Three years of my childhood memories were ripped away from me.
Dramatic opening right? But it’s true. I lived as an army brat until early adolescence and moving around brought about some serious repercussions. Even though I lost a lot, the whole ordeal left me with a passion to be intentional with incorporating memories in my home decor. It’s also the reason why Make it Meaningful is one of my Rules.
Warning…this is a cup-of-coffee post, not a quick read.
Memories of Germany
The military tells you where to go and how long to stay, but it came with some serious benefits. I called Ansbach, Germany home from 1988-1991. Those three years represent the best of my childhood. Even as an 8-year-old kid, I knew living abroad was a privilege. I could look out my kitchen window, down a hill directly at a medieval castle covered in snow. Talk about a fairytale.
Living in Germany allowed me to experience amazing moments. I played human checkers in Salzburg, Austria, bought squares of toilet paper in public restrooms in Czechoslovakia, and toured Luxemburg. I walked through a concentration camp, viewed the alps and rode Hitler’s brass elevator at Eagle’s Nest. My mother and father visited Italy and my aunts shopped the streets of Paris. At every turn, we collected memorabilia, souvenirs and unique pieces of history.
With the US dollar so strong at the time, my mom decked our apartment out with red leather furniture and solid marble tables. She traded the brass étagère we’d owned in Kentucky for a large ornately carved but stylish-at-the-time shrunk. ‘Shrunks’ were all the rage for army wives and it was her pride and joy. It symbolized good living and status and it looked amazing with her white shag rug. She filled it with fine China, Redbird crystal, and the finest hand-blown glass, heirlooms and souvenirs we could scout on our travels. It housed moments of our family. That 80s wood mammoth was more than a showpiece. It was us.
In 1989, the Berlin wall came down. My sixth-grade class visited the site in 1990 and I left with a small graffiti-covered chunk of the wall. The ride home on the luxury coach (no yellow school buses for us) seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t wait to get home and add it to the shrunk. I understood what freedom from communism meant and I cherished that fragment of concrete.
A Bittersweet Homecoming
My grandfather had a severe stroke in September 1991, and we flew back to Florida to see him right before he passed away. We left in a hurry, so we allowed the military movers to pack and ship our entire house to our next station. I was elated to be back in the US, but I mourned the loss of my grandfather and our old life in Germany.
Shortly after the funeral, we moved to Columbus, Georgia while awaiting housing on the Army post at Ft. Benning. We rented a decent house for the six of us and couldn’t wait to get settled. We were assigned on-post housing in August 1992 AND notified that our furniture had arrived. FINALLY.
But the news was bittersweet. They could only locate half of our household belongings.
When the semi pulled up to our new place my stomach flip-flopped while I thought about what the truck held and what it didn’t. The movers brought in box after box; then pieces of furniture wrapped in plastic, and eventually a few sections of our beloved shrunk. We kept waiting for them to unload the rest of the shrunk and stood in wide-eyed horror when they slammed the door on the empty cabin.
As we unpacked, we searched frantically for what should have been in those boxes. Things we’d waited an entire year to set our eyes on. The things that mattered most to us were all the beloved treasures and family memories from our travels.
An entire box of baby photos of my twin sister and brother. Gone. No mugs from Berchtesgaden. No pins from Dachau Concentration camp. And no graffiti-colored concrete block from the Berlin wall.
We literally had half a house. One red sofa, no shag rug. One marble table base. No top. Bed rails. No headboard. Our entire collection of David Winter’s Cottages; also missing. Those things could be somewhat replaced. Our memories, however, were irreplaceable.
I still feel the sting of losing, not just stuff, but our family history. The best years of my life were packed in those crates and boxes.
Making it up in my own home
Having lived through that ordeal makes me double my efforts to decorate with memories in mind. It’s why I can’t just put together a beautiful home without thought to creating a haven where my son will look back and choke up about his childhood. Yes, I want an ultra-stylish abode, but more importantly, I want a home full of precious memories.
[bctt tweet=”I want an ultra-stylish abode, but I want a home full of precious memories more” username=”mydesign_rules”]
When they play their made-up knockdown game, I try not to stress over the lamp that gets broken. They’ll never miss the lamp, but they’ll always have memories of the game. So I make a conscious effort to add memories in the midst of my decorating.
Incorporating Memories in Your Decor
Here are 12 ways to incorporate memories into your décor without sacrificing style.
Make art from family traditions
Before bedtime, my husband usually tells my son a “Burly the Squirrel” story. His mom told the stories to him as a child and they are stories that are unique to us. Each night he tells a tale full of adventure and a lesson wrapped up in funny voices and laughter.
Besides Burly, Lemuel Lion, Kenyatta Kangaroo, and Jaylin Jaguar play starring roles. I framed these vintage animal prints to represent each one of us, plus Burly. We’ll remember our bedtime routine well into his teen years because unlike his nursery, this decor is timeless. The prints aren’t just cute; they share the story of us.
Involve your family in your DIY projects.
My son helped me make an awesome sunburst wall hanging for my foyer. On a trip to Joann’s, we spotted a metal one similar to this and I thought we could duplicate it. A little hot glue, foam, bamboo skewers and spray paint later and voila! An hour worth of mommy and me time and turned into a gem. We had a blast, made a memory and now he brags to everyone that he made it. Total win for a sophisticated CHEAP décor item.
Incorporate everyone’s ideas in your design.
Remember when we talked about your signature style? If you can incorporate a little piece of everyone, your home will FEEL like everyone, not just you. Let your family help choose some of the décor. You want your family to enjoy their time at home, not feel like they live in a museum. It may be tough to get everyone to agree, but the results will be worth the fight.
Other simple ideas to incorporate memories in your home decor:
- Make memory boxes every year as a family time capsule. Choose boxes that fit your design.
- Display your children’s works of art in high-end frames.
- Display a scrapbook of cards and notes written to each other on your coffee table. Select an album that fits your design style.
- Frame small collections of ticket stubs and event memorabilia.
- Write notes, prayers, and scriptures on walls with pencil before painting a room.
- Store small souvenirs in beautiful storage boxes on coffee tables.
- Make a gallery wall of special family events.
- Dry flowers given at holidays and add to a shadow box. Feel free to spray paint or gold leaf!
- Complete a family abstract art project together.
The military compensated us financially for our loss. But you can’t really put a value on a chunk of the Berlin Wall. Eventually they located our belongings, however, it was AFTER we spent the claim money on new household items. Unfortunately, without the cash to pay back, our stuff was sold at auction.
Life is too short to miss out on the moments that count worrying about delicate furniture. Decorate in a way that includes memories because when it’s all said and done, your kids won’t remember your fine furniture. They’ll remember the life you created for them; so make it meaningful.
Memories matter. Make your home décor meaningful. That’s where the beauty really comes into play.
What are some ways you incorporate memories in your home decor?