Nature v Nurture

As I was strolling arm-in-arm down the street with Miles Redd the other day he was reminiscing about his childhood. Oh, wait. Perhaps it didn't go quite like that.

Redd and I did have an exchange about his childhood, but it was more like this - I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Thomas Britt a few weeks ago. In my living room. Britt is from Kansas City and was in town to see friends. My editor and I thought it would be interesting - great fun, really - to interview him for the magazine. Beyond interesting, it was fascinating and immensely entertaining.

He told me stories of Studio 54 and maharajahs, but some of his most interesting tales were of his growing up. He told me of redecorating his parents' dining room while they were out of town. Really redecorating. Painting the floor and walls and installing salvaged columns and moving things around. "How'd they take it?" "What?" "The redecorating, when your mother came home from her trip, how did she react?" "React?! She loved it, of course!"

Of course. That is the kind of mother I want to be, but sometimes fall short. The kind of mother who would come home to find that her incredibly talented son had redecorated the dining room, better than she, and celebrate it. It got me thinking.

So I shot Redd an email. Did he, I wondered, begin showing an interest in lacquer and lamps while knee-high? And if so, did his folks just hand him a paint brush and go back to the Journal Constitution? Pretty much.

"As a child I had a fascination with with front doors and chandeliers," said Redd,"the grander the better. My bedroom was an ever-evolving canvas. I remember arranging stuffed animals and was always into the arts, painting and drawing.

My parents were very supportive. My mom, ever clever, would get me to decorate the house for Christmas. I would slave on pomanders and polish all the silver, but she had a strong sense of her own style and we did not always see eye-to-eye. I wanted ball fringe on everything, and my mother had a very colonial approach to things. She loved that scrubbed, Spartan look - polished mahogany, hemstitched linen, very plain silver, air twist glasses. She taught me restraint and understatement, and I suppose I teach her about a certain grandeur.

My mom has [my] Christmas list from age five requesting a fire place in my room. I thought falling asleep to the dying embers would be nice."

If only one of my boys would refer to me as "ever clever," I'd be quite content.

Image courtesy of Miles Redd.

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