I knew exactly what I wanted, so was very selective. Gary, my real estate agent was getting a little impatient with me, but it was my money and my dream. To settle for anything less would just not feel right. It had to be my dream cottage or nothing.
For five years my husband Allan and I searched on our own for the cottage we wanted to spend the rest of our life in when we retired. We even named it Dream Cottage and Allan had a notebook of sketches and what we wanted. It had to be near a small town in the Cascade Mountain range, and close to a lake. Allan died long before he retired and the search for our dream cottage died with him. I stayed alone in the huge house we owned for two years. One day I realized just how unhappy and depressed I was.
I discussed the depression with my doctor and she asked me, “What happened to that dream of a cottage you and Allan had?” I told her there was no reason now to hold on to that dream. She looked closely at me and asked, “Do you think Allan would have given up that dream if it was you who had died? Don’t you think he would have gone ahead and found that cottage to honor your memory?” I just stared at her, dumbfounded. When I did not answer she softly said, “Maybe that is something you need to ponder on, Maggie. It could be the main reason you are so depressed. Maybe, unconsciously you feel as if you let Allan, and yourself, down.”
When I got back home I fixed a chef salad and garlic bread for dinner. I thought deeply about what my doctor said and a feeling of release came over me. I don’t know how long I sat at the table staring at Allan’s picture on the wall. When I finally got up I knew deep in my heart what Allan wanted. He wanted me to make our dream come true. I could almost hear him say, “Find our dream cottage, Maggie.” I had a strong feeling that his spirit would guide me.
The next day I had called a real estate agent and made plans. Now here I was, the following summer looking at cabins up in the mountains with Gary. We had looked at over twenty cabins on several trips throughout the areas and nothing was quite right. We were sitting in a little coffee shop having lunch after checking out three cabins today. I was near tears from frustration and disappointment. As the waitress came over to refill our coffee cups, she overheard us talking about finding a cabin. “Excuse me for interrupting,” she said. “But, my aunt wants to sell her cottage and move into town to live with me. It’s a small cabin, with a loft she turned into the bedroom. She has not put it on the market yet, but wants to real soon. It is charming and well cared for. Would you like the address and directions?” I was about to say no thank you, but Gary spoke up and said, “Sure! We might as well since we are up here.” The waitress left to call her aunt.
“Gary, why did you say that? You know I have seen enough today and just want to go home.” He reached for my hand. “Maggie, you said you love this little town and felt good about it as soon as we drove in. It won’t hurt to look at just one more cabin today. Huh?” The waitress came back with a note.
“Aunt Ellen said she would be delighted to have you come see her cabin. It is only a ten minute drive away from here, but she does not drive anymore. That’s why she wants to move into town where she will be close to everything. Here’s her address,” she handed the note to Gary. “You just continue on the main road here through town and drive out to Baker’s Hill Road on the left. It is the fourth cabin on the right. She’s getting things ready to make tea and is anxious to meet you.”
When we got back in the car, Gary just sat there staring at me. “What?” I said when he hadn’t started the car right away. “Well, you always said Allan would guide you. The lady’s name is Ellen, she lives on Baker’s Hill Road, your last name is Baker. This is more than a coincidence, my dear.” I turned to stare out the window, not wanting to get my hopes up, but I was definitely beginning to feel giddy and hopeful.
We drove up to the front of the cabin and parked by the white picket fence. I could barely move, afraid to go in and be disappointed again. But, so far, everything about the town, cabin and the nearby lake was right. I was startled when Gary opened my car door and held out his hand to help me up, not that I needed help, he was just a kind gentleman, like my Allan was. If he ever married, his wife would be a lucky lady, indeed.
Ellen was waiting on the front porch and greeted us warmly. When I went up the three steps to meet her, I felt Allan holding my elbow like he used to. At first I thought it was Gary, but when I turned to look, Gary was still back at the gate making sure it closed and latched properly. I felt goose bumps travel up my arm. I held out my hand to clasp Ellen’s as she reached out. “How lovely you are,” she beamed. “Not many women wear dresses now days and yours is so becoming.” I blushed and thanked her. I said a silent prayer to Allan, please let this one be our dream cottage.
