WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I IMAGINED WHAT IT MIGHT BE LIKE TO LIVE IN A CASTLE OR A TOWER OR A MAGICAL FOREST.
Our fairy tale cottage as it appeared in the 1920s
I tried to imagine myself as a princess. I tried really hard, but it never worked. Somehow in my fantasies I was always the assistant to the princess. I attribute this to my peasant ancestry.
Since I was relegated to be the right hand of the princess, the position included suitable lodgings. I would be able to visit the castle or tower or magical forest as often as I pleased, yet I would live in a cottage. The cottage was my childhood bedroom.
I remember commandeering my mother’s broom and sweeping away real cobwebs. I used my cardboard kitchenette where I cooked faux dinners and drank plastic glasses full of disappearing toy milk. My dolls had bunk beds with knitted blankets that they straightened every morning before eating their breakfast. Because our house was a ranch my fairy tale cottage had two stories. I mentally placed a staircase in my bedroom closet and staged regular entrances and exits from “upstairs.” Importantly, unlike our real house, my imaginary cottage would have a fireplace, which of course, was the bureau.
I am embarrassed to say how long I kept this up. So I won’t. (I was nine.)
I have never outgrown my cottage fantasy. I have always wanted a not-too-big home. Nothing excessively showy (although a little sparkle is appreciated) and conversely, nothing too rough like a cabin. Someplace snug, but not cramped. Someplace with charm.
After living in eleven other places, my fairy tale dream came true. But in the true story, no princess bestowed it. Instead, it fell magically in my lap.
Clockwise from top left: Once the attached shed, the addition houses the new kitchen downstairs and master bedroom upstairs. The doorway from the original part of the house to the kitchen. The previous homeowner left me this fall display of gourds, pumpkin, and bittersweet. The back of the house. That large window on the top floor is where my desk sits.
Once upon a time a couple in their forties with three teenage sons were approached by the mother of a neighbor. “Please, I want to buy your house so I can live near my daughter,” she said.
The couple felt sympathy for the grandmother and although they had no place else to go, they quickly agreed. The next day, the couple met their fairy god-mother (see: Mary the real estate agent) at a house for sale in the next town. It was white (the woman’s favorite) and had a porch, a barn, two stories, and woods that abutted a forest. When the woman entered the master bedroom she was drawn to a large window that overlooked the backyard. Nearly touching the window was a large lilac bush with a blue jay in it; two of her favorite things. She imagined a writing desk in that very spot.
“This is home,” she said. Her husband had the same idea when he saw how much fun he would have with his leaf blower on three acres. “This is home,” he said. The couple looked at no other house. The fairy godmother said, “It’s meant to be yours.”
Due to the fairy godmother, the sale went through easily despite hurdles that resembled walls and the family moved in. Then the woman held Thanksgiving and Christmas while writing a book and kept writing all the way through New Year’s while existing on cereal and red wine.
So, there you have it. I’m here and have spent the last year writing and not working too much on the house. I worked in the yard enough to get two bouts of poison ivy but that’s for another post.
The original living quarters was a Cape with one and a half stories and three bedrooms under the eaves. The front door has been replaced but the floors are the original chestnut. The children kept tearing holes in their socks requiring the regular swinging of a hammer and nail-setter. This is one of two staircases in the house.
I especially love the post-medieval English pediment details on the underside of the upstairs landing. I’ve painted nothing so far in this space. I haven’t finished listening to what the house wants.
Just upstairs are the twins’ bedrooms. Unlike my childhood dolls, this pair of fifteen year-olds don’t often make their beds.
This is a true-life fairy tale, after all.