Lifting the Shroud


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Edna liked to watch “her stories,” as she called the CBS soap operas.

When I would stop by sometimes, we’d watch together — a college girl and her white-haired grandma in the house with bay windows, African violets, and framed graduation pictures of the grandkids.

Once, as a romantic date scene came to a conclusion on one afternoon drama, she gave me a knowing look and said in her best with-it lingo, “They’re going back to his pad.”

Glowing TV screens are the modern-day hearth where we share stories others tell.

The actor Will Smith has said that his career is rooted in comfortable hours spent watching Hollywood musicals on television with his mother and grandmother.

Of course, spend too much time beside any “fire” and you’re toast. Entire rooms are configured around the TV — usually the largest space, which is a pretty clear statement of priorities.

That statement is getting rephrased at my house. In a long-debated room swap, the dining table is moving to roomier digs; the new flat screen will be watched in smaller confines. And the fireplace and bookshelves will still consume the living room. The hope? That expanded table room leads to more face time. We don’t host Super Bowl-watching parties, but we do have family and friends who like to linger over dessert.

I suspect more homeowners are going in a direction of redrawn blueprints, as the popularity of bigfoot construction wanes and home entertainment no longer requires mammoth storage cabinets.

We’ve all joked that, given how guests congregate at parties, maybe the whole house should be a kitchen. That’s especially true now, when the patio is icy and forlorn, and pots on the kitchen range fog the windows.

The winter home exists in a shroud. Darkness cloaks the view, turning panes into mirrors while storm windows mute the songs of birds and the sounds of neighborhood children.

Indoors, happy and sentimental dates brighten the winter calendar. Milestones and long nights — what to do?

• Think chocolate — for hostess gifts, for health in the new year, for Feb. 14, for hot mugs on frigid days, and for walls, as in a rich, earthy coat of chocolate-brown paint.

• Play winter-themed music, because at least two months of chill and snow remain after the December holidays. It’s the quiet season — all the better for listening.

• Serve bubbly, because when the sun is hibernating, sparkles help.

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