I was proud of my grandparents’ living room. It seemed huge, and it had nine doors. How could I not brag about a room with so many ways in and so many ways out?
For the first year of my life the living room was where my extended family rocked and cuddled and cared for me. As I grew older, my brother and cousins joined me there to play hide-and-seek, watch television, and listen to the aunts and uncles chat over Sunday afternoon tea.
My grandmother let my mother and her siblings and friends push aside the carpet for roller skating, parties, and dancing. This was only possible because in the 1920’s my grandparents tore down walls and turned what had been two or three rooms into this one large space.
My great-grandmother wrote in her journals about the parlor, the sitting room, the front room, the west room and the downstairs “chambers.” She never mentioned a living room. I don’t know what the old footprint of the rooms was, but there was originally a large central chimney with a fireplace on each side, one for the parlor and one for the sitting room. These fireplaces were removed during the expansion and a new chimney and fireplace built at the west end.
The two windows at the west end of the room that looked out onto Muddy River and the orchards were the inspiration for my “Window” series of monoprints, and the memory of the many doors in the living room fueled my ongoing fascination with views into and out of rooms. A door at my grandma and grandpa Crump’s house in downtown Wallingford is the subject of a 1990 painting.
Here’s a list of the nine doors in the farmhouse living room:
- The door into the dining room.
- The door behind the desk (an unused door into the bathroom.)
- The door to the back staircase.
- The door to the back bedroom
- The door to the side yard.
- The west door to the parlor
- The east door to the parlor.
- The front hallway door
- The door to the closet under the stairs
Some doors, like the door to the bathroom, remained closed. Others, like the door into the dining room, stayed open. But with so many doors there was always the sense of life going on inside and out and the feeling of endless places to explore. In a room whose function was never strictly defined, there was always something to do. The possibilities felt endless.
On Wednesday: Baked Beans