The Little Green House on the Corner:  a History

The Story of The Little Green House on the Corner:  the Tale of a Cottage Remodeling Project and the History of the Finishing of a Quest 
 

The story of the Little Green House on the Corner is a tale of a small-scale quest.  This is a history of linoleum passion, light fixture love, compatibility issues, and what it took to renovate a small house in the Middle-of-Nowhere, which is the heart of Somewhere. 

 

The story of the Little Green House on the Corner is a tale of the small miracles that one finds on a road of blacktop intermixed with gravel paths.  This is the history of how vintage linoleum, cobalt blue paint, a $5.00 antique iron bed, green glass casters, and a cheerful nightlight can turn a small bedroom around.  

 

The story of the Little Green House on the Corner is a tale of a of a 1940’s film-inspired bathroom complete with biplanes, a propeller clock, old suitcases, and waiting for what onereally  wants, which in this case happens to be a Mazara pedestal sink.  This is the history of a kitchen renovation built around the previous family's after-school story of “Brown eyes and rye bread” and an old hoosier that connects their past to our present.  

  

The story of the Little Green House on the Corner is a tale of seeing the world through the lens of a million, old-fashioned roses and of new dreams discovered along the way.  This is the history of a world in which the options, though not limitless, are immense.  Thank you for joining us on this journey!!


We are driving:  the raindrops and windshield wipers are performing a waltz together.  The windshield serving as their ballroom.  The landscape flies before us at sixty miles per hour--colors sweeping by.  It is spring, that wonderful season of in-betweens.  Not cold or hot, a mixture of green newness and the gold that remains from the previous fall.  Colors blending together with the sod, sometimes rust, then again, sometimes lavender.  The country is beautiful with hill and valley intermixed and flat land existing in the in-between:  here there is an openness and a quiet.

 

As to the road we are on, the houses are sparse, and several of the homes are dilapidated.  I always wonder about these dwellings.  What are the abandoned houses' stories?  Were the people who lived in these now lonely buildings happy?  Were children ever amidst the lilacs, making mud pies?  Do these hypothetical children ever long for the home they left behind?  Do they ever tell their children about the wooden house amidst the hill and dale?  Do they, their children, or their grandchildren ever find themselves longing for the wooden house with lilacs?  Will any of them ever return back to the old familial house, making it a home once more, choosing to raise their children amidst lilacs where they, too, may make mud pies to their hearts' content?  


We are on the way to the Little Green House on the Corner to hand over the Check .  In exchange, we will receive the Abstract and the Keys. We have brought the video recorder for the future viewing enjoyment of this momentous occasion. 

 

It is now 2:37 p.m., and the house has been ours for about 15 minutes.  Bob asked if we owned it because, “then I can pick violets,” Bob declared.  Once receiving the affirmative, Bob proceeds to do so.  We go through the Little Green House on the Corner's rooms, which will be disappointed no longer, and there is a child already playing amidst the lilacs, making violet bouquets in the bushes' shadows.  We lock the door with our skeleton key and all quietly think “soon, very soon.”

Roofing and the Temperance Union


The first job that happened after our acquisition of the Little Green House on the Corner occurred on the weekend following, "Flowers, an Abstract, and a Key."  My father determined the shingles above the bathroom and part of the kitchen of the cottage were not capable of doing their designated job, and he began to plan for their prompt removal.  The only obstacle he came up against was that the matching, moss green shingles take two weeks to import to our semi-rural location.  We could not wait two weeks, afraid that our bathroom might well be nigh a swamp if the roof did not get quickly repaired given our local fortcast.  Because we were unable to get moss green shingles, we purchased white shingles, and we avoided the “swamp syndrome.”  We also found out that the flat-roofed breezeway was not the culprit to the siphoning of rainwater into the roof:  the culprit was the guttering system.   Apparently, when a leak on the roof occurred, someone would go up and stuff the gutter with gobs, large gobs, of tar.  In addition to the tar gobs, six-inch nails were driven through the gutter creating a larger leak. 

 However, apart from this discovery and its difficult removal, the roof project went fine.  It did not rain, and we even found treasure:  a whittled stick and a corkscrew are unique items to find in a roof.  My father suggests that both the bathroom and the kitchen were once open-beamed, and the stick and the corkscrew were left when the ceiling was plastered over.  I suggested that a man once lived here, who would come up to the roof, where he kept his corkscrew and whittling stick under a loose shingle.  He would drink his wine stealthily and whittle up on the roof by the light of a full moon.  His wife was president of the local temperance union, which explains his secretive behavior.  Perhaps on one of the mornings following one of his moonlit solo wine parties, he realized the gutter needed repairing, and his inebriated state explains the tar and the six-inch nail gig.

