Saturday, May 29, 2004

Do Old Houses Have Souls?

Before opening the business this morning, my husband and I traveled to a nearby community, looking for yard sale bargains. Driving back along the old river road, we passed through neighbourhoods that had been there for more than a hundred years. Anytime we travel this road, we discuss which houses we would buy if our lottery numbers were the ones to come up. Lately, my husband has given this a variation – he tries to guess which houses I like, and which ones don’t really appeal to me.

I’m picky about houses, not just the way they look, but the way they feel. The truth of the matter is, houses seem to absorb the energy of the people who have lived there. My father is building a brand-new house, and as much as I like the lay-out of it and share his excitement, I still think it will be missing something – that feeling of those who have gone before.

My family isn’t terribly close-knit, and as the child of a single mom, I moved almost every year. I always felt reluctant to make friends, because I would wind up moving again. When my now-husband and I were looking at houses for after we were married, I knew that I would not want to move again for a long time. I wanted to be settled. I wanted a home. Although our house has some serious issues, it felt right the moment I walked into it. As much as I mutter about the cosmetic work it needs, I still love our house and want to “do right by” it.

Back to the lottery game … I’ve figured out exactly what I want (besides the winning ticket to purchase such dreams!). A house that has three stories, including an attic. (I’ve always loved the idea of having an attic for my writing room, preferably one accessed from an inconspicuous door in a bedroom closet. Someplace up high and isolated from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house, with a window overlooking the road. There is just something about that that really appeals to me.

The house should be at least 75 years old. Yes, I know that a house that old will have even more quirks than our home now, but I really don’t want to live in Sameville. Suburbia, where all of the house look the same, and everyone’s lawns are the same, and the streets all look the same, is my personal idea of Hell. Instant neighbourhoods are not for me, no matter how many designated green spaces you put in them.

Trees – I absolutely love big old trees. The kind with personality, and seem to be a part of the house, they’ve been there so long. Oak, preferably. Across the road from my godparents’ house (where I spent many, many summers), there were three huge oak trees along the road. I can remember sitting there with my lemonade stand (not doing very good business, given the rural nature of the area) and watching the branches of those trees sway ever so slightly. When I was a child, people would ask me why I was just sitting in the middle of the yard, and I used to tell them I was listening to the trees.

Now that I think of it, it was probably those summers at my godparents’ house that most shaped where I want to live. Their house was quite small, but if you take the idea of neighbourhood, with the school at one end, and the corner store at the other, with everyone knowing everyone else in between, and put in my lottery house … that is how I want to live. I want to be connected – to be part of a community. A house is not a box to contain people. A road is not simply a way to connect those boxes. I want something more than that.

At this point, you must think I’m crazy, Dear Reader. In my last post, I was talking about wanting to live all alone on top of a mountain somewhere. And now I’m saying I want to be connected. The truth is, I do want both. I am a poster-child for Pisces – I’m forever swimming in two different directions at the same time.

Now to go buy a lottery ticket …

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