There used to be a television commercial with a little cartoon fish named Charlie. Charlie the Tuna. He was always getting all blingy and fancy schmancy (yes that’s a word) as he strived to be “caught” by the Star-Kist company. He wore his little red beret and his big movie star of the sixties glasses but no matter what he did it was always met with rejection in the form of a note that read, “Sorry Charlie.” The voice over followed up with: “StarKist isn’t looking for tuna with good taste but rather for tuna that tastes good!”
I’ve been reminded of this ad many times over the years. For a while my daughters and I tried to create “The Ugly Food Cookbook.” I won’t mention names but when Stefanie was little, she said to me once “You know your food looks gross, but it tastes really good.” In my defense the dinner that inspired the gross food comment was chicken and homemade noodles. It is a bit of a challenge to make the gooey goodness look pleasing to the eye of an eight-year-old, but it is oh so very yummy. It was also the key recipe that made a valid point for the cookbook: Looks gross, tastes good. We have since abandoned the Ugly Food Cookbook, but the Charlie tuna/Star-Kist theory remains intact.
Charlie and the Star-Kist mantra hit me again when I was encouraged to not be afraid of color and I did some textured rag rolling paint in the bathroom. I was so proud of it especially since it took five colors of paint before I hit on something I liked. My niece was visiting when it was still shiny and new, and she lovingly remarked, “I love the bathroom, it looks just like the bathroom in the new Mexican restaurant we went to last week.” I love Mexican restaurants and Mexican food and Mexico, but that particular décor choice wasn’t the look I was going for, but I didn’t change it. Why? Because while I welcome the opinions of those I love, I liked what I had done more. (I sheepishly admit it STILL hasn’t changed but now it’s for lack of time.) Good taste/tastes good, the whole painting experience made my heart sing and unleashed a creative storm which in my case probably wasn’t the good news if you are on the outside looking in.
I have been on a quest my entire life to make everything cozy. I am a fiend about COZY. I was constantly striving to create a cozy “sanctuary” for my family. Can I just say that five kids do not a sanctuary make. And being the only one striving for a cozy aesthetic in my chaotic circus was anything but successful. I still haven’t figured out who was cramming the banana peels under the couch. My family simply ‘didn’t get me’ or my need for this imaginary haven.
If I had good taste I would march right down to the paint store and buy five gallons of a nice warm white and slap it on the whole house. I love it in other people’s homes. But I probably won’t. It’s been a bit of a long week. One of those weeks that makes you stop overthinking the small stuff and instead contemplate the fragile temporary preciousness of life. A time that makes us grateful for family and health and friends. All those things we take so for granted in the busy-ness of life.
I have said some version of it before but I say it again today, and with so much heart: buy the shoes, eat the cake, and create the sanctuary, whatever that looks like for you and yours. As for me, I’ve got one of those coloring books for grown-ups and about a gadillion markers. I thought this would be a good time to curl up in my new blue chair and snug in with my color steeped cotton throw, do a little coloring outside the lines and eat a tuna sandwich. I know it will taste good.