At the farm, the downstairs was divided in two. Along one side were the kitchen, the bath and a bedroom. The other half ran unimpeded from the front door to the back porch – a long, lovely room incorporating pretty much everything else. We ate there, played there, read there, listened to the news, did jigsaw puzzles, solved the world’s problems (sometimes heatedly), entertained company and so on.
The wallpaper, for most of my life there, was a rose red with small latticeworks of flamingo pink flowers and muted green leaves. The linoleum was swirls of dark rose feathers or leaves; the wood at the sides was deep red. The woodwork and the ceiling were painted a color matching the tiny flowers of the wallpaper. The total effect was complemented by antique wood glow of the furniture, most of which
Gram had rescued from under layers of paint. None of the chair cushions matched the curtains which didn’t match the table cloths. No one cared. The room was warm and inviting and Bohemian, before Bohemian was a thing.
Some things stand out to me, as I peek into this room presented in my memories. For one thing I see that never in my adult life have I lived in a space with a separate dining room. As I wrote last year, the table was the center of life, the heart, and was not to be stuck off unused and alone. Another observation: The bookshelves were full to overflowing with books – none of the aesthetic that tells us “one-third books, one-third decorative items, one-third open space.” That always takes me aback – they are called bookcases for a reason – ours held books. The bookcases at home were full of books. The bookcases here are full of books. It’s a tradition!
There were two stoves in the house – one in the kitchen and a stalwart and lovely parlor stove in this main room (a stove that my brother Mike still has). Cooling in the summer was mainly provided by shade trees and vines. The vines were amazing. At the front of the house, a hefty trellis (hefty as in built with peeled logs) upheld a stunning Dutchman’s Pipe which was at least three gerenations old. You don’t see these much any more, but they have overlapping leaves as large as plates and little unobtrusive flowers, shaped kind of like saxophones or the curvy pipes they were named for.
Down the room a south window was framed and sheltered by a woodbine. I loved that window – the couch was just under it, and it was the perfect place to read or sew, the afternoon light and the leaves of the vine playing together to make shifting, dancing shadows and sparkles. It was like being in a tree house or a cabin in the tropics – like the Swiss Family Robinson only better, because I could read about them there but didn’t have to work as hard as they did!
That was my preferred space, even when I was in college. Everyone had a favorite chair – and none of those matched, either. Grampy had a wooden armchair, hand built. Grammy had refinished it, but another was painted black, worn through. It had been her father’s chair, perfect the way it was. Uncle Mike’s chair was a high backed wicker rocker and Gram’s, in which I sit today, another woven rocker. The point was that each person found a chair that fit and was most comfortable and like the various people in the family the chairs learned to get along.
I don’t know if we remember how to live like this anymore. We’d have to give up worrying about how this would be for the next person that buys it – and just make ourselves at home.