Behind the kitchen is the realm for the live-in maid that, in my lifetime, never lived in. behind the kitchen a small room with bath exists in many Manhattan apartments. Sometimes it becomes the eldest child’s after the second bedroom gets filled by the other children.
This space behind the kitchen became my papa’s dressing room and personal refuge for his toilette when he remained. The closets and bathroom off his bedroom became his wife’s and this small space became his haven. The door to this steamy haven were narrow shutters closed by a simple brass latch.
The wall opposite the closet was covered with mirror from ceiling to counter. A shallow counter ran the length of that wall. It sheltered From it hung a curtain that hid a bed, a narrow one that would swing down on an axis that ran its length. Now I see how ingenious it was. An occasional guest could sleep over.
In fact, I now realize that some summers the space was given over entirely to an au-pair. My brother told me he slept there on a visit.
Three closet doors each storing a different kind of clothing. I only remember two of matching trousers. Not pants, nor slacks. My Papa wore only trousers. I don’t mean that you would call what he wore slacks and he would say trousers. I mean that he only wore the trousers part of suits. That is all he owned I think. Certainly that is true in my childhood… before the casualness of the 70’s and the influence of his youthful wife.
The far right closet door was the one I remember best because it was designed with many and various shelves, drawers, nooks and crannies for all the accouterments of an elegant gentleman. Shelves where all those French laundry shirts were freed from their buff blue cardboard boxes. Shelves of thin wood that invited caressing.
Special places for cufflinks, tie clips and tuxedo studs, cups for collar stays. Lots of little hidden spaces all explored by this inquisitive child who wished to understand everything that was beyond understanding and she thought the answers could be found here and in these things…in these mini decouvertes.
Old passports, old business cards from unknown people. Inklings of a past just beyond my reach, hints that had no meaning yet… and now those hints have been swept away with time.
The shaving cup and brush were covered with dried soap foam and the whole stuck to the surface of a small cabinet above the sink. Hanging on two hooks, the whole thing consisted of a shelf above a closed unit that had sliding doors and below a rod for hanging a towel. It nothing really. Plain non-descript wood brown wood.
Brown stained wood.
I painted it white one day. It’s still here in the ground floor bathroom of the Firehouse.
When I came to take things left behind from my home after my father and his wife moved to California… I came to an empty apartment save for a pile of things in the front entry.
Like a detective I walked around the apartment, in and out of rooms and closets looking for my history, my story… all the charm was gone. The marbled pained trim looked forlorn without the atmosphere created by furnishings and books. It was then that I realized that the fabulous closet of my Papa’s the doors were painted with a faux finish. All this had been done during the early years in the apartment when a designer
had been hired to “pull it all together”.
There were two things left that were not attached permanently: a metal beehive like item to store wine bottles and the hanging cabinet above my father’s bathroom sink. Two pieces of that elegant apartment. Well I also got the upright piano that I did not play and a miniature kitchen cabinet that lived in my bathroom. Despite having little intrinsic value they have survived until today. They both had a subtle faux-something painted
finish. They attracted no attention, so only I know their origins and travels.
That’s another story.