Growing up, my house had a sunny room in back we called the Florida Room. It's what the rest of you who grew up somewhere other than Miami might call a sunroom, or bonus room. It's a recreational space with no discernible purpose. Except our Florida Room's purpose was assuredly to stash stuff (at least for most of the year, sometimes it got cleaned up for parties). It was always my favorite room in the house.
The walls of the Florida Room were lined with a chaos of art, signs and knick-knacks from decades of collecting—like a nautical, bohemian TGI Fridays. The shelves, tables and floor—they carried years of supplies and tools that could be raked through for any project or new hobby. When I wanted to take up sewing, there was an old sewing machine back there. And when I had an art class assignment that demanded I pick up a box of charcoals, well, we had some. Several, actually. Brand new in the box.
You see, my dad... well, my entire family, but especially my dad... he's always prepared. He's also generous to a fault, and loves, loves, to give practical gifts. So that preparedness, it's been passed down to me, one pack of emergency hand warmers at a time. My dad's also passed on a lot of wisdom, too, about being a good citizen and how to live life well.
There are more than a few things in my home today that I wouldn't have if not for my dad, Ed:
My dad rejected unnecessarily gendered pink hardware kits and instead set me up with real, quality tools for my first apartment away from home. He also gave me the knowledge of how to use them. When he was in the middle of a weekend project in the backyard and I would linger over with a "whatchya dooooooin?," instead of shooing me away, he'd show me what he was building or how he was fixing it.
Fun fact: My dad built me a freestanding tree house from scratch in our backyard in the summer of 1992. When hurricane Andrew hit Miami a few months later, we thought the treehouse was a gonner, but no. It held up through the storm, even when many of the trees around it didn't.
Bookshelves overflowing with inspiration
My dad is an artist and designer; his office at work and the den at home both looked like mood boards come to life. So we were always surrounded by art, in every sense. My dad collected National Geographic magazines, and I can remember sitting in the den on the computer surrounded by piles and piles of yellow spines. Some days I would tear myself away from whatever game I was playing to poke through them. No surprise then that's there's a stack of magazines in literally every room in my loft today. When I'm feeling a creative block, sometimes I just buy old lots of Esquire or Vogue magazine on eBay to flip through them time and time again.
My cleaning playlist
Every time I hear somebody say that smell is the most powerful sense tied to memory, I know it's true, because I immediately remember the weekends when my dad would deep clean the house. It smells like lemon Pine-Sol and fresh air coming in through open windows. And it sounds like Duran Duran. My dad would blast the same songs every weekend as he spruced up the house, and it's a tradition I keep up today. When you turn cleaning into An Event with its own setting and soundtrack, you start to look forward to it.
The right hardware store knick-knack to solve every problem
When my husband joined the family, I think his biggest culture shock wasn't our big, loud Cuban cookouts, it was the Christmas stockings. See, stockings are a Big Deal for my dad — at some point our traditional stockings got so full that now everyone has two. And my dad loves to fill them with practical little knick knacks like Command hooks, drywall anchors, emergency hand warmers, and twist ties and zip ties. Basically, I haven't had to set foot in a hardware store in a decade because my junk drawer is stocked like a Home Depot.
My green thumb
In another life, my dad always said he'd love to be a landscaper. He always tended to our yard like it was his third daughter, and our home — especially the Florida Room — was always packed with plants. Personally, I never took to plants growing up (I shudder to think of the way I would dig my nails into the leaves of our staghorn fern as a curious kid), but I always suspected that I had my dad's green thumb gene hidden somewhere. After many years of killing many, many succulents, I finally grew into my inheritance and now consider myself a complete Plant Lady.
My favorite kitchen uni-tasker
Ever thoughtful, I bet my dad was browsing the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond when he spotted a strawberry huller and had an idea: "Taryn likes strawberries. Maybe she needs a huller." And you know what, I love it. It doesn't take up much room, and it really gets the job done perfectly.
An un-dented car
I didn't get my learner's permit until I was 18 years old about to move away from home, so my dad had to pack all his driving advice to me in those weekend trips away from college. But he was full of Ed-isms that help me, even today, to navigate life on the road. My favorite: "The right of way is not yours to give away." (I still haven't ever gotten a ticket, even a parking ticket, in my life. Thanks, Dad!).