Authors: Carol Eron Rizzoli
THE HOUSE AT ROYAL OAK
THE HOUSE AT ROYAL OAK
Renovating a Rickety Victorian,
and Rebuilding a Life
One Room at a Time
CAROL ERON RIZZOLI
Copyright Â© 2010 by Carol Eron
All rights reserved. No part of this book, either text or illustration, may be used
or reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher.
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
151 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Workman Publishing Company
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cover and interior design by Elizabeth Driesbach
Cover photograph/illustration TK
h g f e d c b a
Excerpt from “Eden is that old-fashioned House,” by Emily Dickinson, first
published posthumously, in 1914, in
The Single Hound,
compiled by the poet's niece.
Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from
The Poems of Emily Dickinson,
Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.:
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright Â© 1951, 1955, 1979,
1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Excerpt from “The Floating Aria,” by John Barth, copyright Â© 1994
by John Barth, reprinted by permission of the author.
“The Bookstall,” by Linda Pastan, reprinted by permission of the author.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
Data available upon request.
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
TO FELLOW TRAVELERS, BOOK LOVERS,
AND THE SWEET, SIMPLE FRUITS
OF THE EARTH.
Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â
IT BEGINS WITH OPENING THE DOOR TO OTHER PEOPLE,
other lives. At times it's like being a flight attendant on a plane that never lands. At other times it's a slow-motion juggling act with the roles of chef, gardener, handyperson, psychologist, marketing specialist, bookkeeper, plumber, and at-ease host all vying for attention, along with unpredictable guests and harrowing encountersâif you settle in the country, as we didâwith wildlife and gunfire. It's always . . . interesting, this new life, always a challenge to how you go about things, to how you think, to who you are, and what you may become.
“Our lives are messages, brethren,” John Barth writes, “by our bodies embottled, afloat in the great sea of the world. We wash up on other folks' shorelines, they on ours.” Professional firefighters, a ballroom dance teacher, a television producer, a police chief, a film critic, an architect, and an art therapist come to this new home of oursâand theirsâalong with a feng shui expert, an artist of the surreal, a contractor offering a boxful of antique glass doorknobs from the house
he is renovating. A chef arrives with his own crab cakes, salad, bread, and wine to share, and a surgeon who observes, “I would guess that being responsible for the well-being of others weighs on you.” Journalists and poets come to stay and a therapist specializing in travel anxiety. On arriving, a decoy dealer spots my yard-sale duck. “I can tell you who carved it, and when,” he says. “By the way, you might want to bring it in from the porch.” Of almost a thousand visitors who have come and stayed so far, the one I see as emblematicâthe quintessential visitor with a messageâis the guest horticulturist. Opening the doors to the dining room one early Sunday morning, I was surprised to see her already there, kneeling on a folded rectangle of newspaper. My first thought was that she was praying.
Next to her I noticed my bottle of dish detergent and paper towels. Pin neat in a pleated plaid skirt and white blouse, her white hair clipped short, she, through absolutely no fault of her own, made me feel remiss. Engrossed in cleaning something, she didn't hear me come in. I set down the coffee tray and said good morning.
“Handsome Areca palm,” she said without looking up. “But you've got quite a nasty case of scale here.” I'd noticed something, I said lamely, but didn't want to spray it with chemicals.
“Of course not. But scale will kill your plant and it will spread to your other plants. I can tell you how to get completely rid of it, however. Wipe dish soap on the leaves and stems and pour soapy water into the soil.” She looked up. “Be sure to do it every week for a month.”
I thanked her, once again having learned something from a guest. She wasn't finished either. Palms, she said, are so-named because of their lovely resemblance to the human hand.