The curtains Priscilla had custom-made for all the windows in our house were one of the hardest things for me to anticipate leaving behind in East Lansing. She’d chosen beautiful fabrics that matched the décor in each room, and she’d lined all of the curtains so they’d keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Every time I opened or closed them, I felt as if she was still taking care of me.
I talked to my realtor about bringing them with me, but she discouraged this. It was expected that appliances and window treatments would be left in a house for the buyer; any exceptions were matters of negotiation that could complicate a sale. Particularly since I didn’t know exactly what I’d need on the windows in the next place, though I was sure that in any event I wouldn’t need a whole houseful of curtains for an apartment, I reluctantly agreed to leave them in place.
And then it turned out that the buyer of my house had other plans for all of the windows. It was actually written into the sales agreement, since this was exceptional, that “seller will remove all window treatments and hardware.” I could take all of the curtains with me.
This was wonderful news, but it was also far more curtains than I would need. However, I spoke with Priscilla’s sister, who now lived in the family home and was renovating a whole floor of it, and she assured me that they’d be able to use several of the curtains there. They’d offer any surplus ones to the extended family.
This was the house in which Priscilla was living when we got married. One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day is of her standing in her bridal gown, just before leaving for the church, next to one of the windows that will soon be decorated with her handmade curtains from our home.
But I did have two windows in my new apartment. Which curtains should I keep myself and use there? I got the answer to that question in an interesting way.
My parents came to see us for a few days late in October 2011. They visited a Graduate InterVarsity meeting, attended our church, and in general shared our lives for that time. Priscilla was then experiencing the first mild symptoms of her disease, but they hadn’t yet caused any serious concern.
She didn’t want my parents to have to go up and down the basement steps to our guest room, so she asked me to help her carry the queen-size mattress and box spring upstairs to her studio. (Clearly her symptoms had not progressed too far by that point.) We also brought up the bedding. Priscilla realized that the white and purple duvet cover didn’t match the red and gold curtains. She didn’t want my parents to have to spend even a few nights in such a visually unharmonious room, so she went to a discount store and found some gold pillow shams and a light brown bed skirt with a gold pattern. The shams came with a runner. She took it apart, added it to some other matching fabric she already had, and sewed a new duvet cover out of the material.
I’d forgotten all about this until I came upon the ensemble again as I was packing up the house. Now I’d never had a problem sharing a bedroom with my wife that was decorated with pink and red rose fabric and had a white lace bed skirt. You know, “Let my beloved come into his garden.” Very biblical. But now that my situation had changed, let’s just say I was open to a new look. And this bronzed bed set with embossed paisley designs was just the thing.
Since it was now going to be on my bed, it only made sense to keep as my apartment bedroom curtains the red and gold ones that the ensemble had originally been created to match. And this also told me which curtains to use for the other window (actually a sliding door): the ones that went on a matching decorative curtain rod of solid brass. Interestingly, though these curtains had been in my office, their blue and red design complemented the red and blue carpet I could use in that part of the room.
Now I just had to put the curtains up. I’d done a multi-year apprenticeship to a capable and fearless do-it-yourselfer. This was the time for that to start paying off. The information I’d gotten about the apartment was that the walls were concrete. I knew Priscilla had a concrete bit in her drill case, but I wasn’t sure how I’d ever identify it. No worries—she’d put it back in the little package it came in!
I went to the local hardware store to get some concrete anchors the size of the hole that the bit would make. But when I drilled a hole and screwed in an anchor, it seemed awfully loose, as if it would just pull out if it were made to bear any weight. Then it dawned on me. The walls actually weren’t concrete. They were plaster.
At that very moment I noticed two plaster/sheet rock plugs in the drill case. I’m not sure why they were there, because Priscilla had always put any extra plugs in a plastic jar that had another plug duck-taped to the lid for identification. (She also had separate plastic jars for other supplies such as screws with various type heads. She had put a thin slice of duck tape on the lid of the jar of standard screws, an X in tape on the jar of Phillips head screws, and a box in tape on the jar of screws with Robertson or square-hole heads.) I’d donated all of this to Habitat for Humanity. But these two plugs had escaped because they’d been in the drill case.
I tried one of them in the hole and it was a perfect fit. I screwed the original metal screw for the curtain rod into it and it held tightly. I was in business. I went back to the hardware store and exchanged the concrete anchors for plaster plugs. In that way I got both curtain rods attached tightly to the walls using their own screws. When I put the curtains up on them, I thought they looked great.
I already had carpets, artwork, etc. from our home, but it was the curtains that established the “color ways” (as they say in the trade) for each room and made sure everything got into the right place. So when Priscilla created a new bedroom ensemble for my parents even though they were only going to be visiting us for a few days, she set in motion a chain of events that effectively decorated my whole apartment for me five years later, more than a year after she’d gone to her own new home in heaven.