In our 1928 Dutch Colonial, there are old cast-iron radiators, and in the long, narrow living room, there is one long radiator beneath a double window. The floor plan of the room presents challenges. The vestibule opens right across from the door to the kitchen, and there really is no way not to have that divide the space into one small space to the right as you enter and one large space to the left.
It's not a space designed for modern living.
When we moved into the house in 1998, the living room became a holding area for things that belonged to my parents and grandmothers, other people's living room furniture. When Pure Luck first came into our lives, he defined it as "old lady." It didn't matter to me much because we used the sun room as our family room: the place we hung out together, watched TV, talked, received visitors.The living room served as the place for a party or the Christmas tree. The small side had just enough space on one wall for my spinet piano from childhood and on the shorter opposite wall for the oversized china cupboard passed down from my great-grandmother. We rarely inhabited the other end, the one with the fireplace, and the oriental rug I love from childhood, and an assortment of over-fancy end tables and such.
This had to change when we added a tall man and two big dogs to the family. We needed more space to hang out together. I brought in a carpenter to create a TV shelf for the built-in bookcase by the fireplace. We reupholstered a couch and brought it down from #1 Son's room, and the same with a chair from my room. We made the fireplace more appealing to use by taking off the glass doors and the filthy "curtain."
We moved out the uncomfortable and fancy furniture from olden days.
I realized it did not fit the live we were living.
That life became increasingly casual as I saw the havoc created by the two big dogs. Washable slipcovers became part of the equation. There are still touches of long ago, in particular two old chairs I love (my grandmother's rocker, my mother's corner chair), but on the whole the emphasis is on comfort and community, within the limits of a long, rectangular room.
Except for moving another rocking chair in and out to make room for the Christmas tree, we haven't moved or changed the furniture for years. And I realized that's not like me. I've always loved moving the furniture around. Dorm rooms and bedrooms were rearranged regularly. But with this living room, I had reached the conclusion there was only one way to make it work.
Then I pulled a throw off the back of the couch and felt how warm it was from sitting right above the radiator, and it struck me that all the radiator could possibly be doing was heating up the back of the couch.
This morning, Pure Luck humored me by moving the furniture.I'm sitting on my couch, typing this, warmed by the now exposed radiator. I'm looking at my house, my world, from a different angle.
There have been many times in my life that I convinced myself there was only one way to do something. Many. At crucial moments, I've rooted myself in one way of looking at the future, one way of reckoning the possibilities.
What moves us to try something new, to see a different way become clear?
Sometimes it's as simple as a practical realization. It's cold this weekend, very cold, and I want to feel the heat the radiator can give me! I wonder, what else have I been muffling? And what will I need to rearrange to stop it?