the difficulty with drapes

there were a great many things i did not know as a girl.

i didn’t know, for example,
that working for a living is a damned hard gig
even when you love your job.
(i think that’s why they call it work.)

i didn’t know that almost every single word
my mother said during my teenage years
would turn out to be true…
cavities, posture, thinking before i speak.

and although this may seem like a small thing
i had no idea that choosing drapes
would be my undoing.

our apartment in japan came absolutely unfurnished.
no fridge, stove, washing machine
or light fixtures.
this was the most naked apartment
i have ever seen.
(i actually felt embarrassed for it
& wanted to lend it a sweater.

{this reminds me of something that happened
while i was teaching grade 7 english in barcelona.
i ripped the bottom out my trousers while jumping down
from a desk at the front of the class.
i just stood there like a deer in headlights
(a naked deer in headlights)
and an extraordinary student named bea said,
“ms. mcdiarmid, do you have a sweater here?”
i nodded and pointed towards my chair.
she got the sweater and brought it to me.
“wrap it around your waist and tie it.”
she whispered. “no one will ever know.”
i love bea.}

so the apartment was naked like that
and we needed to go shopping.
ikea shopping.
and among the items on our very long list
were drapes for the living room.
how hard could that be?

{attempt number 1}

they were creamy with large polka dots
and i loved them in the store
but in our house, not so much.
i couldn’t hide my disappointment
at having got this wrong.

“don’t worry” said dp.
“we can swap them with the red ones in my office.”
i wanted to be hopeful
there’s a lot of red in the living room…
maybe that will work.

{attempt number 2}

and then there was way too much red in the living room.
but the weather turned cold in yokohama
and a good thing about the red drapes
was that they were heavy
and we could pull them closed
against the 22nd floor drafts.
(nobody insulates like the canadians.)

after a few months (of seeing red)
i ordered another set of drapes from ikea.
they were caramel coloured and looked very posh.
i was filled with drape optimism…
buoyed by curtain-hope…

{attempt number 3}

when i took them out of the package,
they looked a great deal like shower curtains.
not so posh after all.
i sighed.
faithfully, dp hung the drapes
but even as he dropped the hooks
into those greedy little rings
i knew the story of us and our drapes
was not yet over.

during christmas, we traveled to istanbul
where i felt inspired
by the colours and patterns
and sumptuous interiors
of hotels, churches and mosques.
{i’m guessing that the turks aren’t minimalists.}
i thought about my lame-ass curtains
and decided to take quick and decisive action
against the tapioca drapes
in our not-so-great room.

on etsy, i found a shop
that would custom make the drapes
in aqua damask.
i felt like anne of green gables,
a drape-orphan
with my eyes full of stars
and my mouth forming the word
as if it were magic.

this afternoon, a box arrived…
dp called it a whatsit.
“your whatsit has arrived.” he said
and that reminded me of the books of madeleine l’engle
and then i realized that dp
reminds me of madeleine l’engle
and i find this very comforting.

carefully, i opened the box,
unwrapping heavy folds of aqua blue.
“wow. these are gorgeous…
these drapes are really beautiful.”
i wanted to say perfect
but i’m trying to let perfect go.

dp hung the fourth set of drapes with care
like really expensive damask stockings for santa.

{attempt number 4}

we stood back and said, “yes.”

we examined them up close
and from the other end of the room
and we declared them lovely.
like having a little bit of versailles
in your decidedly un-versailles apartment,
i love the juxtaposition.

dp said that the best thing
to come out out of the great drape quest of 2011 and 12
was that he has acquired several more backdrops for portrait taking.

isn’t he wonderful?


  1. Hi Ms. McDiarmid!
    I’m one of your students and I really enjoyed this blog post πŸ™‚ Though you’re not my mother, I feel like this is one of those things that will come back to me in the future – taking drape choices for granted. πŸ˜›
    Also, I couldn’t help but notice a typo (I presume). You wrote fauthfully instead of faithfully, I think? πŸ˜› My dictionary doesn’t have fautfhully in it. But Lion suggests you might have meant fatefully.

    1. Hello to one of my students! Although I am not your mother, I bet it feels like I am sometimes… especially when it comes to your university applications!
      I love the idea that you might still be hearing my voice in your head in the future… I hope that’s not too scary for you. πŸ™‚
      Thanks for the heads up about the typo. (Fatefully would also have been a good choice for DPs repeated hanging of our doomed drapes.)

  2. I love your story. When we built our house, I had someone come to the house with samples and we looked and ordered them. I was very conscious of the hardware too. A friend had built a house ordered curtains and the rods to hang them with fancy ends only to find out that her air-conditioner wouldn’t fit and one side of the curtain rod had to be cut off.

    1. Jean, thanks for sharing these curtain-stories.
      Honestly, I had no idea that the task of finding the right drapes was such a battlefield… this is probably because all of our expat apartments and homes have been at least partially furnished.

    1. If I remember correctly, I was in Oakville for the final and successful round of your drape-buying. If that’s true… and I was lucky for you… it seems that I used up all my drape-luck before we arrived in Japan πŸ™‚
      Here’s to a happy ending!

  3. Hi Monna and DP. I just wanted to tell you that I am glad for both of you that Monna’s drape-quest is over and that “the chosen” looks great! Miss you both! πŸ™‚

    1. Hey!
      Are you asking this
      because when you woke up
      the morning after this was posted
      you found that the cream-coloured rug
      had been unfolded in the living room
      during the night?
      (It must have been Dobby the house elf.
      He’s always getting into carpet-mischief.)
      I’ll admit that there may be a need
      for new pillows…
      but I promise
      that I am done
      with the drapes.


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