In our 1928 Dutch Colonial, there are old cast-iron radiators, and in the long, narrow living room, there is one long radiator beneath a double window. The vestibule opens right across from the door to the kitchen, and there really is no way not to have that divide the space into one small space to the right as you enter and one large space to the left.

It’s not a space designed for modern living.

When we moved into the house in 1998, the living room became a holding area for things that belonged to my parents and grandmothers, other people’s living room furniture. When my husband, Don, first came into our lives, he described it as ”old-lady.” It didn’t matter to me much because we used the sun room as our family room. The living room served as the place for a party or the Christmas tree.

The small side held my spinet piano from childhood and the oversized china cupboard passed down from my great-grandmother. We rarely inhabited the other end, the one with the fireplace and the Oriental rug I love from childhood, and an assortment of over-fancy end tables and such.

This had to change as the children grew older and larger, and we then added a tall man and two big dogs to the family. We needed more space to hang out together.

We modified the built-in bookcase to hold a TV. We reupholstered a couch and brought in a comfortable chair. We updated the fireplace and moved out the uncomfortable and fancy furniture from olden days.

I realized it did not fit the life we were living.

There are still touches of long ago, in particular two old chairs I love (my grandmother’s rocker, my mother’s corner chair), but on the whole the emphasis is on comfort and community, within the limits of a long, rectangular room.

Except for moving another rocking chair in and out to make room for the Christmas tree, we haven’t moved or changed the furniture for years. And I realized that’s not like me. I’ve always loved moving the furniture around. I rearranged dorm rooms and bedrooms regularly. But with this room, I had reached the conclusion there was only one way to make it work.

Then on a chilly winter evening, I pulled a throw off the back of the couch and felt how warm it was from sitting right above the radiator, and it struck me that the only thing the radiator could possibly be doing was heating up the back of the couch.

The next morning, Don humored me by moving the furniture. I’m sitting on my newly arranged couch, typing this, warmed by the now exposed radiator. I’m looking at my house, my world, from a different angle.

There have been many times in my life that I convinced myself there was only one way to do something. At crucial moments, I’ve rooted myself in one way of looking at the future, one way of reckoning the possibilities.

What moves us to try something new, to see a different way become clear? Sometimes it’s as simple as a practical realization. It’s cold this weekend, very cold, and I want to feel the heat the radiator can give me!

I wonder, what else have I been muffling? And what will I need to rearrange to stop it?

The Rev. Martha Hoverson lives in Portland and is interim associate pastor at First Parish Church in Yarmouth. She may be reached at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.