I believe in always putting up curtains. My husband, my two children and I have lived in six houses in twelve years. We have followed professional opportunities to four cities and two continents. Sometimes these changes have been hard and often we’ve wondered if we will ever really settle down. As the years have gone by what I have learned is not to wonder how long I will be in a house before I make it feel like my home. The curtains always go up and the pictures are always hung whether we end up staying for six months or six years. It’s a lesson I have also learned to apply to life.
Sometimes I keep curtains and re-use them from house to house. But often the windows are different sizes and the styles change. So I make new ones and put the old ones back in my sewing box to answer a future call of duty. Eight years after picking out the living room curtains for our first home in San Diego, I found myself using the lace to sew a traditional dress for my daughter to wear to a festival in our new home in Valencia, Spain.
I picture the different fabrics and textures of all of my curtains over the years and remember what the rooms looked like that surrounded them. Flowers, plaids, lace, stripes. They blend together and form a strange and colourful backdrop for my memories. In my mind, I look through the windows these curtains framed and see the faces of neighbours, friends and acquaintances. Some have been relationships that only fit a certain place and time and were set aside when we moved on. Others have travelled with us and continue to form part of the quilt of our life even if in a different form.
Sometimes I’ve thought, “Why bother putting up curtains in this house? I may not be here long enough to enjoy them.” I’ve also sometimes thought the same thing about life. I don’t know how long my stay on earth will be and that worries me. Is the effort to make a home here worth it? I don’t know how many times I will sew new curtains, make new friends or learn a new language. But I do know that every time I climb the ladder to hang a curtain over a new window, I am saying yes to the life that awaits on the other side too, committing myself to the people and experiences of that particular place and time, making it my home and accepting the unique piece of cloth it will contribute. And maybe that’s enough.
I have gathered up so much fabric in these twelve years putting up curtains and taking them down. But each time I make that effort my quilt of life grows richer, more meaningful and far more beautiful.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.