Yesterday I drove home and there were new bluebonnets in the planters out by our curb. Silk bluebonnets. Stuck in the dirt.
Joyce. Had to be Joyce.
I don’t talk about my mother in law much because I want to respect her privacy. She has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, I’ll say that much. That’s why we live with Heidi’s parents. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s five children, four dogs, and two older people, one with mild dementia. We are our own reality TV series.) But I don’t want to give you anything close to a daily blow by blow of what that’s like. That story, if it is to be written, is my wife’s to write. Joyce is a woman of great strength and dignity and she should be portrayed that way first before the details of her slow decline are recorded, if they ever are.
But I will give you this aspect of our relationship. Kitsch Creep.
When we all moved in together, we drew pretty clear lines about who decorates what room. We share all the common rooms, but we have divided up who gets to decide what each room will look like. Every once in a while a little piece of kitsch will appear in our “territory” — like a ceramic goose-shaped measuring spoon holder on the stove, or a duck figurine on the kitchen windowsill, a bright orange wooden napkin holder in the shape of a horse on the kitchen table. It’s like Joyce is setting up little little kitsch recon posts, testing the resistance. Usually I’ll just put the things somewhere else, back behind treaty lines, when she’s not around and that’s that. Some I have left there, like the orange horsey napkin holder, out of concession and a weak resolve. But Kitsch Creep is a very real issue, an aesthetic battlefield upon which Joyce and I are like canny generals, with her on offense, myself on defense.
So when I drove home past the plastic birdie on my mailbox, the general in me wanted to take over. Block. That. Kitsch!
But somehow, I don’t mind as much as I thought I would. Indoor kitsch is clutter. Outdoor kitsch is, well, outdoors. I don’t have to look at it all the time. Not like the damn orange horsey napkin holder. And if it makes her happy to decorate her world, what the hell.
Besides, how can I admire the work of the likes of Jeff McKissack, Cleveland Turner, John Milkovisch, and Victoria Herberta and quash my own mother-in-law’s budding folk art tendencies? Could I live with myself if I were responsible for squelching the next Howard Finster or Simon Rodia? I think not!
Heidi was bemused to see my reaction to the bird and the flowers, thinking I would object more. She thought I’d be worried about the Kitsch Creep War moving to an entirely different theatre. But I really think it’s Heidi herself who should be worried. The way I see it, Joyce is just laying the ground work, paving the way, for when *I* want to be an eccentric yard artist in the future. I see in the plastic birdie and the fake flowers a foot in the door of sorts. For me. Later. BWAH HAH Hah hah hah!
Yes, indoors, the kitsch creep battle rages. But outdoors — be afraid, baby, be very afraid!