No one likes audits, but like trips to the dentist, they’re necessary evils. With this in mind I challenge you, dear reader, to count up the individuals featured in all those pictures and photos you display in your home so you can answer the all-important question: Who’s winning?
That which we choose to exhibit on our walls and refrigerator doors says a lot about us. It’s a silent conversation in which many names are mentioned and some conspicuously avoided. The walls rarely whisper my name at my mom’s house, for instance, where certain brothers and sisters appear twice as often inside her shiny silver frames. I know I shouldn’t be counting, but I can’t help it. I dare you to count up the number of times your picture appears at your childhood home and then claim it doesn’t matter. If you’re not at least in fifth or sixth place, it matters.
When I performed my own audit of every picture or painting we display in our house, I was shocked at what little thought we gave to what we display. We aren’t the kind of family that packs every available space with pictures. The last time we gave any conscious thought to what we put up was when we first moved in to the house years ago. Since then it takes an Act of God to replace what’s already on our walls because we just don’t give it much thought.
I noticed our parents are represented in a significant portion of the pictures we display. One of my nieces appears often, but that’s because my sister is so good at sending prints. My sister-in-law sends tons of pictures by email, where our laziness overpowers our industry and they are rarely developed. Each of her girls appear six times in framed photos, but they’re twins-to the outsider, it’s the same girl twelve 12. People must wonder if we’re hiding a daughter in a closet somewhere.
Other than that it’s a smattering of relatives, usually in group shots. One cousin has surprisingly managed to appear in four different picture frames, outnumbering the likes of Jesus, St. Theresa, and Vince Lombardi. There are two girls displayed in our home that are complete strangers to me. Somehow, our friends rarely make it to our walls. This was never a conscious decision, yet somehow we’ve become curators of a Family Museum where only blood relatives make the cut. Various Christmas cards and birth announcements merit refrigerator space for a few weeks before they’re rotated out, usually replaced by muffin recipes.
The artwork on our walls tells yet another story. We are fans of the noted Fairfield artist David Gorski and have two of his prints in our living room. I counted nine different framed paintings of flowers on the walls despite having 10 living plants in our family room alone (not including two cacti or the plant I took home from school but still managed to kill). It gives one the impression that we just got tired of watering things, so we put them on our walls instead.
It was embarrassing to find that my wife and I appear the most in our framed pictures — by far — followed closely by our dogs. Evidently, we still need to display photos of those we see with a slight turn of the neck every day of our lives. I justify this by noting that most of these are vacation pictures, but the sheer numbers send our guests the signal that we just like to look at ourselves more than anyone else. This is particularly surprising in light of the fact that I can barely look at myself in the mirror each morning, much less in a series of shots at Disney World.
The results of our audit were so fascinating that my wife and I are planning a much-needed overhaul of our wall decorations, evening out the number of appearances in case our guests are counting — like me. If you wish to make the cut, please consider sending us large prints (frames would also be appreciated) with the names of each person written lightly on the back. Remember that whether or not you invited us to your last party or continue to send birthday cards even though we always forget will be weighed heavily.
I invite all of you to take on this important audit immediately, if only so I can see more of myself on your walls. After all, who needs to display photos of the people who already live in your house? Right?
As for us, we really need to get on to our bookshelf audit. That’s going to be really, really embarrassing.
You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.