April 2009

Dear Friend

Spring is here. This is not an April Fool’s joke.
The snowdrops are everywhere, the crocus are popping up from brown garden corners, and the daffodils are blooming. For so many of you who have warmer climates, we New Englanders have had a long, cold, windy, snowy, icey winter. But spring always follows winter, and the sun sets later every evening. I’m even adjusting to “springing forward,” getting up an hour earlier, even when the moon is the only light in the sky!

I hope this season of renewal and rebirth fills you with inspiration and amazing “spirit-energy.” Peter and I are happy to share our joyful news. After living at the Inn at Stonington and hotels wherever we chose to be, we are finally back in our beloved cottage. Timing is everything, and it was time. Our neighbors and friends ask “When will your renovation be over?” The only logical, rational answer is, “When the scope of the work is complete.” It is bad luck to discuss the end of a project when the end is not in sight…

Our wonderful workers come every morning like clock-work at 7 AM. Our foreman has a two hour drive each way from his home in Canterbury, Connecticut. We hear Mike whistle, sing and laugh before human sounds are drowned out by the unexpected, unnerving shrill sound of wood being cut by an electric saw. We smile in appreciation. Every new piece of lumber is replacing old wood that was tired out after 234 years of being hammered by harsh weather. I’m writing a book about the year-long renovation project and don’t want to go into too much detail here, but it is sate to say that Peter and I feel the blessing of being back in our home after 13 months.

I’m a big believer that home is where you are. I love adventure too much to not sleep well in a strange room or on someone else’s bed. We’re fortunate to sleep well when we are tired. We ordered new beds for the cottage and literally ordered them over the telephone. I’ve changed my attitude since I was an interior designer selecting custom beds and mattresses for my clients. I remember one man complained bitterly that the mattress was uncomfortable and within a few weeks I learned he was getting a divorce. Both Peter and I feel extremely comfortable in our bed, and, when we wake up in the morning, feel the thrill of being home.

It is interesting that the Inn at Stonington is the most understated, elegant place to have a romantic get away or to go for a vacation, but we weren’t on a vacation week after week. We had work to do, and we couldn’t pretend to ourselves we could just sit around and bask in the fabulous views of the harbor and watch the world go by. We’d get up, and in sleet, ice and frigid weather, trudge off to the public library to do our writing. The first breakthrough was to have our writing rooms back so we could work from home where we could leave everything on our desks and know our work was safe. Packing up our writing material and books in order to go for a walk or have lunch was a big production. I love our Stonington Free Library, and in an ideal world, there would be tables that writers could reserve for the day. We felt a big boost when we were able to spread out in our adjoining writing rooms and have the privacy and luxury of not needing to lug tote bags around, coming and going.

We did leave our sweet cottage for a mid-winter break in New York City where we were able to celebrate Peter’s birthday with our large, enthusiastic family. We requested “no presents” but embraced cards and notes. Everyone tends to feel the pressure of giving a store-bought gift to a loved one, but Peter felt strongly he wanted the presence of his family without the teeth-grinding sense of duty, not to mention the tense, energy and money. As a result of his request to keep things simple, we resisted having anyone cook, rather selecting a fun favorite restaurant to be the background for one event, and another evening we had food brought in so we could be “at home” without the sense of expectation to “cook” a banquet. We wanted to be together without anxiety and unnecessary fuss.

But, not every celebration was simple. I invited Peter to go to dinner at our favorite restaurant world-wide, La Grenouille, and we experienced a private, sentimental, nostalgic joyful evening, alone, together. We’re gearing up for our 35th wedding anniversary in May in Paris, and feel the appreciation of our wonderfully happy, productive years together in our marriage and our partnership of being each other’s “other self” as Aristotle would describe our union. In the fifty-five years since we met, we’ve become increasingly inseparable and are more so now than ever. We find pleasure in our companionship and are stimulated by our conversations and philosophical debates.

Someone asked me if I was having fun decorating the cottage. I laughed. “We don’t plan to do anything but hang our art and put our furniture around.” The whole idea of “decorating” seems superficial right now. All we want is clean, clear crisp, light bright spaces. Once our kitchen was emptied of all the dark furniture and the floor was pickled white, we knew immediately “no brown.” This meant we had to purchase one more item besides our two beds. We needed a white kitchen table. I made phone calls. We looked around New York City and Chicago. On a dark dreary rainy day, we were at Crate and Barrel on Michigan Avenue and we looked at over 100 table pictures on the computer and examined everything on the floor. “We don’t have any white tables Mrs. Stoddard. The trend is toward dark brown finishes, sorry.”

Our flight home was delayed seven hours due to ice, heavy winds and tornadoes in the midwest. We had plenty to read but because it was dark gray outside, the airport was dimly lit and we couldn’t see to read our books. We were more resolved than ever to have a bright white shiny kitchen table. Once back at our cottage, our cabinetmaker carpenters, Mike and Mike, inquired, “Did you find a table?” When we told them “no,” they looked at each other and spontaneously responded, “We’ll make you a table. That will be a fun project.” Peter and I sighed. They made us a French farm table and sprayed it the same brilliant white as our shiny woodwork in the kitchen. Before our four grandchildren came to christen the cottage, they surprised us by moving it up from the basement where they jointly made our ideal table, 30” x 66” that seats all of us happily.

Alexandra came with Nicholas, Anna and Lily to celebrate her birthday with us, and jointly with Peter’s March birth. Brooke arrived with baby Cooper and Peter and I shipped over to the Inn to sleep in order for our family to have enough privacy and space to spread out to sleep. We wrote love notes with crayons and colorful markers, did puzzles, made paintings, read stories, told stories, sipped cider and felt the joy of having a perfect kitchen table for our family reunion and forever. When I wrote Living A Beautiful Life. in 1986, the focus was on “Eating, Sleeping and Bathing,” the things we all do every day at home. In our freshly renovated cottage we have our new beds, our new showers, indoors and out, and a new tub. And, we have the greatest gift of all, our kitchen table, made lovingly by our devoted craftsmen, Mike C. and Mike S. The design was inspired by Peter’s writing desk in his writing room. When Mike C. measured the scale of the tapered leg he told us, “Ever since I’ve been a little boy I’ve always loved working with wood.” When something is made with love, there is a sweetness to the object that has a soul. We treasure our time “at table” whatever we choose to do there. It has become our high alter adorned with daffodils, pink tulips and blue hydrangea. Who could ask for anything more?

Spring. Say the word out loud. Skip! Spring into the joy of this newness. We’re turning over a new leaf. We’re going to celebrate our return home in all seasons, and try to remember the beauty of the simplicity and clarity we now feel.

Happy Spring. Happy April. Love & Live Happy.

Love & Live Happy

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Love is Timeless

Stonington Village

Alexandra and Peter in the doorway of their beloved cottage.

Easter and Mother's Day are quickly approaching!

For all of the mothers that you'd like to give an autographed copy of my new book, please send your order (including inscription information) to:
Jane Hannon
Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 536-3795


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Grace Note

Everywhere, we learn best from those whom we love.