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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Little English Cottage

By A. Peri

I was three years old and filled with dread about moving. Flooded with misgivings, I stared up at this strange, new house. Would there be shadowy corners where monsters could hide? Or would they crouch in the dark underneath my bed?

My older, wiser sister warned me about the boogey-man and monsters and - she “crossed her heart and hoped to die” - she had seen them “with my own eyes” so surely they had to exist.

I turned to ask my mother if she thought this would be a scary place, but she was picking fat, pink peonies and stuffing them into a Mason jar while chatting with our new neighbors. I heard them say something about the house being an English cottage. I think it was because the basement was on the first floor and the living quarters on the second.

I don’t think my mother really knew what an English cottage was, but it sounded romantic and cozy and she liked saying, “We live in a little English cottage”.

After climbing the steep stairs, I cautiously wandered into an enclosed porch lined with 16 narrow windows all devouring the sun and gazing down onto a canopy of tall, leafy trees: apples, cherries and magnolias.

The cottage smelled of fresh paint, sticky varnish and old but clean linoleum. The parlor was just big enough to hold a satiny gold, camel-back sofa with twisted fringe all across the bottom. I loved the silky feel of the thick fringe and I diligently sat and braided it every chance I got.

My father’s brown, tweedy chair was squeezed into a corner next to the radio. I would stand on tip-toe to admire the glowing amber buttons, but was never allowed to push any of them. They belonged only to my father and it was here where he would take out a pouch of tobacco, tap the flakes onto a tissue-thin slip of paper, roll it, run his tongue across the seam and light up while listening to the news of the economy, the war and the weather.

It was here that, after slicing winds would tear through the night, my mother would come into my bedroom and whisper excitedly, “Wake up. Come see how Jack Frost painted our windows while you were asleep.” And sure enough, the little artist with the big paintbrush created opaque wonders of swirling, icy designs on every pane - each one more unique and wondrous than the next. I knew then that this was a magical place.

Year after year, it was here that I would wait for Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

It was here where I would lie in bed with the measles, mumps and chicken pox.

It was here where my baby brother would be brought home from the hospital.

It took some time for me stop looking into dark corners and peeking under my bed. I can’t remember exactly when. I think it was when I became aware that my sister wasn’t as all-knowing as she’d led me to believe. Or it could have been when I realized where I was when I always felt safe and warm.

It was here.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I enjoyed the warmth of this lovely remembrance. It must have been very cozy around that radio with the glowing amber buttons.

I had just the opposite experience when I was young.

For years,until I was 13 we lived in
what was to me a safe and warm home.

Then, my Dad got sick and we had to leave that snug wonderful place and go to another house. That's where the monsters slept under the bed and the boogey-man walked the hall at night.

Like you, it took me a long time to feel safe and warm there but my Dad had a way of making all of us kids feel content and loved.

I loved this memory!

If there is one thing that a child needs, other than the basic food/clothing/shelter necessities, it is the feeling of security---that
"safe and warm" feeling that comes with being home, wherever that home may be.

I joke that when I was a kid, we moved every time the rent came due, and sometimes it actually seemed that way, but wherever we lived, wherever Mama and Daddy were, was home.

The years have sped by, and I've had my own family and they are even all gone now, but I hope that I gave them the feeling of being "safe and warm" that this author speaks of.

As Bob Hope would say, "Thanks for the Memories!!!"

we had a radio like that, and it gave me hours of pleasure. I always felt safe and warm in my homes.

A sweet story about childhood fears and needs. In one way or another, I guess we all experienced them.

If you are loved, you always feel safe, even if it takes a while to get there.

Extraordinary details. Extraordinary descriptions. Extraordinary gift for writing.

Thank you for your comments and compliments. They mean a great deal to me.

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