If we’re lucky our homes will never look precisely decorated, because along the way we’ll accumulate campy pieces of kitsch, treasured objects that speak to our hearts, and we’ll have to display them.
For me, it was an ashtray given as a joke by some family member, probably my mom or brother. It had a black plastic base with a hand-painted metal flamenco dancer screwed into the middle. Joke was on them. I loved it.
I don’t smoke, and guests in my home aren’t allowed to either, so instead I loaded it with red cinnamon candy and proudly set it on my coffee table.
No one, but no one, saw the beauty in Francisco the Fleet-Footed Flamenco Dancer that I did. It was frequently suggested I replace him with something a bit, shall we say, classier. I really didn’t see how Francisco fell short. (Okay, I did, but love is kind.)
Then I got a roommate. She was appalled, and went as far as trying to enlist my mother’s help to “get rid of that thing.” Mom warned her it was useless. Thus began a minor battle between my roommate and me.
“People will think it’s okay to smoke,” she’d say.
“That’s why there’s candy in there.” I’d reply.
“The colors aren’t right in this room,” she’d try later, standing in the living room as I walked down the hall.
“It’s so small, it’s an accent piece, it doesn’t matter,” I called back.
I never feared for Francisco’s safety, however, until I came home one day while she was on a business trip. He lay on his side on the coffee table, completely twisted off the base.
“Ooooh NOOOOO!” I cried. She forever denied it, but all the evidence said that woman had hired a damn assassin to do her dirty work while she was away.
I immediately called my friend Bud and asked if he could solder the pieces together. Within hours, Francisco sat upright in his proper place again. But I was resigned to the fact he needed a new home, at best somewhere safer in the apartment.
My kitschy little ashtray went into a box and stayed there for I don’t know how many years. He resurfaced every time I moved, but never made it onto the coffee table again. Eventually he disappeared.
I miss Francisco. Everything in my living room now is so…classy. It could use a little lesser art.
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