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Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 118, No. 6 (June, 1931)

Connolly, Vera
Out where the green begins,   pp. 13-14 PDF (1.4 MB)


Page 14

DELINEATOR
When wet weather came it came-inside and out
everything, she urged, that might need mending or re-
placing.
Probably I agreed to do so. I did note the wild tangle
of grass; but the lawn, I told myself happily, could be
"brought back." I also noted, anew, the really shocking
need of house paint; but I decided then and there to paint
the little house myself. It would be "fun."
We reached the front door. It delighted me, for it was
genuinely ancient: a relic from some old home. The agent
opened it, and we entered a tiny hall. Quaintness,
quaintness everywhere! Low ceilings! Cornices above
doors and windows! There were three bedrooms, a mod-
em bathroom, a small kitchen, a large living-room with a
really old, handcarved mantel-and at the rear, a large
wire-enclosed porch. These constituted the little story-
book cottage.
As we stepped out upon the rear porch my infatuation
became ecstasy. For with the house went the view. And
what a view! Below us, the wooded hillside tumbled
sharply down to a road, then rose again beyond it, rear-
ing itself against a sunset sky aflame with beauty.
"This view settles it!" I said. "I will take the house."
So the deal was virtuallv closed. In the days that
followed there were a few preliminaries. Some questions
were submitted to the owner, who lived in a nearby state.
These she answered honestly and patiently to the very best
of her knowledge. She had not lived in the little house for
some time.
In less than two weeks, my family and I had moved in.
Those glamourous first weeks in our little rose-em-
broidered country home-after the dirt and grind and
roar of New York! How shall I ever convey to you the
humor and thrill of that period?
First, being city people, we kept blundering, comically.
We did everything the wrong way.
For instance, there were my two hornets. Pa and Ma
Hornet I named them. They had built a cosy home out-
side my bedroom window, right alainst the glass. All
the little cells were filled with future babies. I arrived
just in time to see the first ones beginning to hatch out.
Pa, all aflutter, flew away, returning with an armful of
sticky green stuff. Ma snatched some of it from him,
kneaded it, and began pushing it toward the cells. Pres-
ently out of one cell came a wee black head, belonging to
a tiny creature swathed in woolly stuff for all the world
like a baby in a blanket.
For several days I revelled in this unfolding domestic
drama. I grew fond of Pa and Ma. And me, with the
glass between us. they didn't mind.
Then came tragedy. One morning a workman, mis-
understanding. slid down hastily from the roof, where he
was examining a rotted ridge-pole, and obligingly knocked
the whole houseful of babies to the ground.
"You didn't kill them?" I demanded.
He stared at me. "Say-are you crazy?"
And a few days later I understood his viewpoint. F or
these winged creatures were a pest that summer. Swarms
of them occupied porch and grounds. Finally, one morn-
ing there was an angry bellow from our old R. F. D. mail
carrier. I looked out. He sat enthroned and raging in his
cherry-red cart, sucking a fist. That told me the worst.
The hornets had made a nest in our metal letter-box at
the roadside. I dared not face our carrier then. I staved
under cover until he had driven on. Then two city women,
of whom I was one, sallied forth and banged the box with
brooms. Two city women were stung.
Next day I appealed humbly to the workman.
"How can we get those hornets out of our letter-box?"
He spat, then gave me a long, scornful look.
"You city folks! Them ain't hornets. Them's wasps.
Ain't you afraid I might kill a few of 'em? No? Wa'all-
get me a bit of blanket."
I hastily brought him a large ragged blanket.
"Is this big enough?" I asked.
Again I received a contemptuous glance. He tore a tiny
scrap from the blanket, lighted it, thrust the smoking
fragment into the box, and strolled away to his work. The
hornets" quickly departed from that home.
Whereupon I slipped back into the house, to my study.
And there, with no eye to see, I tore to pieces, in deep
shame, the beginnings of a little essay on the life of the
Hornet. Thus began and ended my contributions to
natural science.
N EXT came the rye bread episode. As we were about
a mile and a half from town or store, and I had no
car, we two city women found ourselves facing potential
starvation on a heavenly country road only an hour's
train ride from New York City.
Neighbors came to the rescue. (God bless neighbors!)
One of them gave us the phone number of a grocery store
that would deliver. Another promised to have a certain
bakery wagon stop. As this wagon, driven by Hungarians,
came at dawn, and we are later risers, I left with her an
order for a loaf of rye bread.
The manna fell. But-what-size manna! On our front
porch next morning, when we drowsily emerged at eight-
thirty, reposed a round, flat cartwheel of rye bread which
left me speechless. It would have made toast for a whole
company of soldiers, with some left over for the cook.
I heaved the thing up, dragged it indoors, found no
container big enough for it, hacked it up and stuffed parts
of it in all the canisters available. Anything to get it out
of sight! It was rather gruesome, like trying to hide the
body.
I hastily phoned my good neighbor. She and husband
had put children, dog and radio in the family chariot, and
gone off for a vacation.
So that evening I wrote a message-"No Bread Today"
-on a large sheet of wrapping paper, and pinned it to my
gate. Then I slept the sleep of the just. Next morning,
on our front porch, rested a blood-brother of the cart-
wheel loaf of the previous day. Our bakery friends, you
see, were Hungarians. They did not read English. I
