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I'm Erin.  Gardening addict, incurable maker, insatiable reader, closet author, chronicler of childhood, wanderer, wonderer.  I'm glad you've come to sit a while with me.

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Offhand comments:

9.y.o.-"I have three ant bites.  Can I use this stuff I found in the first aid kit on them?  It's called ant-acid." 

9.y.o.-"It would be awesome if we had a 3-d printer because then we could print anything.  Like...like a tiny little model of Angkor Wat!"

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Monday
Jul282014

the house of my dreams

 

Ever notice how life overlaps sometimes?  We like to think of time as being on a straight line, drawn on a big piece of butcher paper taped to the wall, covered with photos and dates. The past is over there on the left, and it marches on down this line toward the right.  All tidy and straightforward, right?

But in my experience it's...wigglier...than that.  It doesn't move at even intervals like it should, leaping forward or dragging instead of just ticking away a second at a time.  Sometimes it folds right around and touches back on itself so the ink bleeds through in unsettling ways.   Like when we move back to a city where we've lived before but didn't expect to live again, and find ourselves in our old haunts, using our old mental maps, almost seeing the ghost of our former selves sitting at the tables in the restaurants or driving along the streets doing errands.  I was here before, we think, and there was no way for me to give a thought to my future-self then, but now I remember my past-self standing over there, and it's really, really weird. 

My family lived in the Greenville area about thirty years ago.  We moved away before I started kindergarten, so I remember very little about that time or where we lived.  Most of my childhood took place in North Carolina, which was my family's destination when we left here.  But a friend of my parents who is still here mentioned to me that our house from that time is still around, so I looked it up.  It's currently for sale, so there were more pictures of it available than you can usually find of a house.  For nostalgia's sake, (and to see if I remembered the place at all) I began to click through them. 

I clicked through the front yard, (vaguely familiar) the kitchen (looked like too many kitchens I've seen since to remember), the dining room (just a dining room), the foyer...

and froze.

Looks like a normal living room and foyer to you, right?  But for me, it's like someone crawled deep into my brain and held up a mirror.  This living room.  The way it opens into the foyer.  I had no idea, but this is the house that shows up in every one of my dreams where a stock house is needed.  When I read something where the house is mentioned but undefined, or where the characters have to come in a front door, or sit down in the living room, my mind defaults to these rooms.  So that, over the years, I've had a ton of people living in this house in my mind.  Everyone from books.  Everyone in dreams.  Anybody that needs a normal house in a normal neighborhood lives here.  Now that I think of it, every time I read one of Orson Scott Card's articles wherein he mentions his house, I imagine him living here too.      

All this makes it sound like I obsess over this house, but it's not that conscious.  It's simply one of the backdrops that I use to fill in behind a story that's going on.  And I didn't even realize it until I saw this picture.  Which seems completely strange, since this isn't the house I spent the most time in as a child.  After we left Greenville, we rented for a year or two, then moved into a house I lived in until I graduated from high school.  We lived in this house for maybe two years, probably less.  The house of my dreams, the house all my stories live in, wasn't the house where I spent the most time, it was the first house I can remember. 

So I want to ask you about this fascinating, weird discovery.  Do you have a house that you use when one is suggested but not described?  Do you have other stock backdrops?  Why do we do this?  Did the first things we understood make such an impression on us that we never forgot them, or are our brains just lazy, figuring that the first ones were the only ones we'd ever need?

At any rate, this is a seriously bizarre feeling.  I know you're going to ask me whether I'm going to buy this house and and the answer is heck no.  Not with all those people living in it.

~E~

Reader Comments (6)

I think buying that house would be a temptation! Especially considering the moving angst I've been experiencing. Ties to the past are more valued than they used to be.

My childhood home [the building, that is] is a place I mostly want to forget! However, your post made me think of a conversation with my husband recently, wherein we discussed what it was that would qualify a property as Dream Home material. We decided its ability to evoke a childhood memory of happiness. This explains my husband's love of tall trees, dense forest, seclusion, and a cabin; it hearkens back to his memories of summer weeks spent in his grandparents' cabin in the woods, having his own world out in the trees. For me, I have fond memories of playing in a large, old, white farmhouse with tons of nooks, crannies, extra staircases, and unused rooms. And hot chocolate and muffins in the morning, lugging a bucket of lemon ice cream we'd "helped" our aunt make down the hill to my grandparents' house. Visiting cows and smelling dairy farm smells. Having large family gatherings with big feasts. My aunt loved to entertain and we thought the candy corn and nuts cups by each spot and corn husk doll centerpieces were Really Great. Also, visiting my grandmother in a tiny little town in Virginia where the breakfasts had all the sugar our mother refused us, and we could run down a hill to my grandmother's shop or help her make biscuits or snap beans.

Sigh. I still have a thing for tiny towns.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTara

We're going to be neighbors, Erin. Will and I dream about living in that beautiful southern state every single day. Was this the home Will was born in?

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarci

Ha! That front hall was a stage for the arts! Drama, tap dances, juggling acts and antics. And the coat closet off to the side held "the black stick" … a story not for this forum ;) We opened that door to let trick or treaters enter into the scariest of haunted houses because our parents wouldn't allow us to trick or treat. I ran from a bee down that front walk way and slid a foot on my face making the scab I breathed through worse than the sting would have been … and hence the term "Come over here and you'll be breathing through a scab." And I burned my leg on a motorcycle muffler a friend had parked close to the walk so badly, I still have the scar.

Surreal to see a place I have been so full of stories made. You can almost hear the ghostly echoes of children opening the door to lay on the front pavement to get warm in the sun or beg a father to help a kitten stuck way up in the tree out front.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarlowe

Tara-I totally hear you. Hence my thing for living in the woods. I can't get it out of my head that the woods are home. I grew up there, so my children must grow up there too. What is this? Where does this thing live in our brains, and why would it be some kind of evolutionary advantage to be so place-bound? Clearly more thought (and discussion) is required.

Marci-Yes! and YES! It is the house where he was born (I've sent the address to him so y'all can look it up. PLEASE DO come live here with me. The green hasn't yet ceased to astonish me, a couple of weeks in here. Maybe it never will.

Marlowe-You remember so much more about this house than I do! I recall some of those stories now that you mention them, but only bits and pieces of any of them are even available to me. Oddly enough, there are some people here who remember our family but of whom I have no recollection. This leads to a bit of awkwardness, but what can I say? I was a preschooler.

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermotherbird

Mine is definitely the house I spent the most time in growing up. I can remember other houses, but if you say the word "rec room" to me, it's in a basement that you have to go down 2 flights of stairs and through a garage to get to (and Billy Joel is singing "Great Wall of China."). "Upstairs" gives me a hallway with a bathroom on the left and then a loft over looking the family room. And children jumping from the loft to the couches below and running back around for another go.

July 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Not sure about what 'house' means if I have to picture one inside my head.

But reading your first paragraphs, I felt a yes, yes, I know that feeling. I grew up near a park, we walked there, I learned to ride my bycicle there and it is the backdrop of my youth.

My parents moved to other parts of the city, so I hadn't seen the park for ages.

And then I met my boyfriend. Who happens to live on the other side of that same park. So I walk there, again. And it is slowly starting to feel less like I'm two persons at the same time: small me and me-now.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDoris

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