While admittedly not the holiest soul, I pride myself on being somewhat of a good person. I tip well, I let cars merge in front of me, I write thank you notes and have little trouble following the laws of the Lord.
But when I review the Ten Commandments, I begin to wonder.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Fine with me.
Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.
Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.
I try not to exercise or otherwise over-exert on Sundays.
Honor thy father and mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Unless the recently trapped-on-sticky-paper mouse in my kitchen counts, I’m good.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
No danger of that.
Thou shalt not steal.
I always, always ask the bartender’s permission before pocketing glassware.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
I ain’t no liar.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
Two wives is two too many.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
Therein lies my biggest sin.
Covet is an actual word in my vocabulary.
“I covet your orange wallet,” I said when a wealthy horse-owner whipped out a hundred dollar bill for a two-dollar-and-fifty-cent bagel while I was working on the food truck this summer. And I did mean the wallet, not what was in it. She responded with a, “This old thing?” and a fifty-cent tip.
I coveted my friend Ann’s living room chair so much that she redecorated her house so she could give it to me as a replacement for my sad and saggy throne.
I covet party invitations, new cars and clean houses. I covet Carrie’s wraparound porch and her father’s artwork. I covet central air conditioning, manicured lawns and long, straight hair. Preferably blond. I covet Margaret’s pool and her master bedroom wing. I covet refrigerators that don’t buzz, dogs that don’t bark and computers that don’t freeze. I covet Jean’s 90-inch television and Tom’s well-stocked bar. I covet large, empty closets, en-suite bathrooms and macadam-covered driveways.
I really, really covet my sister Nancy’s purple oven.
And, I don’t even particularly like purple.
I spent last weekend in Charleston visiting said sister and my niece Olivia. I could have stayed there forever. Despite their two dogs. Who shed. In three different colors.
Nancy’s house is beautiful. She has a decorator’s eye, a designer’s sense and the creative confidence to pull it all together. There’s a purple wicker chair on her front porch that foreshadows the oven within. There’s also a tad of purple in the upholstered dining room seat cushions, a purple rabbit perched on the bannister and a purple powder room. An over-the-top color so artfully used that you’d never even consider calling it a purple house. It’s just a perfect house.
I am, indeed, a sinner.
So much so that when I returned to my red-countered kitchen, I sat down at my pock-marked table, listened to the ever-annoying hum of the new refrigerator and waited out the spinning circle on my laptop. I then googled purple ovens.
And, I don’t even particularly like purple.
Seeing the absurdity in my googling, I close up my laptop and look around. What I see is a creaky, old house with crackled walls and uneven floors. But, I also see Max’s framed photographs hanging slightly askew on the kitchen wall next to the straw monkey from Leo’s Amazon trip. Across the room is a dancing wooden drummer hand-carved “just for me,” that Patty and I haggled over in Nassau’s Straw Market.
I marvel at the many shapes and colors of Jeff Tritt paintings that fill my living room, the still-life Leo painted in fourth grade, Patty’s depiction of the Schuylkill Expressway and the rustic red barn my mother-in-law painted in a late-in-life art class. I see the hand-blown glass bowl that Jill gave me for a wedding present, the origami paper boxes Betsy and her daughters made me one Christmas, the stained-glass table top from Ann and the photo of me with my sisters and parents at Skytop. My eyes land on the peace pillow from Claire, the Roman shades and polka dot valances sewn by Nancy, the little red-head knitted by Gail and the brass bicycle given to me by my spouse.
I read the many inspirations dotting my desk which include the Charlotte’s Web sentiment handwritten from Madge:
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.
Charlotte was both.
I look at the New Orleans Let the Good Times Roll bride and groom skeletons from Molly, last year’s smudge bowl from Holly and hear the wind chimes from Jean singing outside the back door. I laugh that I have Jamal’s baby picture as well as his college graduation photo and that I’ve kept Julie’s thank you note and Sophie’s Aunt Bee etching.
I see the 45 year-old softball from my father with the barely readable, “It proves what hard work can do,” the red glass pitcher from Uncle Tony, the artsy blue plate from Virginia, the Cockadoodle deviled egg platter from Emily and the etegami Color of Sunshine from Susan propped up on a random shelf on the wall.
On the bookshelves beneath Aunt Mary’s fish plates sits a Sarah Palin face mask, courtesy of Nancy Schaeffer, and on the kitchen wall, a tree of life made of black wire purchased with my spouse at a street fair in Asheville. And, epitomizing the whole shebang, hanging beneath a crazy chicken clock is my mother’s hand-stitched sampler that reads, “A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.”
As I look around my drafty, old abode, it suddenly occurs to me that perhaps the sin is not in the coveting, after all. But, rather in the failing to remember all that there is to covet within our own hearts and homes.