For me, the inspiration for our project comes straight down to grandmothers.
My great-grandmother, Gramma C's big old white farmhouse in Mechanicville, NY with the White House-white columns, stained glass entry windows, wrap around staircase, and bottomless cookie bin.
Gramma Lav's education in the love language of food, her instructions on how to achieve wrinkle-free bedding, and most importantly, the house she raised my mother in, in Castiglione, Sicily. There was so much potential in that stone house, sitting up on a hill at the foot of Mt. Etna, empty for decades.
And of course Gramma B, AKA Filomena—the namesake of our project. Gram put me to work at a very young age as a cashier, in an apron full of singles and coins to make change, selling her seemingly bottomless collection of antiques, sports memorabilia, and general junk that my grown up self would have definitely put in a "keep" pile. I spent most of my childhood weekends in her 1950s ranch, rummaging through her basement, and as an adult, was lucky enough to keep a few of her everyday things, which have become some of my most prized possessions.
My grandmothers taught me a lot of different things, but I think i draw the most meaning from how they represented history—the history of my family in the stories they told, the traditions and skills they shared with me, and most importantly, the history that was represented in the spaces that they called home.
I’m not quite sure how I got here, which shouldn’t be conflated with “I don’t know where I’m going.” I moved to New York with not much to my name and no real idea of what I was doing, but it wasn’t without a sense of purpose.
At one point or another a friend from home—home, there’s an interesting word—moved to the Berkshires, and I thought it might be nice to visit. Or maybe it was when my mother talked about visiting her friend’s bed and breakfast in Cheshire. It could’ve been something to do with an old friend who spent summers in college teaching lifeguarding in Lenox and her stories about sneaking cigarettes in the cool night air. I also fell in love somewhere in there. That probably has a lot to do with it.
The timing is inconsequential, given the fact that I can’t attest to the sequential veracity of the times. I fell in love with this big, beautiful, old house. This “home” that really wasn’t much of one anymore. It feels a lot like how I perceive my childhood home now, as some far-flung, grandiose place that I can’t ever quite get back to. No matter how many new shutters and lights and doohickeys I throw at it, it’ll never be as good as the original.
But it’s okay to be different, and sometimes it’s even better than the thing you started out with. My hope is that in detangling these old bones we might be able to create some small facsimile of that idea. That in restructuring these walls and pulling off roofs I might also be able to do a little work on myself. That I’ll get just a fraction of that sense of home back and find myself, as I knew me then and as I perceive myself now, sitting in front of the fireplace with the one I love or stomping barefoot across the grass with my dog in tow, worrying about what I might plant in the garden.