Up the street from our house is a delightful cottage that I have been charmed by for the longest time, and it has become the focal point of my morning sojourns.
Every day when I take my walk, I enjoy seeing the many different features to the houses in my neighborhood. There are porches with swings and rocking chairs. Side yards with attractive lawn furniture. Brick houses with chimneys that emit little puffs of smoke in winter, reminding you that there will never be a technological advancement to take the place of a wood-burning fireplace. Most of the houses are older, probably built after World War II when apprehension burdened the lives of every American.
The insecurity of our times is bringing apprehension back to many neighborhoods; worries about the economy are ameliorated by our neat and friendly neighborhoods. On Rock Glen there are kids' toys lying about, a reminder that there will always be a renewal of life.
But back to where we started-the cottage up the street on Highland Terrace. It is white, which you expect for a cottage. I suppose a cottage could be any color, but those that are white with green or black trim fit the traditional image of cottages.
Cottages suggest comfort. They are cozy and kempt. Big oaks, if cottages are inland, give them shade and a refreshing atmosphere. My neighbor's cottage has something that makes it even more appealing-window boxes. I've always been fascinated by window boxes. Window boxes are everywhere in certain neighborhoods in New England, and a home in Europe without a window box would be like a home without a bathroom.
Flowers in full bloom in a window box provide a scene that warrants a camera shutter clicking repeatedly. I've never seen a dead flower or weeds in a flower box. If a house has a flower box underneath its windows, you come to expect that cleanliness and neatness will be honored. No trash in the yard. The grass will always be trimmed.
Cottages have sun rooms where you can take respite and read a book. Cottages have patios where you can sit outside and enjoy a social when the weather allows. Cottages often have roses alongside a white picket fence. That is the way it is with our neighbor's cottage.
When I think of cottages, I think about everything good in America. Family togetherness. Children playing in the yard. With the passing of time the children are replaced by grandchildren. I get carried away emotionally when I see a charming cottage. Cottages are where hospitality and goodwill abound.
Cottages, however, take on a new meaning if you visit Newport, R.I. The wealthy -- like the Vanderbilts and the Astors -- all built summer mansions at Newport, which they called cottages. Tour those mansions and you begin to graphically realize the meaning of the term "filthy rich." Can you imagine having so much money that you build a mansion for a summer retreat and call it a "cottage"? I would much prefer life in a simpler setting, like the cottage up the street.
After walking by my neighbor's cottage for a long period, I recently decided one afternoon to stop by. A stranger knocking on a door in any neighborhood these days can bring raised eyebrows, but Jean Campbell opened her door with a generous smile. Then her husband, Richard, came into the den to join us. He is retired from the University of Georgia, and she is retired from Athens Regional Medical Center.
"Been admiring your house for years," I said, and with that, I got a tour. No surprise that the inside is as charming as the outside. Getting to know your neighbors can be fun. If you ever stop at a cottage and knock on the door, my guess is that you would find inhabitants like the Campbells. Hard to imagine a charming cottage that is not accompanied by hospitality and goodwill.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.