Is it possible to own a 3,000-square-foot "Victorian" house and not fantasize about turning it into a charming bed and breakfast? Not for me, anyway. Our former boarding house, with its front porch, half-dozen bedrooms, and big roomy kitchen, all steps from the "countryside" of Prospect Park, has long tempted me with reveries of serving up scones and bacon to appreciative tourists. And when we vacation someplace like Cobble View in the Berkshires, the dream suddenly seems both more desirable--and more absurd.
Far from home, all the B&B's quirks and delights seem inspiring and accessible. Back home, I am going to put dried-flower twig wreaths on all the doors! We need a gazebo! We need Adirondack chairs and a hammock!
After a few days of rustic recreation, outright delusions set in. The family patiently endures as I declare: I am going to get a flock of chickens, Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons, and raise them in the garage!
Heck, while we're at it, let's get a bunny! (This is Thumper of Tyringham, who has ethereal, marshmallow-fluff whiskerpads.)
B&Bs always smell good, like lemon furniture polish and cinnamon rolls. They have pristine quilts and wide-plank pine floors, and comfy chairs and fireplaces and guestbooks filled with raves from happy families and grateful hikers. In my demented-Martha-Stewart dreams, our house is transformed into an urban/urbane version of this hospitality heaven. In these fantasies, there is no alarm-system keypad to contend with, no kitty-litter pans or hairballs, no holes in the walls, leaking roof, or flaking paint. Flatbush, too, is transformed back into Dutch farmland; no passing pranksters to boil a bunny or kidnap and sacrifice a chicken, no itinerant bathroom-seekers to invade and despoil a gazebo, and no alternate-side-parking regs to explain to baffled guests. "Key? Well, if you like," we'd say. "But we never use one!"
And then we arrive home, guests in our own B&B again. The fantasy is over, but another reality sets in: This is home, and it's ours, and we don't have to please anyone here but ourselves. However, my hat's off to some folks actually doing B&B in Victorian Flatbush; their accommodations look delightful, like Bibi's Garden on Westminster Road, shown above. (Check them all out here; what a nifty alternative to an impersonal hotel or motel for visiting family or friends!)
I still dream of the house transformed into B&B bliss: cozy, mellow, with homespun treasures strewn about and comforts and conveniences at hand. Until then, our guests will have to settle for a hearty welcome, plenty of bacon, and our heartwarming historic anecdotes of serving as the set for a bomb laboratory on Law & Order.