Small Miracles:  a Bedroom Complete

 When I was not assisting my father with the roof, I began  the interior renovation of the Little Green House on the Corner by ripping off wallpaper with the aid of a paint scraper/putty knife, (a tool which is also very good at removing plaster, along with wallpaper) in the small bedroom.  The removal of the wallpaper from the ceiling and the walls took until late autumn, as there were three layers of wallpaper on the walls and two layers of wallpaper on the ceiling as well as a light brown, lead paint beneath them, and as I stated before, paint scrapers are ideal at removing plaster, as well as wallpaper.  Needless to say, we had to repair the plaster.  By the time we got to the plaster repair, the weather had turned cold.  So, we turned an oil heater on to firstly warm the walls, then to dry the “mud,” and lastly, to paint and to paper the walls.  

 

The wallpaper was purchased at a thrift store for $1.75 a roll and was manufactured in Cheshire, England.  To tell the truth, we had walked by this paper three times before purchasing it.  We were undetermined of the effects of the beige/brown background of the floral printed paper.  However, after putting the paper up, all of us agree that it is most attractive.  I learned a valuable lesson when applying this wallpaper:  I learned that on certain types of wallpaper matching is not necessary.  Also, pre-pasted does not mean what it says, one has to apply paste to the paper anyway.  Wet rags are also invaluable in removing excess paste from paper joins and one’s hands. 

The border was purchased the same day as the wallpaper at a hardware store that was having a closeout sale on their wallpaper borders.  The roll was a $1.00, or less, and the border was a perfect match to the Cheshire, England, wallpaper.  We were able to have the border to cover two walls, rather than one, and matched the corner perfectly!


The story of our purchasing of items and re-allocation of pre-existing materials for this room is uncanny.  As the walls of this room had never been sealed with paint, we used a semi-gloss, white, Behr “oops” paint (paint that is brought back to the store as the color is not what the buyer wanted) that we had on hand.  The ceiling was painted with some low VOC, ivory paint from Sherwin Williams we had left over from when our back stair wall at our primary residence had given way during a high wind day, and we had to sheetrock and to paint that wall after the fallout…literally.  The Cobalt Blue trim paint came from eleven years earlier, when my father had re-done a bathroom at our previous residence. The room’s furnishings were also bought reasonably on our trader’s ship days, as spoken of in Proverbs, where the virtuous woman goes out hunting for her treasures, and who, like a trader’s ship, brings them from afar.  We purchased the iron, wooden wheeled bedframe and the green, glass casters to go beneath the bedframe's wheels both at yard sales.  The funky botanical tiebacks came from a thrift store, and the curtain rod and the nightlight were purchased at a dollar store.  The nightlight is one of my favorite features, along with the glass casters.  In the afternoon, the casters glow with an emerald light, and at night, the nightlight reminds me of my great-grandparents’ Ancestor Room, the walls of which were lined with familial photographs with their eyes starring uncomfortably out at the viewer, where I remember staying as a small child with my parents.  All those eyes disturbed me, but when I saw that familiar cut-plastic nightlight glowing comfortingly in the nearby outlet and the moonlight filtering through the lace curtains, the room seemed peaceful, rather than demanding.    

As I consider the present status of this small bedroom (the size of some peoples' closets), I look back on its past:  the remnants of that black and silver wallpaper, the light brown ceiling, the lilacs outside the window, and the patch job left from where that oh-so-sophisticated fixture once hung from the ceiling.  Once they were all as gleaming as the ivory-painted ceiling, the glass castors, and the nightlight are now.  However, all that remains of these relics now is a plaster job made by a previous tenant to cover where a glorious retro fixture hung, and the lilac bushes beyond the window.  I imagine an elegant woman in her bustled attire sitting on her bed with ornately carved posts and headboard in quiet ecstasy as she gazes at her rich black with silver highlights wallpaper.  She then lays down and looks up at her light brown ceiling with its early electric light fixture, and she closes her eyes, sighing contentedly as the scent of lilacs wafts gently in through the open window.  And she, like me, nearly forgets the loaves in her oven and pulls them out a little more done, as usual.  

