Monday, June 18, 2007

The Lives of Others

One of the side-benefits of my monthly piano group is seeing where other people live. From the exterior many of the houses on Capitol Hill look the same, but beyond the front door, it’s a different story.

Yesterday we met at Polly’s house. Polly’s name alone seems like a throw-back to another era. But her house goes back even further. It was built around the time of the Civil War as a grocery store. How do they know? There are oyster shells in the plaster instead of lime because lime was not available during the war. As a result the plaster sometimes falls off the walls in big clumps. But it was all nicely intact yesterday. The room housing the Boston grand piano has a ceiling at least 25 feet high with exposed wooden beams. The walls contain 17th century prints that are exquisite. A 20-foot ficus tree stands between the piano and the glass doors overlooking a beautiful oval raised swimming pool fed by flowing water which is open to the sky in the center of the house.

The library behind the swimming pool is so extensive that they must have one of those movable sets of stairs to reach the top shelves. The books are all about art of past centuries. Polly is also an art historian, specializing in the art of Paris and Rome in the 17th century.

Polly’s daughter May is perhaps the most beautiful 8-year-old little girl I have ever seen. She too looks and behaves like a child of a time long ago. She has long blond curls and was wearing a floor-length skirt. She resembled a porcelain doll.

The most remarkable of yesterday’s piano offerings was by May, who sat at the large piano with her feet resting on two wooden boxes and played a beautiful sonatina by memory. Her technique was flawless, as is the case with many children who study the Suzuki method. Her fingers moved effortlessly and had just the right curve to them.

It was fun to play three movements of a sonata by Antoniotti with Deborah on the big black piano. Despite the fact that the B below middle C was out of commission, we did just fine. The piece had a signature with B flat fortunately.

What a rare opportunity to glimpse this gem of a house tucked away behind an exterior that blended perfectly with those of the other row houses on the block. What a realization that the lives of others are sometimes so different from mine.


Blogger Richard said...

Sounds like a lovely house, definitely outside my affordability range.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

How interesting and it sounds like the people arew too. It's neat to see inside other people's houses. We're pretty ordinary actually except the house was built in 1920 so it does have some nice wood baseboards and trim and some neat pocket doors with cut glass panes.
I liked your room where you hosted your friends' concert!

4:43 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Houses are like people, aren't they? Their facades can be deceiving...

9:27 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Is this a house or a museum? These people almost seem unreal or of a different time. I'll take our house and its inhabitants, thank you.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

As always, I enjoyed the post. Looking into other people's lives is something I've taken for granted at times. I like Pauline's comment.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I can only imagine how much this house would cost. Outside my range as well.

MOI -- Our family room suits us just fine, just as the "great room" must suit this family.

Pauline -- You get the prize for the quote of the day. You are so correct.

David -- It's a museum that is being lived in. It is all just a bit unreal. And, yes, I wouldn't trade our house, but it was a treat to see it.

Kristin -- Can you imagine how boring life would be if we all lived in identical spaces. It's this variety that makes life and people interesting.

6:23 PM  

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