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Fresh Flowers...or none at all
by Alita DeBerry

I happened to tune in to the Oprah show a while back and learned that if you are anybody who's anybody, you don't have artificial flowers in your home. Not even silk. Certainly not plastic. You must insist -- if you are in the loop -- that all flowers be fresh, cut flowers. Never, never, never plastic.

Yes, sir, the moneyed and famous have declared that any kind of artificial flower is passe. Well and good, I say, but there is a layer of society which encompasses the 'everyday' masses of us, who beg to take offense with such hoity toity ways of thinking.

Just consider:

In the long, long ago in castles and finer homes of Europe, greenhouses allowed fresh cut flowers year round. According to one historian, the middle class compensated by having artists handpaint flowers on their walls and, later, onto strips of paper which could then be hung on their walls.

One seventeenth century writer penned these words: "Of paper there are divers sorts, finer and coarser, as also brown and blue paper, with divers designs that are printed for the hanging of rooms; truly they are very pretty, and make houses of the more ordinary people look neat." - John Houghton, Collection for Improvement of Husbandry and Trade (1669)

We find that the tradition of wall decoration dates back to Egyptian and Roman wall painting. And even before that, the Chinese invented paper. Very talented people, all in all.

And don't forget needle-workers who made all the famous, colorful tapestries.; in cooler climates, people used fabric to cover their walls and windows to keep out drafts.

In the homes of the well-to-do, these fabrics were elaborate, resplendent tapestries, which also adorned the walls of European palaces and castles. They were not only practical, but decorative. Today such remnants are valuable antiques, collected by wealthy collectors.

Even though wallpaper began as a cheap substitute for fresh flowers, tapestry and decorative paper has never really been far from home decorators' minds and hearts.

Perhaps the true origin of wall decoration, such as wallpaper, has been lost to time. Since Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, isn't it possible curtains and wall coverings soon followed? We don't know.

Before Elvis on velvet, the French were among those whose lives were not always settled or permanent, but they nevertheless found a remedy, like having one's cake and eating it too, as it were.

They figured out that if the paper were not attached directly to the wall, but was pasted onto linen and the linen was then attached to the walls with tacks, the decoration was movable. As in: Have wallpaper, will travel.

Renters back then, or those with a grudge, on leaving hurriedly could pick up and carry even the wallpaper!


Alita DeBerry has been writing professionally for twenty years, starting as a correspondent and feature writer for the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. For most of this time, Alita was also writing a column for several weeklies in the South. Her column has been published in the Atlanta JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION and her travel articles have appeared in several magazines.

Alita has been married to Horace DeBerry (the same man) for almost a half century. She refers to him in her columns as "The Frenchman." They have two daughters--Lisa and Stephanie.

The Deberry family has lived in various states--Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, California--and then retired to the home place in Carroll County, Mississippi, where Alita grew up. They've now stayed put for two decades.

CLICK HERE to read another of Alita's stories at USADS: "Bird Songs."
And here's another: Paint My World In Pastels

Write Alita at Scribbler211.


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