By Katie Colt
As an adult, I’ve moved a lot. I don’t mean a couple of times—we’re talking ten moves in ten years. Ten moves from permanent dwelling to permanent dwelling, with “permanent” to me clearly meaning “temporary.” These moves do not include transitional stays at family members’ houses, in hotels, or a month’s summer study abroad program. My twenties were nomadic.
Though there have been good, compelling reasons for each move (Cohabitation! Bigger place! BATS!), the amount of mental, physical, and emotional schlepping required to complete each transition really takes its toll on my well-being. This is most likely why, no matter where I end up, the following art takes up residence on the wall of the most central room in my dwelling:
There he is: Don Quixote, naked, on a ghostly horse, in all his semi-cubist glory.
He’s quite the conversation starter. Why he is naked—and why my grandmother chose to paint him naked—is a mystery for the ages. But his presence in my home(s) has come to represent an appreciation for goofiness, familiarity, and a connection to family that allows every place I’ve lived to feel like I belong there.
My grandmother Miriam was many things: a college-educated woman at a time when many were not; a marriage and family therapist; a beloved mother and aunt; a talented cook, baker, and hostess; and a skilled artist, taking classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the mid-20th century. Having loved Picasso and cubism, she started painting and emulated him, later creating gorgeous and bright abstract collages, which hung proudly in her homes and in the homes of those she loved.
As a child, Grandma Miriam toted me along to the Art Institute innumerable times, showing me Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cassatt, and Picasso. She took me to the theatre, painstakingly tried to teach me how to knit (it never quite stuck), and allowed me to practice all my ice skating jumps and spins on her parquet floors (as long as I didn’t crash-land into her glass coffee table or indigenous clay sculptures). Spending time with her proved to be the earliest, most immersive cultural and creative education I never intended to receive.
I’ve made choices that have taken me in multiple different directions, both in physical location and career path. Along the way, I’ve struggled to feel confident in my creative abilities, which were always at the center of my person. However my self-esteem has suffered, at least my sense of humor has not.
Every time I walk into my living room, whichever living room it may be at the time, I can’t help but smile at the painting’s colors, its boldness, and its brazen embrace of the absurd. And I think of Miriam, and her artistic vision, her priorities, her love, and the importance of pursuing creative expression. No matter how nomadic my future, it is comforting that Don Quixote will follow, nakedness and all.
Katie Colt is a daydreamer, a diaper-changer, a writer, a baby-wrangler, a composer, and a carry-out queen. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @katiebabyhorse for a mix of the magical and the mundane.
We’re asking some friends to share their answers to one question: What makes a house feel like a home? If you’d like to contribute to this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.