The author of Cottage for Sale, Kate Whouley, at first strikes me as a little…mmmm, fastidious. But I want to keep reading when she admits to compulsively scanning the want ads in the Pennysaver. That’s how she finds her cottage, which she has trucked over to her small house on Cape Cod.
“The main thing is we get it over here onto the foundation,” her contractor says when she suggests adding the cottage to her house. “Then, we build the connecting passageway, and finally we marry the houses together.”
Kate says, “Marry the houses together. I love the language. I love the image. I love the metaphor.” Kate writes that the cottage is a first step toward opening up her life:
“First comes the cottage, I remind myself–the place to write, the space to share. I have no doubt that opening up my workspace will also open up my work. And taking the work out of the bedroom? Surely that can only help in the romance department. Create the space, I tell myself. The man will arrive when I have room for him. In the meantime, I have this cottage to move.”
I’m shaking my head no as I read this. That’s not how it works. You don’t meet men by adding on to your house. It turns out I’m wrong. You DO meet men by adding on to your house: contractors and plumbers, architects and cottage movers. True, most of them are older men and married, but they are men and they know other men.
The real pull in this book is Kate’s solitude. Even more than Kate, I love her little Cape Cod house, the quiet days at home with her cat, Egypt, her travels, her work, her calm life:
“The darkness in my bedroom is interrupted by the nearly full moon. The moonlight travels through the skylight in the hallway, shadowed by white mullions on the two new windows over my bed. The rectangular patterns of silver light play on the center of the pale blue pillowcase next to me. When Egypt claims that very spot, he draws the moonlight into his fur until it disappears.”
As Kate is yearning for someone to share her life, I’m wishing for the Cape Cod cottage, the clean, the quiet, the solitude. I’ve brought back some heirloom tomatoes from Berkeley Bowl along with Acme baguettes and a few loaves of sweet batard, and I’ve set everything out so I can read at the table. Then the kids are back, and the calm is replaced by noise:
“Tomatoes!I want some!Did you get the yellow ones too or only the red ones?Man, these tomatoes are fat (phat?)Where did you go?Did you get other breads because I don’t like the wide kind?Is this dinner or are you going to cook something real?Did you go to Berkeley?You never said you were going to Berkeley.Why did you go to Berkeley?Rachel got more of the baguette than I did. Mommmmmmmmm.” (Imagine various slapping sounds here.)
Why can’t we combine our lives, I wonder. Why does family mean giving up quiet thought? And why is it that when we have the calm and the quiet, we want marriage and family or at least the right person to make us feel less lonely?
“These tomatoes are the bomb. Thanks Mom,” says Danny, sitting across from me. I look up and he gives me a grin, rare as rain in the summertime here. “You’re welcome Dan,” I say. “Thanks for staying to eat with me.” And suddenly I don’t envy Kate’s cottage at all.