Embracing History

THREE BRIGHT PAINTINGS OF FLOPPY-EARRED GOATS dot the guest room wall in the home of Mark and Debbie Anderson. The couple’s three girls, now young women with children of their own, dub it the “Goat Room,” a nod to the playful art, and admonish their mother not to expand her barnyard-themed décor. 

“I’m not sure why I like them,” Debbie, a self-styled interior designer says of her goat affinity. 

The animals, like most of the eclectic pieces in the Anderson house, reflect family and memories and, in this case, pleasant childhood afternoons at her grandparents’ farm in rural Georgia, where there was a barn, and cows, and goats. Ah, here it is.

“Maybe,” she says, as she ponders the connection.

The Andersons live in a quintessential section of West Lake where all stages of family life are represented, as evidenced by a boisterous group of teen boys playing pick-up basketball across the street from the Anderson empty nesters. 

Debbie, a former teacher and Realtor, approaches her home style, and that of the others whose rooms and homes she helps refresh, with a straight-forward philosophy. “Make a home, a home. Make it a happy home. Make it cozy. Make it a place that when you are away and come back, you are happy being back home.” υ

WHEN BEGINNING ANY DESIGN PROJECT, Debbie starts with a color scheme and admits she has done an entire house based on a single fabric swatch, pulling shades and inspiration from the patterns in the cloth. She likes to explore auctions and flea markets for ideas and unique treasures too. Her clients come to her strictly through word of mouth and have often seen her work in another friend’s home. 

Debbie recognizes her style is not for everyone and she works with clients to help them find colors, objects and styles that best represent them. The hues of joy and contentment are entirely individual, Debbie acknowledges, so the colors used in home design reflect the nature and character of the people who dwell there. Such is the case in her own home.

house 3

Photo by Steve Bracci

Home to the couple is the place where intimate family elements appear…and bind them together.

HOME TO THE ANDERSON FAMILY embraces more than family portraits along the staircase, although assorted black-and-white photos of their children, six grandchildren and other family members accent the stairway and grace their rooms. Home is more than handmade memories from when their three grown daughters were small. Home to the couple is the place where intimate family elements appear—a piece of pottery made by their daughter or an old table from a grandparent in an upstairs art studio—and bind them together. 

Her daughters and grandchildren, Debbie says, appreciate the stories that accompany the family collections, even if she thinks they may not share her fondness for preserving the various items. “I used to worry about leaving my children a legacy,” she says, “…but we all do.” 

These days, her grandchildren are “wowed” by the stories associated with the mementos around her home.  One such favorite is told by their grandfather about the long red wooden bench that stands on the front porch of the house. The bench has never been refinished and there is a worn spot on it where, when grandfather himself was a young boy, the grandchildren would sit together and swish their feet so that one spot bears the mark of those small restless feet. 

Debbie cherishes and recounts the traditions of family gatherings to her grandchildren. No occasion was too common to be overlooked. “Every Sunday we had lunch at my grandparents’ home and Sunday dinners at my other grandparents’. Every Sunday.”

The pieces of her grandparents’ lives—mason jars, dishes and the like—serve as three-dimensional reminders of family ties, the piece that counts.

HER MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS lived in Elberton on a small farm, but they didn’t make a living as farmers. “Grand-daddy was in the granite business,” she says, adding that he was a justice of the peace and sold insurance. 

The pieces of her grandparents’  lives—mason jars, dishes and the like—serve as three-dimensional reminders of family ties, the piece that counts. Visitors to the Anderson house will often ask about the pieces that adorn it. “Someone will say, ‘Why that piece?’” Debbie says. Her answer is simple. “These are the things that are special to me. The things that mean a lot to me.”

It was a little more than a year ago that Debbie turned 60, a milestone by any measurement. Birthdays, she says, are meant to be commemorated with some unforgettable experience. She convinced Mark to take a walk with her. I said, ‘I’m going to walk across Golden Gate Bridge. This is a memory.’” Halfway across the two-plus mile span, her husband said to her, “You know, we gotta walk back.”

She laughs at the memory, this one preserved in her mind’s eye. Her mother preserved such moments in another way. Two vintage black and silver cameras, stacked one atop another, rest on a smooth white bookcase shelf in the living room. The boxy equipment, circa 1940s, once belonged to an 18-year-old high school graduate who eagerly focused her lenses on her family. The graduate, Debbie’s mother, captured family members in photos for the reasons most do—to share a moment, to remember a day and to preserve a place in time.

house 4

Photo by Steve Bracci

Each object has a tale; there is nothing random to the eclectic collection of items in the Anderson home…

DEBBIE DOES WITH GATHERED FRAGMENTS OF HISTORY what her mother did with photos. Each object has a tale; there is nothing random to the eclectic collection of items in the Anderson home, no more than the people themselves and the lives each piece represents. Together they tell and retell the story of a family, of those lives now complete, of those still present and of those first growing into the people they will one day be.

Families carry their traditions and stories forward into the next generation through many channels, all acting as markers on a family’s trail, a journey of steps, connecting one to another, from generation to generation. The Anderson home tells a story of family that did not begin with Debbie and Mark Anderson and will not end with them. The pottery, the glass jars, the old cameras and the photos are chapters in a family story that stretches back to a rural home in Georgia and beyond it, even as it presses forward across the country to San Francisco, where a new grandchild has just
been born.

This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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