Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Yellow House


I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after...they've gone through and through me, like wine through water and altered the color of my mind." ~ Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Given my blog-documented love of my hometown, would it surprise you to know that I created alerts on my computer when a house in my old neighborhood goes on the market?  I love to take "tours" into these homes, but alas, they are few and far between because my old hood is not a very transient place.  So I was delighted to find for sale, the petite yellow house that sat kitty-corner to my childhood home.

A variation of Pennsylvania Dutch style, the yellow house is one of three "brides" that were built together in the early years of the 20th century.  They all have small rooms and beautiful wood-paneled walls and lots of charming details, such as inset cabinets and hardwood floors.  While growing up, the little yellow house was occupied by an unmarried and kindly woman named Flora Innes, who walked up our hill every night and past our house, after having been dropped off at the bottom of the street from her wearying factory job.  Flora knew all our names by heart and greeted each of us.  She was a sweet, lovely woman who had suffered childhood polio and walked with a marked limp.

After I took an online spin around the inside of Flora's old house, my daydreams began to ignite.  You see, I am in love with a boy I went to high school who lived not too far away from Flora and from me.  Since I "re-met" this boy many years after first laying eyes on him in 7th grade and long after Flora had been gone, I began to imagine all the what-if's that surprisingly bubbled to the surface since spying Flora's yellow house in my in-box.

What if my love and I had found our relationship back in high school?  What if we had actually married all those years ago?  What if we had bought the yellow house from Flora's relatives when it first hit the market 40 years ago and what if we had a family of our own in the yellow house and what if we had had a long life together?  I even went so far as to imagine myself taking family china out of one of those delightful built-ins and setting the dining room table for Tuesday night dinner with his now deceased parents!  In our house...our little yellow house???

I always believed that the dream of what might have been is the most painful dream to let go.  We watch our fervent wishes slip from outstretched hands like rocks dropped from a bridge that disappear into dark water.  But that is only a tragedy when one has to do an abrupt about face of no choice of their own.  I don't feel the dreams of what-if have a similar power over us.  After all, who's to say that the girl I was 40 years ago was ready for that boy I now love?  Who's to say I would have felt the spell of the little yellow house in the town I was so sure I wanted put in my rear view mirror as quickly as humanly possible?  Time changes us...it grinds us and then polishes us if we are open to its lessons.  Only then can we become whole or at least more of who we were meant to be in the first place.  And then there is love - what of love?  Well...love carries its own timepiece, doesn' it?

My fantasies about the little yellow house resulted in some magically entertaining reveries for driving to work last month but I have since discovered "my" house has been sold to a pair of young newlyweds.  I was told that they have already erected a matching shed in the postage stamp of a backyard, replete with matching shutters and window boxes.  I would have done that first too.  And their parents often come to help.  I just know they are enjoying that marvelous wood dining room with the built-ins, which no doubt are storing some family treasures.  I'm so happy for them and I believe that somewhere, dear Flora Innes is happy too.

As for me, I am now wearing the diamond ring that once belonged to the beloved mother and guest at my imaginary Tuesday night dinners.  And I've learned that any color home can be my yellow one - our view and our reflections are ever-changing.  Like wine poured through water...



Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Towels...



The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers...~William Wordsworth


A friend came to visit last weekend and loved my blue beach towels.  They are now downstairs, washed and boxed and ready to mail to her doorstep.  I wish it had occurred to me to send them off with her on the day we said goodbye.  Still, I am pleased she will have them soon to cheer her as she wraps herself in one after her morning shower - she loved them so much.

My grandmother thought towels were a big deal.  She talked of Turkish towels and the January White Sales often and I think it was a source of pride for her to have a modest stack of quality towels on hand for loved ones.  My mother also waxed poetic about them but sadly, in our house, towels were often used and abused and left as wet tattered rags on the bathroom floor.  I'm pretty sure she gave up her dream of a neat and tidy linen closet with four active children.  Stacks of colorful fluffy towels would only have served to regularly break her heart.

Nice towels in a good price range are hard to find these days.  There are plenty in rich and famous linen boutiques for those who can manage the price tags that are as lofty as the towels themselves. For me, I scour Home Goods for occasional bounty.  I also suggest department stores when they have their seasonal bedding sales.  A plush affordable towel is a very fine thing.

When I philosophize about them, towels are often overlooked but are one of life's little luxuries.  Thick thirsty towels that are soft and at the ready makes one feel that life is abundant, normal - they are oddly reassuring.  An entire blog post about them does seems a bit silly but the latest world events have hit me hard and I, like many others are groping for the little things that seem unimportant but really do matter.  Like towels, favorite books, iced tea in a clinking tumbler with fresh lemon.  And boxing up a bit of comfort for a good friend.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Soda Fountain Stories


He is clearly smitten with her as she sips from his soda glass.  I love her tartan dress which I imagine to be blue and I'll bet the bow wrapped around her ponytail is black velvet. The moody glow from the lanterns, the tile floor, the leather seat covers make this a charming photo of a 1950's couple on what looks like an innocent first date.  Mom and Pop are most certainly at home in front of the picture window, waiting for their young miss to return by 11 o'clock.  I'm sure she will...

In spring, I like to revisit some of my favorite teenage novels - nearly all set in the 1950's.  I call them Soda Fountain Stories because soda fountains figure so prominently in them.  I can't say it's a trip down Memory Lane because I only know the 50's from pictures, my mother's anecdotes, and novels.  But the heroines' travails seem universal and somehow familiar to the struggles of every decade:  there's the fast crowd who refuses to welcome newcomers, the benevolent and understanding teacher, and of course, a shy bookish late bloomer who doesn't know someone in the wings thinks she's fine.

My books are a comforting trip back in time when good manners were valued and expectations for behavior were cut like glass.  Most important to me though, were the stories' emphasis on home and family.  Nearly every novel has a loving mother who volunteers at church and school, sees that her children and husband eat a good breakfast, and still bakes brownies from scratch...or gingerbread, as one of my favorites tells.  Dad works at the office in the city and comes home tired and put-out but shakes it all down with the help of Mother and her pineapple upside-down cake.  The family dog and kid brother help too.  Oh, if only...

Still, as far removed as 2017 is from the Atomic Age (and all those bomb shelters that were never used), we have it pretty good now too.  Medical care is at nearly science fiction-level, we have the internet and cell phones, movies and books on-demand, and many other magnificent things.  I'm not completely idealizing the purity of the 1950's - I'm just saying that it's some kind of wonderful to escape to a simpler time every now and then when the biggest problem in life is whether the prom dress you made will be as pretty as the illustration on the pattern cover.

Come with me to the suburban 1950's.  Your reboot is ensured.

~

Some favorites:

Wait for Marcy by Rosamund du Jardin -  (Marcy is known as "Squirt", a nickname she detests.)

Sister of the Bride by Beverly Clearly - (Oh how you'll cry!)

Almost April by Zoa Sherburne - (A sudden tragedy which surprisingly aligns with the 21st century too.)

~

And, there is one elusive novel that I have never been able to locate after reading it once in the 8th grade.  It must have been dear to me as the story line has never left me.  A girl's mother is institutionalized and while she is gone from home a beneficent housekeeper takes her place.  But when Mother is well enough to return, our heroine is torn between the warm replacement and the mother she all but forgot.  Does this outline ring a bell with anyone?

Finally, do you have a tender 1950's teenage novel that has remained steadfast in your heart?