My fascination with houses came from my mother. From an early age I witnessed her attraction for them. First came the stories she told of family and where they’d lived in her growing years. Later, I began to share her passion for Gothic novels. All featured a castle or mansion. After Mom died, I found a list she’d penned of the places she had lived from childhood on. She moved often in her life, yet each house had a name, an identity. And often, a personality.
Mom was a dreamer, her dreams fed by the books she read. In my own elementary years I’d devoured the LITTLE HOUSE books and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. When I reached seventh grade I discovered Mom’s beloved Gothic authors – Norah Lofts, Victoria Holt, Daphne DuMaurier, among others. The opening line of Du Maurier’s REBECCA still echoes. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” The houses in these stories were strong characters, embracing their inhabitants, loving, and sometimes haunting them.
An apartment where I once lived was not haunted but at times I almost sensed its past. Once a stately home in a fine neighborhood, it had been converted into three flats. I lived on the third floor, the former maids’ quarters. Access was up a winding back staircase. Two bedrooms, original tiled bath. There was also a lone sink in each bedroom. It was a charming place and my home for three years. I shared it first with Kathy, then Donna. The third year, Tom returned from the U.S. Army, we married and he moved in. Our first home together.
In my adult years, I’ve caused realtors some grief in my searches for the “perfect house”, one I could turn into a home. Our first house was a starter, two bedroom, one bath ranch. Despite the mediocre DIY work that had been done, it had a good floor plan and was priced right. We weren’t as picky as we later became. Four years later, Tom was transferred south. By then we had a three-year old and an infant. We needed more space. In those pre-internet days, we trailed our realtor through many walk-throughs. It was worth it. Montclair Court, a pretty Dutch Colonial sat on a 1/3 of an acre at the end of a cul-de-sac. It had a massive backyard with a circular brick-fenced patio. Our next transfer came seven+ years and another son later, to the East Coast. Along with location, neighborhood, floor plan, size, price, and yard, we had another huge item to consider — schools. Our realtor was put through her paces, but she persevered. Together we found Webster Farm, a dreamy 30 year old, four bedroom Colonial in a warm and homey neighborhood. Three years later, we moved again. Our final move together.
Though many do, we never wanted to build. We preferred older houses. More charm, often better constructed. But after scouring our preferred school district, we couldn’t find the right size, style, or location. We looked at floor plans, previewed new houses. We found a builder with a good rep for quality. We chose a neighborhood near the middle and high schools. There’s a lot more to building than I imagined. I probably irritated our builder more than I ever had the realtors. It was worth it. In 1992, we moved in. Emotionally, it was hard for me to sell after Tom died and our sons moved away. Very hard. But I’ve been happy to be back in the midwest. Creekside needed to be lived in again, by a young family who would laugh, shout, love, and create new memories within its walls.
The apartments and houses I’ve lived in since I left Mom’s home have been in cities and suburbs. When I think or talk of them, their identity is usually the street or neighborhood name — Montclair Court, Webster Farm, Creekside. But I am intrigued with how houses are often individually named in small villages in old British films, and in Mom’s Gothic novels. Their names help define character.
My younger brother and his wife named their home. It’s set among tall trees. Carved on a boulder near the curb is its name, Hemlock Manor. Cool! My own retirement house, this 1960 era, red-brick Cape Cod, still cries out for a name. I’ve tried out several. Soon, I’ll find one that fits.
What houses have you lived in that stand out in your mind? Have you ever named your house/s?