 

Over a hundred and forty years later, as I stand in the doorway and admire the small bedroom, I feel like the past and the present are not too distant, or too dissimilar, as I flop on the bed in my Lucky shirt and jeans, admiring the low VOC, ivory painted ceiling, looking over the oh-so-sophisticated redo.  Then, though neither elegant, nor bustled, I let my imagination bring out the better in me, and I reach out my hand one hundred and forty years into the past, and with my Sketchered feet firmly in the current era, I excitedly encourage the elegant and bustled woman into the present.  “See,” I say, “see the elegant low VOC, ivory painted ceiling and the Cobalt Blue painted trim?  Is not "Cobalt Blue" a lovely name?”  She nods in agreement and asks what VOC’s are. She will then go to the window, and she will gaze out at the lilacs in their full glory.  Turning back with a sure and a certain smile, “it is elegant, just as it was at the beginning.  They still bloom,” she will say, and then, sniffing, she will suggest that I check my oven.  As I hasten out of the room, I will hear her say, “Some things never change,” and I will feel glad.  When I return, she will have vanished.

Persuasion, Biplane Bathrooms, a Mazara Sink, Ophelia Sconces, and a China Hutch
 
For my birthday, I received two Ophelia sconces to hang on either side of the Mazara sink in the bathroom.  As yet, the gutting process continues with lathe removal in the kitchen and plaster and lath removal in the living room and the Majestic bedroom.  As I wrote a friend, we are eager to paint more walls and get the remodel finished, but this, like all good things, will come to those who have patience.  Yes, we want to have the rooms gutted, and yes, we want the insulation up.  We even want to plumb, which is saying something, considering my father hates plumbing, and I don’t have a clue when it comes to that type of thing.  We want to wire, if it gets us closer to the goal of a finished D2 dwelling (livable residence).  I even don’t really mind sheet-rocking, except for the ceilings, as I have helped my father with that at a previous residence, and I have determined that some jobs were created for three men who arrive at one’s door in a construction truck. 

 

We want to pull up that awful linoleum in the bathroom, to find a beautiful tongue and groove, wooden floor beneath, and to add tin and unfinished pine to the sheet-rocked walls.  We wish for the installation of the clearance, double-paned side-slide window we purchased.  We fancy the Mazara sink and its fitting Moen faucet with exchangeable porcelain or stainless steel screw-in handles in its rightful place, with the vintage 1950’s medicine cabinet above it, and the Ophelia sconces on either side.  We would like to hang up the airplane propeller clock and the mini biplanes we purchased in the finished room.    

Then, we want to finish the rest.  The cherry-themed kitchen.  Our hopes are high as we dream of living room lofts that lead to a theater room and guest quarters, a finished living room with comfortable chairs and welcoming bookshelves, the Majestic bedroom in all its cinematographic glory, and the porch and the rest of the exterior of LGH; newly painted and new guttering installed.  We have further visions as well:  a new breezeway, a porch, and a weaver’s studio with a guest loft.

Patience is a virtue, and it is true that he who possesses this virtue can have nearly anything he wants, given enough time.  My favorite novel by Jane Austen is Persuasion, my favorite character of all her novels, Anne Elliot.  Anne is patient, enduring is her crowning virtue.  Anne Elliot is strong, courageous and determined to do what she feels is right no matter what the world around her believes.  She is persuadable,  but as reader’s see, persuasion is not a fault, "She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favor of happiness as a very resolute character."  Jane Austen, from Persuasion.  All may admire the wit and the stubborn pride and prejudice of Elizabeth Bennet in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but Elizabeth is blinded by the very traits readers admire.  Emma Woodhouse, in Austen’s Emma, is also blinded by always believing herself to be correct and by refusing to be persuaded otherwise until she sees her faults, which are handed back to her through her dealings with Miss Harriet Smith, Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Frank Churchill, etc.  In fact, it is in nearly all of Miss Austen’s works that we find that the heroines succeed only when they are persuaded that they are not always right.  As Anne Elliot, Fanny Price, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, etc. discover, life does not always turn out the way one thinks, or imagines, but it usually turns out right in the end. 

 

For my birthday, I watched the latest version of Persuasion, starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, which is my favorite as Anne gets a mansion, rather than a boat, as the late nineties film version starring Ciarian Hinds and Amanda Root, ended.  Some may long for adventure, but others long for a place to come back to, a place to call home.  As I begin a new year, I realize we have come a long way on the Little Green House on the Corner:  we have  seen fire and we have seen rain--literally as a light fixture exploded and the roof leaked before repairs were made.  As one of my favorite quotes states, “a carelessly planned project will take three times as long to finish as one expects.  A carefully planned project will only take  twice as long.”  We will get there:  we will finish the renovating of the Little Green House on the Corner into a home, and she will be beautiful  when complete, and while we are in this process of transformation, we are persuaded that we should enjoy the journey!

