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Hamptons Life

Jan 15, 2018 10:18 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Dogs And Children Are A Decorator's Best Friend

Lab MARSHALL WATSON
Jan 15, 2018 10:18 AM

Cooper is a lovable, lumbering, lug of a Labrador. He greets you by gently pushing his big square black head between your knees, and wrapping one paw around your ankle so that either you come to a dead halt, or else catapult yourself to the ground.

Cooper wants just a few things in life: He wants to love you, and in return, receive scratching behind the ear. In an even friendlier state, he rolls onto his back, spread eagle in flagrante delicto, and begs for a scratch on, one hopes, his furry stomach. Oh, and Cooper wants to eat. He is a Labrador you know.

So, “’twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house,” a flurry of preparations was under way. Signa, Cooper’s mistress, was not only preparing for her substantially large family’s arrival, but had also volunteered to have the entire Children’s Hospital Gala committee, which numbered more than 120 people, meet at the house. And on this day while Signa was lodged in an intense business meeting, she received a frantic phone call from her housekeeper who had just discovered that the pound-and-a-half box of Crump’s black walnut extra dark chocolate fudge—which was recently FedExed to her young son Bobby from Aunt Faye in Harbor Spring, Michigan, and had been sitting in the middle of their rather substantial and tall kitchen island—had disappeared. The evidence that remained on the kitchen floor was a rather undamaged white and brown wax-coated Crump’s fudge box, and a carefully unfolded and licked-clean square of tissue paper. Not a speck of black walnut extra dark chocolate fudge remained.

Yes, there are chocolate Labs, but as all dog owners know, chocolate and dogs do not mix. Signa frantically phoned the veterinarian, who instructed the housekeeper to force-feed Cooper a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and to keep Cooper outside, because an ensuing expulsion would occur immediately and it would not be pretty. The housekeeper did just that.

Two hours later, nothing unusual had happened. Cooper was freezing outside. The vet was called, and once again she instructed the housekeeper to pour another bottle of peroxide down Cooper’s throat. She did so. And nothing happened. Cooper, happily wagging, cheerfully revived, was allowed back in, because the vet, totally flummoxed at this lab’s lack of response, awarded the sturdy, resilient animal a clean bill of good health. Miracle Mutt!

Signa came rushing home to find the remarkable Cooper, sitting contented in the middle of her recently installed, custom woven, pale green, New Zealand wool carpet. Just as Signa approached Cooper, the joyous, enthusiastic animal exploded from all orifices, and a flood of chocolate, hydrogen peroxide and, well, you can imagine the rest, poured forth. Cooper expunged uncontrollably all over the custom woven, pale green, New Zealand wool carpet.

Once the animal was contained and anointed in good health, Costikyan carpet cleaners were summoned and were begged—BEGGED—to return the carpet the next week in time for the recently decorated room’s inaugural viewing by the Children’s Hospital Gala committee, and the family and Christmas guests’ arrivals.

Day after day, Signa anxiously checked in with Costikyan, pleading for an earlier reinstall. The stains were next to impossible to get out—but they were trying. Finally at 11 a.m., one hour before the Children’s Hospital Gala committee meeting, the carpet, stain-free and in perfect condition, was rolled out and installed. Amazing!

Extremely apologetic over the delay and for last-moment delivery, Costikyan left a profusely apologetic note, and a substantial cherry cobbler on the tall, out-of-reach countertop, as a thoughtful gift to their valued and harried client.

One hour later, everyone was happily ushered to the front door, offered gracious thanks and Christmas cheer, while Cooper quietly discovered the cherry cobbler. He consumed the entire contents, returned to his favorite spot on the freshly scrubbed, custom woven, pale green, New Zealand wool carpet, and once again completely exploded.

Hence, the renowned adage, told to me by a wise old interior designer, “A decorator’s best friends are fires, floods, children and pets.” While the first two certainly are disastrous and unconscionable, the last two are inevitable and ultimately blameless, just a gift of life we accept as par for the course. Decorating is, so to speak, the cherry atop the whipped cream, and should not be so revered as to become an obstacle to life’s joys.

So I share this second story as a New Year’s resolution: to cherish our human moments, to be gracious, generous, and perhaps to try to walk in the other person’s shoes. Decorating and interior design, as well as a beautiful home, brings joy to all, but should never be so precious as to supersede what life is really about.

My friend Lisa recalls a story about her formidable Great Aunt Renée, whose exquisitely furnished home on Long Island’s North Shore was appointed with priceless antiques, damask upholstery, and precious silk carpets. At 6 years old, dressed in her Sunday finest, and repeatedly warned that Great Aunt Renée demanded only the best ladylike behavior, Lisa was invited for the first time to attend high tea at Aunt Renée’s mansion.

As she entered the formal parlor, where Aunt Renée sat regally on a signed Georges Jacob, Louis XV bergère, Lisa beheld linen jacquard draped windows, dressed in silk tassel fringes, satin wood Pembroke tables, ormulu sconces, and the most beautiful French Savonnerie carpet in tones of soft apricot, cream, and pale blue.

Lisa sat on a stiff, fragile French loveseat, so careful not to knock over any of the spindly side tables. Great Aunt Renée, having no children of her own, served tea and tomato juice to everyone. (What was she thinking, a 6-year-old with tomato juice?)

As the conversation droned on, the 6-year-old, naturally fidgety, thought she would wander over to the window. But her brand-new ladylike patent leather shoes, which she was wearing for the very first time, were slippery. While delicately trying to get up, Lisa’s shoe buckle caught the delicate table leg and down came Lisa, the table, and the pitcher of tomato juice. The pastel carpet was splattered with the crimson paste like a hideous crime scene. Lisa had tried so hard to be good, to be ladylike, to please her formidable Great Aunt Renée, and her mother and all the other guests. But Lisa had destroyed everything. She burst into gales of tears and was completely inconsolable. At 6 years old her life seemed to be at an end. Lisa watched Great Aunt Renée as she drew herself up and rose terrifyingly out of her bergère.

“Lisa! You can stop crying right now!” At this, Great Aunt Renée picked up her own glass of tomato juice, and hurled it onto the carpet and said, “In this house we do this all the time.”

Great Aunt Renée wrapped her arms around Lisa, who from distraught tears dissolved into joyful giggles, and they all went on with their afternoon tea, as if nothing had happened.

Lisa has never forgotten Great Aunt Renée and neither shall I.

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Love this story -- literally made me laugh out loud. Nice work!
By Dafsgirl (58), Southampton on Jan 29, 18 9:52 AM
Farrell Building, Farrell Commercial, We're Hiring