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Lady Lydia Speaks

Pictures at An Exhibition
By Mrs. Stanley Sherman
Jul 20, 2006 - 12:00:00 AM

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Fishing Family print by Relyea (available only in some antique stores).

In 1874, Russion composer Modest Mussorgsky wrote the music for his piece, "Pictures at at Exhibition," based upon the paintings of a close friend. As a person listens to this music, he can imagine the walk through the exhibition of pictures of various colors and themes.

The home is a gallery full of pictures of the exhibition of that family's life. If someone were to walk through your house, what would he see, and what kind of conclusions would he reach about your family's life? Would there be discordant notes or a beautiful, flowing musical composition? One family imagined videotaping their home and set it to "Pictures at an Exhibition." As they walked their audience through their house, the impression created was of a family with a purpose.

Flower Garden Dog by Relyea--early 1900's print available from places like E-Bay and antique stores.

Outside the front door were lovely flowers in pots that flanked the porch. The door opened to the scene of the living area with the fireplace and seating areas with comfortable cushions. Family mementos decorated the mantel. Precious belongings graced the side tables and the middle table. These things--favorite books, an ornamental clock, some large sea shells, and some dried flowers--were sentimental in nature and had special meaning to that family.

Walking through the hall, you observed the pictures flanking the walls--pictures that reflected the values of that family. Old prints of famlies and homes with beautiful gardens hung nostalgically on the walls. At the end of the hall, a ceiling-height bookshelf burst with the colorful bindings of best-loved books, each one carefully kept for for both usefulness and entertainment.

Enter the bedrooms, with worn toys--blocks, cars and trucks, a doll and carriage and child's tea set. On the floor of one room rested a large doll house with pretty doll furniture.

In a corner by a window was placed a little table with a chair, where it appeared that someone had been writing in a journal, pensively recording ideas and thoughts in a permanent record. It was a wonderful, quiet spot, designed for settling the mind.

The sewing room was bright and sunny, with a sewing project still sitting in the sewing machine. A bulletin board displayed pictures of finished work.

In the kitchen were the makings of a large family breakfast. Pots and pans stood in the sink, and flour sprinkled the surface of the cabinet top--but this is what kitchens are for. The table was set for the family with a large bowl of apples in the center. Baby's high chair was ready with s little bowl and spoon sitting upon its tray.

The exhibition continued through the work areas of the house, including the laundry room, where an ironing board stood with a fresh, colorful cover. A red light flickered on the iron, showing it was heating up to do its important job of ironing a white shirt, which lay draped across the board. Next came the pantry with its requisite food supplies and, further on, the home office.

As the camera moved through the next part of the house, you could see the sunbeams coming through a window, making a path across the floor. Finally, the tour led the viewer outside to the back patio, where a visitor could sit on chairs and observe the garden and the beautiful green hedges surrounding the family home. A little wheelbarrow filled with clippings sat looking as though a gardener had just stepped away for a moment. Under a little tree lay a small quilt. You could easily imagine someone sitting there reading a book or drawing a picture. ("Does anyone do that any more?" I wondered.)

Garden Path, photographic art from

The impression of this exhibition was of a family whose life was full of meaning and purpose, coupled with contentment. It showed evidence of an interdependent family with common goals; a family that loved learning, enjoyed the simple things of life, and was respectful of beauty.

This home did not get that way automatically. It got that way with planning and purpose, taking note of what things worked and what did not for the function of the family. Over the years I've heard many people mock and ridicule the descriptions of the beautiful, well-kept homes and strong families of the past, saying that "it didn't really happen," or "it wasn't reality," and "it was just a fantasy." If this were true, why are there so many older homes on display for tours, where one can actually see how a family lived? Why are there diaries in the hands of children and grandchildren, describing these families and their homes? If this were true, then many of us who are growing older have false memories of a bygone era. Home living doesn't have to be a fantasy or a memory. What do you think the secret to a strong family and a good home is?

In the famous story, The Swiss Family Robinson, father was aware that they were all alone on an island. He knew they would begin to quarrel and turn against one another unless they had a common cause and some hard work to do that would build them together as a strong unit. He set about to find work for his children, so that they were occupied in something worthwhile:

In reality, the more there was to do, the better, and I never ceased contriving fresh improvements, being fully aware of the importance of constant employment, as a means of strengthening and maintaining the health of mind and body. This, indeed, with a consciousness of continual progress towards a desireable end, found to constitute the main elements of happiness.

Evening, by Robert Duncan, from

Though a family might feel they are very dull indeed, they can create a strong and purposeful way of life in their own home, simply by having some good goals that everyone can always work toward. Things like order and beauty and knowing the meaning of everything that they do are worthwhile endeavors that will keep the family in a common work. Knowing that everything they own and everything they do has a purpose helps everyone at home to act cohesively. Respect for the family goes hand in hand with respect for cherished posessions. Most of all, it takes a woman who is devoted to guiding the activities of the home--a woman who believes that God has a special purpose for her, and that He will give her the power to make the home be what it ought to be. Husbands and children will be a huge part of making that home successful, but the woman carries more power than she probably knows. It will be her love for the home and her belief in its purpose that will maintain its God-appointed course.

Old Books, by Judy Gibson, from

"Pictures at an Exhibition:" Just take a walk through your own place and analyze the mood and message that it has for you and those who come into its rooms. You are in control of this sphere, and you have the capability of creating it just as you like. This is not a public institution, but a private endeavor that has a great impact on the public. You can make your home worthy of "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Note: All interior room photos are from the home and garden slideshows at Better Homes and Gardens.

To listen to the music for "Pictures at an Exhibition," click HERE.

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