When my sister and I were younger, we would visit our great aunt in her condo down by the lake. She was German, born and raised, and though she lived in America she often returned to Germany to visit her friends and family members there, as well as to travel to other parts of Europe. Though I was young, I can still recall, almost exactly from memory, the design of her condo. She lived alone, but she lived lavishly, as she was an elegant old woman. In the sitting room, large bookshelves towered over the two couches. Books poured from the shelves, spilling over the sides and piling onto the floors, books I had never heard of, had never even seen, and probably could not even read or understand at that time in my life.
The couches were ornate and some might even venture to say that they were gaudy, being that they were adorned with colorful prints and swirling patterns. I can recall very clearly that though they were beautiful, they were not comfortable to sit upon, especially while I waited for the adults to finish talking. I remember staring down at the rugs that covered the wooden floor. They were beautiful rugs, perhaps handmade, though I never knew, and the detail on them was stunning. No two of them matched, and they covered the entire floor of the sitting room and even continued into the kitchen, overlapping each other as they ran the length of the condo. If I followed them into the kitchen, I would find glass tables and counters and carved cabinets with their glass doors. “Don’t touch,” we were told in our young age. So we stared, and admired, for inside the cabinets we found tiny glass sculptures, and metal statues, and dolls, and souvenirs from places we had never even heard of before.
When we ate in that small kitchen, we would dine on foreign foods, and things that I had never tried but was polite enough to sample. Even the silverware and plates were exquisitely detailed, and their beautiful designs persuaded me to clear my plate so that I could see the pictures beneath. After dinner, I can recall that our great aunt sat beside us on the old couches, and gave us gifts that she had made. She was excellent at crochet, and out of yarn she had made us cupcakes and foods for us to play with in our pretend kitchens. I remember gazing at them, at the rose-pink icing and the mint-green flowers that decorated the tops of the cupcakes, and I thought they looked good enough to eat. We thanked her, and she brought us real chocolate from Germany, a treat that I still love to this day. Though now she lives back in Germany, our great aunt’s small and overcrowded home has left a tremendous impact on me. The design of the place was stunning, and I can still walk the hallways in my mind.
I can smell the old books, see the fabulous rugs, watch the dust streaming in the window. It is stunningly clear to me, even all of these years later, and I remember it with wonder and awe. I look back on that small sitting room and kitchen as a combination of culture and elegance. Every piece of furniture, every rug, and every sculpture in the cabinets told their own stories. And combined, the entire room spoke of an old woman who had traveled for much of her life, and who would still continue to travel for years to come. I have not seen her for years, but I will never forget her beautiful home, the home that still reminds me of the significance of culture, and of art, and of elegance through decor.