The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Cozy Cottage December 12, 2012

The grass is always greener, right? Whenever I have a new student over, or when Elihu has a classmate or two here (as he did today) I hear a lot of exclamations made about how ‘cool’ this place is. Usually by the end of the visit the kids are saying how they want a place like this too. Even some highbrow downtown types – their moms or dads – have cooed a little when walking in. And we’re essentially talking a two-room house here. Really. It ain’t big. But it sure is cozy, and especially at this time of year. So while the grass may seem greener to those that visit, I am so happy to say that Elihu and I find the grass of our own back yard a most inviting green and covet no other’s.

May I take you on a quick tour through our house? If it’s too tedious for you, move down a few paragraphs – I have a domestic tip to share later on… For the rest, here we go: You walk in through the kitchen, and were it not for my having moved the kitchen table to the left against the wall, the door would have bumped into it. But you’d forgive that when you find yourself looking out over a frozen Saratoga Lake and Vermont hills beyond. The tiny room you’re in now has pale, apple green walls, white ceramic pulls and counters, a wood floor (well, it’s laminate, but looks pretty darn good in spite of itself), a Brady Bunch era double stove in harvest gold. A small island table which I made myself divides the already tiny room, but quickly becomes the go-to destination for anyone who visits.

Our one hallway is painted a deep, colonial red and leads to the living room, which is a generous space with a raised hearth fireplace of white marble at the far end, my beloved Eames knockoff lounge chair in the far right corner, a large chocolate brown couch against the right hand wall and a picture window to the left. Flanking the window are a harpsichord on the right and a grand piano on the left, and at this time of the year, our Christmas tree stands between them, obscuring the view. The long walls are a deep gold, the short ones dark brown. There’s a small foyer to the left of the piano – it leads out to our seldom used but attractive screen porch. (My dream is to frame this in and make a dining room so we can enjoy both company and the view at the same time! A wood stove in the corner and a bank of window seats, the vision is held fast in my mind…)

We also have two bedrooms and a bath tucked away through a tiny hallway off the living room’s right wall. Just enough room for us two. And downstairs we have again the footprint of the house! A storage room, my office, my treadmill (yes, I do use it, thank you) and a music room again with another fireplace. We have our drum set, Wurlitzer, amps and such there. The addition of overhead can lights on dimmer switches last year has transformed this room from crappy basement to ‘ooooh’…. No acoustic privacy yet, but one day…

So. That’s our joint. Small, tidy and functional. And it is something I am grateful for any number of times in a day. When I remember the duress under which I came here, the agony of the process and the pain that lingered, it’s hard to believe how I feel now. Invigorated, inspired, comfortable, thankful. And even the significance of this day is interesting to me; it is my first wedding anniversary on which I’m no longer married. Twelve twelve it is, and I’m finally free. After a long trip, I’m finally home.

“It’s so cozy”, I’ll hear Elihu say quietly to himself as he checks on the progress of our narcissus bulbs or admires the tree (when you live alone you tend to talk to no one in particular rather routinely). I agree. And this year the house has taken on a particularly cozy feeling, even without the benefit of snow. I think our low, Achromatopsia-friendly light levels might have something do to with it. Generally our place is warmly lit. Some – like my mother – might complain the place needs more wattage in general, and while see her point, I also see the gentle intimacy that softer lighting imbues, and although maybe not the best for reading the instructions on a rc helicopter manual, it is the best light for just sitting on the couch and hanging out. In order to help my child look more comfortably out of the picture windows, I’ve put up a tinted cling film. Sometimes, at the right time of day, it can look like a storm is coming (when it’s not), an unintended side effect I personally like a lot. And hey, if I want to read, I crank up the three way lamp. Not a big deal.

But this season there’s an additional mood-creating use of light which we only just thought of a few days ago. And dear readers, I encourage you all to try this yourselves, it will instantly ‘up’ the charm and elegance of your tree. ?? What device can do all that? A lamp dimmer switch. Fifteen bucks at Lowe’s and you’re on your way. I have combined my dimmer switch with a big fat on/off button on the floor. So I merely tap my toe to produce the most warmly lit tree…. The resulting lower-wattage bulbs not only allow one to see the ornaments themselves so much clearer, but the lights take on a more natural, more flame-like quality. Words don’t describe it well enough. All I can say is that if you’re using those ubiquitous tiny white lights, try out this lamp dimmer thingee and see if you don’t say ‘ahh’ when you first get it just right. And, you’re welcome. It’s the very least I can do!

So many things need work, the outside of my house just doesn’t match the inside. It’s always my great hope that when people visit, the inside will redeem the outside. It takes money to keep a property up. Mowed just once last year. Chose to take a trip instead. Lots of upkeep, limited resources. We’ll make it to the greenery one day. But for now, it’s all about home and hearth. This will be Elihu’s very first Christmas in New York. And what a perfect time to be here at home, we two, in our very cozy cottage.

 

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