Gary was still checking out the front yard and fence, “I will be up in a minute,” he called. “That’s Gary, my agent. He carefully checks out details,” I laughed and introduced myself. Ellen was about 70. Her handshake was firm and she looked very healthy. She walked with me around the porch, which stretched across the entire front of the cottage and told me the names of all the flowers planted in hanging baskets. “This is where I sit every day after supper, even when it’s cold. I love to watch the lake. We sat down on a wicker couch and looked out at the beautiful view. “My husband and I loved this porch so much.”
“It is charming,” I was very fond of it already. “Are you sure you want to sell your lovely home? You seem so proud of it and take such good care of the porch and yard.” The yard had rose bushes along the side fences with low growing English Lavender along the front, to not block the view. Instead of lawn there were brick walk ways meandering around flowering shrubs and so many types of flowers. Two lilac trees grew proudly at each corner of the house. Ellen gazed around the yard with a nostalgic look. “Oh, yes. I definitely want to sell. My husband died several years ago and I do want to live in town so much, where I can walk to the stores and post office. Since I no longer drive I am often quite stranded here. Oh! The furniture here on the porch will stay with the cottage, if you like it.” I looked around. There were two seating areas, one on each end of the porch, with the couch, four chairs and small tables, all white wicker. “Oh, yes! I very much like the way you have it set up.” I was surprised at myself for already feeling so comfortable and at peace here.
Gary came up as I was pondering my feelings and introduced himself. Ellen gracefully reached up and took his hand. “Such a lovely day for you both to come out here,” she gave him the most beautiful smile. “And I so admire you for checking out the fence and yard. That shows you really care for your client.”
“It is in fantastic shape. Do you care for all this yourself?” Ellen stood up and laughed. “Oh, my goodness, no. I have a gardener who comes twice a week. He is wonderful and would like to stay on if you so choose. I only take care of my herb and vegetable gardens out back. There is a nice lawn, which Tom my gardener keeps mowed and trimmed, and some apple trees.”
“Come on inside and look around. I will go in the kitchen and make us tea while you go through all the rooms. I turned the front parlor into my bedroom a few years ago. I cannot easily climb the steps up to the big bedroom now. Please feel free to open doors, peek in closets and every little nook.” She held the door open for us.
When I walked in, I was stunned. The first thing that drew my attention was the large stone fireplace centered in the wall on the left. It had book shelves on each side with a small window above each one, and an open door to the parlor in front, another door on the right I assume led to the kitchen. As I stared in shock, tears started rolling down my cheeks. My beloved Allan was standing there, with one arm resting on the huge mantle and smiling at me. I almost collapsed. Gary took hold my arm. “Are you okay, Maggie?” I nodded yes and took a tissue out of my purse, drying my cheeks. “Yes! This is it, Gary. This is our dream cottage. Allan sketched a picture of the fireplace long ago. This is it,” I could barely speak and watched Allan smile at me as he slowly faded. “Allan was here, by the fireplace. He guided us here.”
“Well, let’s look at the rest of it,” Gary sounded emotional, but not surprised. He knew the strong spiritual connection Allan and I always had, even now.
With every room we entered I said, “This is it!” Gary was silent, but very pleased and excited. Even the loft bedroom was perfect, with a window at each end and a skylight on the east side where I could see the stars at night and have the early morning sun awaken me.
We found our way to the kitchen in the back of the cottage. “Ah! You found me. Here, sit down and have some tea and butter cookies,” Ellen poured the tea and asked. “Well, now,” she sat down and looked at us, anxious to know if I liked the cottage. “Maggie is very pleased with it. And if you are ready we can go over the details. Ellen was thrilled. “You know, my husband and I called it Dream Cottage when we found it and were very happy here.”
“Yes, Ellen, it is exactly what I was looking for, my Dream Cottage,” I felt the tears starting again. “I will be very happy living here.” I almost said “with my husband.”
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns