Season's Greetings from Antoinette Stockenberg

Newport cottage under construction 12K DECK THE HALLS ...

And so they have. With sledge hammers. Saws. Crowbars. And strong bare hands. This photo was taken just a few short weeks ago (and approximately a hundred and thirty-two years into this endless, exhausting renovation). Have you wondered why I've been hiding from my own website since May?

Wonder no more.

No kidding, a renovation/addition project is nothing to be sneezed at. I honestly believed (silly me) that construction would be done by the agreed-on date, July 1. That would give me plenty of time to tidy the garden and wallpaper a room or two (maybe, gee, even get a little writing in) before my sister and her family arrived on vacation in August.

Not. They spent ten days in a house with no inside walls; a toilet on the first floor with no door (we used a folding screen); a shower on the second floor with no door (folding screen); and nails protruding from just about every vertical and horizontal surface around. We had to be out by eight and couldn't come back (rain or shine) until four-thirty. We had to stuff pillows and blankets into garbage bags every morning, cover the sofas and beds with plastic sheets, and think long and hard about what we might need by way of food or clothing before we left.

We should have been miserable--but we had a ball. The weather hot and sunny and perfect for the beach. (You're never too old to boogie-board.) Besides, it was so great for my sister and me to be on a vacation together at last that the house became a minor (okay, a major) nuisance--but no more than that. And next year! Boy, wait until next year. We'll have electricity and even more indoor plumbing next year.

Once my sister left, however, I began to get incredibly impatient for the project to be done. After all, digging began April 1 and it was now August. Maybe by my birthday, I thought. September came and went. How about Halloween? Boo! (Hoo.) Thanksgiving? Not likely. Matter of fact, the kitchen stove spent Thanksgiving on the back porch and we ate at a restaurant for the first time in our lives. Christmas seems a worthwhile goal to aim for. It would be nice to get our furniture, not to mention our winter clothes, out of storage by the holiday. (Did I mention that the stove has been banished to the porch again? The floor man's done, but the painters have arrived.)

I do have my office. That's the good news. I'm sharing it with two locked-up, squirrely cats and a litter box. Bad news. Tiki had diarrhea last week. Oh, that was such bad news. (I've learned two huge lessons from this project. Number one, never build in a boom. And number two: never, ever build in a boom.)

The big question is, will it have been worth it? As I wander through light-filled rooms that look out on imposing mansions (you'll remember, if you've read TIME AFTER TIME, that our cottage is on the other side of the chain-link fence, in the servants' sector) ... as I ascend a brand-new staircase as charming as it is intimate to get to a roof deck that looks out on all of Narragansett Bay, and the twinkling magic that is Newport ... as I count every one of my blessings and my incredible luck to have stumbled so many years ago onto this enchanted site--and now to have found a principled, honest, and dedicated builder who's made it even better ... the answer to that question comes easy.


Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay (20K)

And so it is that despite all of the frustration and delays, despite all of the mind-boggling cleaning--and especially, despite all of the scary absence from my writing--I'm able to wish you, with a profound sense of joy,

the happiest of holidays
the very best in the coming new year.

Antoinette Stockenberg
P. O. Box 735
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
"In by Christmas? I don't think so." Two cats in a construction site(12K)

Read about my new book, SAFE HARBOR

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