Our House: An Innkeeper’s Journal

Norfolk Porch
JUNE 2015: Our voices echo in the cathedral ceilinged living room, the chaotic mess of someone else’s life left behind still haunting the empty rooms we now live in. Unemployed picture hooks hang in unusual spots along the walls. I put some of my pictures there despite the fact we will be caulking nail holes and painting when the days slow down.

The doggy sofa is now gone but the dirty shower curtain still hangs in the tub on the first floor. Small Nerf balls that look like colored sugar dots sprinkled on a cupcake are scattered across the floors, shot from a plastic gun. Silly string clings to the front door. Drawers in the pantry are filled with empty battery packaging, empty lightbulb boxes, broken flashlights, cords and phone chargers that no longer have a mate. Who puts these things back in the drawers? I am filling trash bags so fast I need my own landfill. I add garbage bags to the BJ’s shopping list.

We fill the pantry shelves with our belongings. We vacuum cat hair and dog fur before scrubbing the floors with Pine Sol. Our personalities overtake the rooms. This is our place now.

After a long day of cleaning I find myself lying on the couch out on the porch, my aching feet resting on a pillow, the hum of the dryer and the smell of clean towels drifting through the open door, the hemlocks in the backyard rustling with the breeze. A red-tailed hawk swoops low across the yard, disappearing into an old oak tree on the edge of our property.

Rich says something incomprehensible.

“What did you say? Why are you always mumbling?”

“I don’t mumble. You’re deaf.”

“I am going to call you Mumbles McGee from now on, after your favorite literary character Travis McGee in those James D. MacDonald books. I could write a series about two old Yankees, something like Grumpy Old Men but it’s you and the maple syrup guy. Mumbles McGee and Winter Mead.”

“I love that guy. I could talk to Winter all day long about ice fishing, snow shoeing, oystering. The topics are endless.”

Our bathroom looks like it belongs to a hoarder who collects miniature toiletries from hotel rooms. The drawers are full of mini bottles of half used shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. Small bars of soaps fill the soap dish. The waste basket is filled with empty toilet paper rolls from some obsessive ass wiper because when a roll gets more than three quarters used we remove it from the guest rooms and bring it over to our place where it quickly disappears.

When we moved from our house in New Hampshire we sold almost everything we owned. In Florida, we bought very little and I acquired some free furniture from a rich guy whose wife had recently passed away. Florida was her idea, he never liked it there and was moving back to Manhattan so I met him at the right time.

When we moved out of our apartment we gave the rich guy’s furniture to a young couple downstairs and sold our king size mattress to another young couple who were traveling in a U-Haul from Tallahasee to Pompano Beach with only a crib, a changing table, rocking chair, and a six month old baby girl.

Here at the Inn I have everything we need. There is an antique shop in the basement. I scavenger hunt for furnishings. The basement is full of lamps, Rich counted thirty. The closets are full of expensive drapery, pillows, framed artwork, and more lamps. Old crisscross windows lean against the walls of cubby holes and at the bottom of a secret staircase leading to the kitchen. I find an ornate door to a missing piece of furniture on a shelf in the laundry room. I am thinking Restoration Hardware style decorating on a shoestring.

The drawers in the pantry are filled with Linens and Things — tablecloths, pillow covers, candles, lightbulbs. Pantry cupboards are full of vases, plates, glasses. We find an old wicker love seat on the porch that is missing a seat cushion. We have the cushion from our old deck furniture that we gave to a neighbor in Florida. I use a tablecloth with a pine cone pattern to cover it.

Some of this is not exactly my style but I make it work. I dropped out of the Consumer Nation years ago. The house on River Road was a mishmash of things from our parents’ homes. The etched glass mirror from my childhood house in Rhode Island. The painting of a typical red New England barn nestled among maple trees in their full autumnal glory. The artist was Joe the Barber from Sudbury, Massachusetts where my husband grew up. He sold his paintings at the barber shop where the seven Blanchette brothers were frequent visitors.

Slowly we are making yet another home from cast-offs and found treasure. Large, elegant lamps. Fine Oriental and Turkish rugs. Heavy linen drapes sewn from expensive fabrics that will hopefully protect us from the winter wind. We create comfortable rooms that look cozy in lamplight at dusk.

Our House at Christmas


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