A friend once referred to my house as a cottage. I made some sort of noncommittal response, and whatever my remark was, she took it to mean I was insulted. I wasn’t at all insulted. I’d just never put a name to the architectural style of the house. Besides, in my mind (not necessarily in other people’s minds), an American cottage is a summer home, generally near a beach or lake or other vacation spot (though in the mountains, a cottage would be called a cabin) and an English cottage is sort of a fairytale dwelling with a thatched roof and surrounded by a lush informal garden.
If my house were out in the countryside somewhere, it might be a considered cottage, but a house in town generally isn’t a cottage. Still, my house is cozy enough to be a cottage, though it is a tad large (a cottage is typically 600 to 1000 square feet unless one is exceedingly rich in which case those numbers are increased ten-fold).
Come to think of it, maybe she thought I was insulted because of the relationship between the words “cottage” and “hut” — cottage derives from Old English (cote), Old French (kot) and Old Norse (kotten) words meaning “hut,” and compared to a hut, my house is a mansion. To me, anyway.
What made me think of this three-year-old exchange is that my yard is starting to look like a cottage garden. Or rather it’s starting to look like my impression of what a cottage garden is. Which makes me wonder if my house is turning into a cottage after all.
Not that it matters. I tend not to put names on things since a name limits that which is named. For example, Jeff and I never defined our relationship. We were what we were. It was only after he was gone and I started writing about my grief that I had to find a name for what we were to each other. Nor do I give human names to things. People often ask me what the name of my car is. Sheesh. It’s a car. It doesn’t have a name. Nor, despite people referring to the bug as “she,” does the car have a sex. Need I iterate? It’s a car!
So, my car is a car.
My house is a house.
And my yard is a yard. But oh, such a pretty yard!
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.