Tuesday, June 7, 2011

dream homes

I've always had Home Lust.  It's not that I yearn for a large house or a luxurious house or one with a perfect view.  Rather, I can't help but fantasize what my life would be like if I lived in a different home than the one I'm in.  A house on stilts, a log cabin surrounded by an old growth forest, a loft apartment on an artsy downtown street, a neat little Craftsman on a walk street, or even the house for sale the next block over - how exciting it would be to move in and start life over under a different roof.

As a child reader, I was fascinated by three kinds of fictional homes and neighborhoods, all very different from my own funky Venice, CA milieu.

The quiet suburban street:
Although this is the classic setting for all kinds of sitcoms (Brady Brunch comes immediately to mind) and fiction, I fell under its spell in first grade while being forced to read our deadly dull "Janet and Mark" primers, a late 60s version of Dick and Jane.  Their neighborhood was so clean, their houses so scrubbed, all behavior so predictable.  The safety was absolutely enticing. 

Beverly Cleary's Ramona books take place in a similar but more recognizable neighborhood.  There are wide sidewalks and spacious front yards, but all is not perfect - think of the scary dog Ramona encounters on her way to school.  Still, I wanted to move onto Klickitat Street.

The rambling old house:
I've always lived in small houses and apartments, so the fantasy of living in a shabby, slightly decrepit old house (with a staircase and an attic and a basement!) still lives on in my heart.  It would be drafty and creaky, and both the plumbing and heating would be iffy - but there would be hot chocolate in the kitchen on a stormy night, and then one could snuggle up under a thick quilt in one's fabulous attic or window-filled room.

Who lived in a house like that?  The Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts (Jane Langton's The Diamond in the Window et al), Julia of San Francisco (Eleanor Cameron's A Room Made of Windows), and of course the Murry family of Connecticut (Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time).

The New York apartment:
It was a picture book that first had me yearning to live in a tall apartment, complete with elevator and doorman.  In Tell Me a Mitzi, a big sister (but not very big) gets her baby brother dressed and schleps him downstairs to a taxi (a taxi! we didn't have taxis in Venice) to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Not only does Mitzi have a doorman, but she also sports a purple star-spangled snowsuit that, as a 6-year-old, I Really Wanted.

Naturally, plenty of other plucky fictional girls live in nifty New York apartments, including Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy and Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.

Few children's books take place in Venice, and when they do (Sid Fleischman's Disappearing Act and Francesca Lia Block's The Waters and the Wild) I scarcely recognize the place. 

But recently I was walking down my street, and there were kids on bikes zooming up and down the sidewalks, and folks walking dogs, and neighbors in their yards - and I realized...

I live on Klickitat Street!

Or as good as, anyway.  It's a GREAT feeling!

But a sod house on the prairie sure would be cool...


  1. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your descriptions (with literary examples) of "home lust." I grew up on a Texas version of Klickitat Street, so I tend/ed to romanticize NYC apartments and rambling wooden houses.

    Have you ever read The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge? Marvellous and fantastical descriptions for those who have a bit of enchanted castle lust.

  2. I've just put a hold on it - thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Maria's tower room in Little White Horse is my dream room, Bee!

    We have the shabby, slightly decrept old house with a room of windows thing going nicely....only problem is that it's situated in a mill village, and not up on a hill with beautiful views or in a pastoral valley (so I'd gladly swap with the Melandy family!)

  4. Oh, I loved this post! I have house lust, too, esp. literary house lust. My favorite? The ramshackly castle in Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle." I also loved the house in "The Four-Story Mistake," by Elizabeth Enright. A tower room (and a secret room!) make an appearance, there, too. And Anastasia Krupnik's tower? They just seem so romantic!

  5. I'd take the "I Capture the Castle" house but only after MAJOR renovation. Anything with a tower is nifty...but at this point, I'm so starved for a Room of My Own that I'm seriously eyeing our backyard chicken coop.