Letting Go, Holding On
 

Recently, I have been busy sorting through my menagerie of possessions, I have been asking probing questions,  and I have gained a bit of self-insight.  I have come to discover that letting go of some things is actually freeing.  Just because I have a shirt that I have owned since I was fourteen does not mean I need to preserve it for posterity.  I know very little about the future, but I am sure that if it does hold posterity, it will also hold clothes for them.  Books are a large part of my possessions, and my love of them was inherited from my mother, who read me My Antonia when I was six, and from my great-grandfather, sixteen generations back, William Brewster, who brought two barrels of books with him on the Mayflower.  Nonetheless, I have come to believe that if a book does not speak to me, I can send it on its merry way.  However, there are the non-negotiables:  back away from Tom Bombadil, the extensive Jane Austen Collection, the Winston Churchill books, and no one will get hurt.

I have come to understand that you gotta stay happy, because you can’t take it with you.  Old movies are a minor obsession for me, and two of my favorite films are You Gotta Stay Happy and You Can’t Take It With YouYou Gotta Stay Happy is a 1948 film starring Jimmy Stewart, Joan Fontaine, and Eddie Albert concerning a madcap adventure in a Gooney Bird with a runaway heiress, an ill-humored chimp, some overly-bubbly newlyweds, and an embezzler.  The lead female character in the film, Dee Dee, lives her life on the whim of the moment, while the lead male character in the film, Mr. Payne, has his life planned out years in advance.  The point of the film is that joy should be pursued, even if it changes your whims to something of a more permanent nature or doesn’t fit into your schedule.  You Can’t Take It With You stars Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Lionel Barrymore.  The film is story of an interesting family that does what they like to do because life is far too short to not have any fun and to just have lots of money.  I love the way the film opens with a little man, Mr. Poppins, adding things up and making his first calculation mistake in twenty years because someone talked to him and how the film ends with Mr. Poppins fulfilling his dream of making up things into mechanical wonders and dancing a haphazard jig.  The film is zany, but in essence it asks a serious question—is what we are living for truly worth our lives? 

What is important to me will define me and fill my life, so it is of paramount importance that what matters to me is really worth what it will cost me.  I am a hobbit-at-heart, and I want to be sure of certain things, and I can become as greedy as the next hobbit when it comes to holding on and resisting changes, like sending two to three trunk-loads of things to the thrift. I like to know I will be with the china I like and the books I am familiar with, etc..  However, the conclusion I have come to is that though permanency in itself is not bad, if constancy in dwelling or in things becomes important rather than those who fill my life, then I will become jaded.  

 

The Hobbit film trilogy is interesting to me because Bilbo starts out on his quest with the loud, cranky, and unhygienic dwarves because of a harebrained wanderlust.  However, he presses on when he could have snuck away for one reason and for one reason only:  his belief that the dwarves are fighting to regain their home, which is a physical place for them.  I believe this is because interpersonal skills run none to high in this group of gregarious characters, and because it is hard for them to develop relationships as they tend to be greedy for material gain of a shiny nature.  Therefore, people as home are not very viable options for them.  However, there are two apparent exceptions:  Fili’s character in the film truly cares for his brother, Kili, and Kili’s character in the film appears to be trying to have his family tree fork with the love-interest of Tauriel.  I do like the banding-of-the-brothers, so to speak, and I can’t help but understand that if you can find a way to get a brave, shining woman and have a chance to have taller progeny with less facial hair, you would try to do so, if you were even a semi-smart dwarf.  At the end of The Hobbit book and the film trilogy however, the conclusion is quite clear, contentment with the life the dwarves made for themselves and for their families is better than the death caused by attempting to regain the family treasury and their homeland.  As Tolkien concludes in The Hobbit, food and music make the world a happier place than gold any day.  

 

Home is where the heart is, and for me, that is with those I care about, because they are what matter, and they are what last:  it's an eternal bond.  As for the books, the dishes, the objects of a shiny nature, the Hobbit Holes, etc. staying constant, in the end, what do they matter?  As much as I like the idea of permanency in such, change is inevitable, and that is a good thing. Change causes us to be brave, to try new things, to be open to the possibilities it presents us with, if only we have the eyes and the inclination to see the opportunity hidden within its gift because many of life’s joys are in  the journey and through the changes. 

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