Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chicken Soup for the Ceiling - Remembering Joyce Zdenek

When Joyce first found us, we were a couple of snarling stray cats hopelessly wandering in and out of furniture stores across New England in search of a new couch.

We weren't looking for an Interior Designer, that's for sure.

As fate would have it, we straggled into Bassett Furniture, and an "Interior Designer" we would have – whether we thought we needed one or not.

Like a pair of half-drown kittens, Joyce took us under her wing, dried us up, sorted us out, gave us a warm bowl of milk, and fixed us a cozy, warm place to settle. 

And sold us a couch...a really, really big couch.

"Trust me, it's perfect."

"But… it's a huge sectional, we just sort of thought, maybe a couch…?"

"And we'll have to replace that counter top – forest green Formica is so 1990s! This house NEEDS granite. I know just the guy, Filippo. He'll take good care of you… I'll have him here for measurements tomorrow."

"But, we kind of like…"

"And these curtains! No, no, no…they have to go…"

"Er…they were Pam's mother's…

"Well, they look like it! Margie will stop by Thursday for measurements. She's FABULOUS!"

"Um… OK, if you say so… Who's Margie?"

"This place needs some seafoam. On the ceiling, I think. I always paint the ceilings, it's my little secret."

"A green ceiling? White isn't good?"

"Trust me!"

And we did trust Joyce. 

We trusted her with paint, furniture, paper, carpets, stone, bedding, fixtures… One day at a time, one room at a time, and ten thousand dollars at a time… Joyce transformed our house into a home.

Joyce's gift of perception, her innate and extraordinary ability to see through the eyes of others, allowed her to know what you would like – or more importantly, what was right for you – before you did. Never defensive or imposing, she lovingly made you feel like her decisions were your decisions – even though behind the hugs and kisses, you both knew different.

She defended Kirby's precious collection of antiques and knickknacks from Pam's disdain, organizing and presenting them professionally…in the basement...out of Pam's sight. 

Joyce helped Kirby over his own disdain for seafoam green, and autumnal orange, and oceanside blue. She protected both of us from matchy-matchy-ness, and surrounded us in 'updated' colors before we had time to object.

Along the way, her subtle and not so subtle ministrations reached beyond the transformation of our house. Joyce helped us resolve disagreements, overcome stubbornness, break bad habits, understand different points of view. She gave us the courage to stand up for our own desires, while showing compassion for the desires of each other. She taught us that compromise brought better outcomes than conflict. 

Joyce redesigned more than our home, she helped us redesign our lives. Joyce redid our house, but she transformed us.

Over the years, our relationship with Joyce evolved. From salesperson, to designer, to coach, to cheerleader, to friend, and finally to family. In her, we found not only our own personal interior designer, but also our own personal 'jewish mother-in-law" from another mother. Not that we were looking for another mother-in-law, mind you, but in Joyce, we would have another mother, whether we thought we needed one or not.

Chicken soup, brisket, matzo, a little wine, some desert… along with advice on child-rearing, parent-management, nutrition, the latest haircut, matching outfits, popular music, hard work, and the occasional placement of a few pictures… No stone was left unturned by Joyce's talent for organization, eye for style, and power of persuasion.

And like a mom, we worried after her, too. Giving her advice and encouragement on men, health, career, fulfillment, or just getting through the day. She made us laugh, and fret, and occasionally act foolish. We smiled at Joyce's obvious pride and joy in her children. And as a family, we now share their grief, and offer our continuing love and support to Danielle and Jessica.

For us, remembering Joyce will be easy and inevitable. As we look at our home, every corner is touched by Joyce's signature style. Every chair, lamp, rug, wall, and ceiling received Joyce's personal stamp of approval. As we look at our lives, every corner is touched by her warmth, compassion, and the love she showed us and shared with us. Her loving spirit will be with us always, in our home and in our hearts.

We trust God knew what he was doing in taking her so soon. And, we hope he likes seafoam green. Because one thing is for sure, the kingdom of heaven is about to get a complete makeover, whether He thinks it needs it or not.

Besides, solid gold is so 1990's...

Rest in Peace, dear friend 

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