learned this much after a frantic canvass of the neigh-
borhood ladies. None of these ladies patronized this
baker. No one knew where he lived or made the bread, or
even his name. But he did speak English, I was told.
So that night I kept vigil. Twice, on false alarms, I
grabbed my flashlight and dashed out to the gate. But it
was not the bakery wagon. That morning it did not come
at all!
The following night, worn out, I slept through till
five: when retreating steps and the bang of my gate
awakened me. I flew to the window. "Hi!" I yelled.
Either my voice was drowned in the rattle of departing
wheels, or else "Hi" in Hungarian means "Goodbye."
During the next few days I had no time to think of the
steadily-arriving bread, except when I dragged it indoors
every morning and tried to find a place to put it. (The
kitchen was full, and it was overflowing into the living-
room.) I had no time for bread worries. For a whole
avalanche of other troubles descended on my ignorant,
impulsive, home-buying head.
I had bought charming lines, green shutters, pink roses
and a view. The things I had not bought were a good roof
on house or porch, a dry cellar, good plumbing, a good
drainage system, a garage, a good furnace-in fact, a
house in any sort of repair. I had bought a little house
that was sick through and through. Its ailments were
grave, and they were external and internal both.
Now this was no one's fault but mine. I hereby exon-
erate all others of any responsibility in the matter. The
house was sitting by the roadside for anyone to examine
freely before purchasing. If I leaped, instead of pausing
to examine-whom can I blame except my foolish self?
Well then, I must be game. I must try to improve the
little jade I had chosen "for better or worse." I could at
least fix up her bonnet and give her a new white dress.
THERE followed dark days. A period of buyer's blues.
Painters and contractors came and went. The house
rang with workmen's advice-all of it conflicting. My
house was (verbally) painted every hue of the rainbow,
with every known grade of paint, and with from one to
three coats.
I sent them all away. I bought me some paint. I put
on an old smock. (But forgot to wrap my head.) And I
began to paint my residence. Fortunately I started on
the inside of the rear porch. Had it been the outside of
the house?-I shiver. We could never, there, have un-
done my artistic labors. Grimly I stayed with it. I
painted my hair first. That off hand, I painted my shoes
and stockings. I even got some paint, in gummy pools,
on the entire interior surface of that porch.
It didn't look just as it should, somehow. I wasn't
slick enough. I had painted little landscapes as I went
along-you know, mountains and rivers. But it was
white. That nobody could deny, or has ever denied. That
porch looked painted!
I went to bed, elated. I would paint the entire house'
But as I gathered up my loaf of rye bread next morning,
and began rolling the thing kitchenwards, I caught a sud-
den glimpse of the inside of my porch. I sat down sud-
denly on the nearest chair. I remained there for a long,
long time. It was a battle of the soul. The artist in me
cried out for "another chance"-for just one more bucket
of paint. But, horse-sense prevailed. Humbly, I tele-
phoned for one of the painters whom I had sent away, and
gave out a contract for the painting of my house.
So my poor little gal got a new white dress with green
trimmin's; and her leaky, ten-year-old hat was fixed up
jauntily with judicious patches. That was the beginning.
From then on I employed the entire state of Connecticut.
Various plumbing gentlemen (those terrifying house-
surgeons) took out most of Sally's insides, and put back
new ones. Then we gave her a new green carpet to sit on:
this through the efforts of a country-boy-genius who trans-
formed my wild grass into a velvety lawn almost over-
night. A strange one, that boy! I suspect him of witch-
craft. Or he may be in the confidence of the "little
people." For when he appears, weeds simply shrink
away. They know their master. And the green lawn-
grass, and the flowers, spring to do his bidding.
Next arose the question of a garage. Much excited
talk. We didn't need a car. We did need a car. Couldn't
afford one. Must have one. Many advisers. (I counted
103). And then, the arrival of car salesmen in armies!
They must have dropped down in airplanes.
T ALL boiled down to one inevitable comment from my
friends and foes alike. You can't live, out in the country,
without a car. Gradually, as my house developed more
and more ailments, I understood the slogan. One must
have a car, tricycle, perambulator, airplane, motor-cycle,
wheel-barrow, anything that will get one away, part of
the time at least, from the real estate mess one has bought.
Otherwise, the average home-buyer would go mad.
I perceived the truth of this. I must buy a car. But
-where to put it? Next day, ground was broken for a
garage. A two-car garage; because the real estate agents
warned me that if I ever had a chance to sell the place (if
the moon is made of green cheese), a one-car garage
would block the sale. Absolutely!
By now I had listed my pet with all the real estate folk,
hoping some other city bumpkin might fall for her charms.
That is, I would list the house every evening when the
gloomy shadows fell; and every morning, when flowers
and bees and humming birds and gorgeous sunshine came
back, I would phone the agents, taking it off the market,
or proudly raising the price.
For eight weeks the sound of hammer and cement-
mixer competed with the tireless yipping of katydids and
locusts. And things got done.
One by one, my major troubles seemed to be disap-
pearing. The roof was fixed, the house painted, the gar-
den brought back, the plumbing     (Turn to page 105)
IlluIIrations by
HELEN HOKINSON
n
I couldn't move her until something aroused her pity


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