A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Emory House B & B

I have lived in the Pascal Emory House for nearly three years. It's a hulking three-story Victorian, a.k.a. white elephant. Many are surprised to learn that it is not broken up into apartments, as are many similar homes in my neighborhood. "Why don't you rent out part of it?" they want to know. "What do you mean, you're using the whole thing!?"

Not too long after I moved in, I had a visit from the assessor. "Seven bedrooms?" was one of the questions he asked me. Four, actually, I replied. It seems that the last owner, who had done some remodeling, had not gotten any permits for the work, and the City was unaware of improvements. What must have been at least two bedrooms had been turned into a loft over the kitchen, and at least one more lost when a front-to-back living room/kitchen had been created on the third floor. The first floor is a very spacious front parlor, dining room, den, and living room. The second floor is three bedrooms, plus loft. The third floor is a kind of mother-in-law apartment, with plenty of privacy, but no separate entrance.

I gave my youngest child the entire third floor. "YES!!!" he said when I made the offer. "Finally I've got something that Cordelia and Ali never had!" I took the middle bedroom on the second floor, because with the loft it formed a kind of suite. Ali ended up with the front bedroom, large and sunny, with four windows, a fireplace, and a marble sink in a small alcove. He called it "the douchebag room." Boo-hoo, no kitchen or attached loft. Poor kid.

The remaining bedroom was originally occupied by six ferrets. I made it into a giant weasel playroom, complete with mulitlevel pens, toys, hammocks, and hidey-holes. Three of the ferrets went home to Worcester when friend Richard got back from Cancún, two eventually died, and Zuzu is still with me, but she's been downsized to a spacious cage. The ferret hostelry became the catchall room, the room with the always-shut door. The room which is never included in the tour.

Fast-forward to summer, 2006. The West Coast branch of the fam all decide to go forty years and 3000 miles back in time, back to Springfield, Massachusetts, for a traditional New England Thanksgiving. Cicily rashly starts inviting them all to stay in her huge house. Some of them accept. Suddenly it's November and beds have to be found. Cicily realizes she's never had to provide a bed, let alone a room, for a guest during her entire tenure at the Emory House.

At the eleventh hour, ladders and boxes went down into the cellar, and featherbeds, lace curtains, a needlepointed Victorian rocking chair, a Persian rug, and an old trunk came up from it. Cutwork pillows, embroidered runners, and antimacassars got pulled from drawers. Pictures were hung. A selection of interesting books from my collection were transported to the bookshelves. A cheval mirror migrated across the hall from my bedroom.

The Emory House B & B was open for business. I thought it looked quite charming, knowing what it had been a mere twelve hours earlier. It was an equally pleasant shock for my visiting cousin, coming from southern California, land of breezy patios and Mexican tiles. Can you say "quaint?"



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