I spend some time each day…okay, a lot of time…searching houses on the internet. One of my favorite sites is For The Love Of Old Houses, a popular group on Facebook. Most of the houses listed, at least the ones I really like, I could never afford. Instead, I take notes so that maybe one day a character of mine might reside there.
Place plays an important part in stories. I like to visualize my characters sitting around a table in their kitchen discussing life. I always begin to build my characters in the kitchen because, in my opinion, that’s where you discover the most about people.
Our kitchen in South Baltimore was the heart of our home, it was control central. Everyone had their place – and knew their place – around Nana’s table. It was more than just a spot to take your meals. We listened to the radio, talked on the phone, paid bills, put jigsaw puzzles together, played 500 Rummy, wrote out Christmas cards, dyed eggs, and sat up late nights completing homework assignments. Every important conversation and decision in my life took place there until I was about twenty-nine years old.
I remember when my Aunt Betty found her dream house. I was around five years old when she and Uncle Charles packed up their small row-home in Brooklyn Park and moved to a single-family home in Catonsville. There thy had a large backyard, a wide front lawn and a driveway. Aunt Betty had a longer commute to work, but that did not diminish the joy she had living in her new home.
As she grew older, she seldom spoke of the home she’d now lived in for over forty years, instead her stories centered around the home she’ lived in for several years in San Francisco. This is the home she’d shared with her parents and sister. Those memories became her haven.
I have thought over the conversations she and I had about her life in San Francisco and even had the privilege of accompanying her there so she could give me a tour of the city where she’d grown up.
It’s only been recently that it’s occurred to me; it wasn’t one home that Aunt Betty favored, it wasn’t one particular dream house. Her home, her shelter was her family. Her dream was for her parents and the place they’d lived all those years ago at the Presidio, overlooking the bay and listening to the fog horn.
As I admire photos of castles and cabins and old Victorians, in my heart I’m searching for that home where we gathered around a large table and were together every night. My dream home. [Pictured below is the home where I grew up.]
Dear Reader, tell us about your dream house.