My parents were not what you would call “art connoisseurs.” Their private collection consisted of school portraits, a few paint-by-number efforts and a handful of prints straight out of the Home Interiors catalogue featuring plastic frames and coordinating wall sconces. Needless to say, they didn’t know Pollack from Picasso and they couldn’t tell a Vermeer from a Van Gogh so you can imagine my surprise when they announced that they were looking for a new “piece” to add ambiance to their bedroom.
I was excited. I imagined Mom and Dad going to a local art auction where they would invest in a charming, but fairly cheap painting signed by a complete unknown that would later reveal a hidden masterpiece worth millions. (I really watched too much television as a kid.) However, I was not prepared for the item they ultimately carried in the front door with pride.
They brought home a tree branch, ladies and gentlemen.
I could not make this up if I tried. My otherwise normal parents drove to the park and brought back a giant tree branch that they found lying on the ground. They told me it had personality. I told them it was dead. They called it sculpture. I called it firewood. I’m telling you, these people did not have a handle on “art.”
In an effort to improve their find, Dad used clippers to trim a few strategic twigs from the masterpiece and centered a couple of hooks in the plaster above their headboard upon which to install the limb. Afterward, they stared at their handicraft like they were studying the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and I suspected that I had been Punk’d.
“You guys are kidding, right?” I asked, still convinced this was some kind of joke.
My father shook his head. “Not at all. I saw it on a TV show. It gives the room a rustic look, don’t you think?”
A rustic look? Seriously? We lived in a 1950’s post-war bungalow, not a log cabin! My parents were strictly the pre-Martha Stewart K-Mart kitsch types, not Nate Burkus. We had green and gold shag carpeting for crying out loud! We had macramé plant holders suspended from the ceiling, an orange-striped sofa and a wallpaper print in the kitchen that can only be described as “overwhelming.” This man was out of his mind to think that Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was going to somehow give the place “atmosphere.”
Evidently I was in the minority on this assessment. Most people who saw the branch applauded my parents’ ingenuity and thought it was a clever way to bring the outdoors inside. They liked the concept of using natural materials to create conversation pieces and if you take a look around today’s home furnishing showrooms, it would appear that my parents were visionaries ahead of their time.
Still, I doubt that even Nate would have approved the red string of twinkle lights they added to the branch later that year to create a romantic mood during the festive holiday season.
Sigh…sometimes my parents were so far out on a limb…even I couldn’t reach them.