I suppose most people have them, the houses you dream about living in.
Mine has a two-story library with one of those ladders on a rail that goes all the way around the room. It’s chock-full of fireplaces and little comfortable nooks where one can curl up with a good book. It has a gianormous eat-in kitchen with plenty of room for a huge farmhouse table, a walk-in pantry, a tower, a balcony, lots of light in every room, wood floors, and so on and so on.
I know that I’ll probably never live in this house. Or in one even close to it. But a girl can dream, can’t she?
And because of that dream, this essay by Orson Scott Card, who wakes up one day to realize he can finally build that dream house, really hit a nerve. The whole essay is great, all about finding the perfect builder and designer, getting all the details just right; but this was the passage that gave me pause:
But it dawned on both of us, quite separately, that we were about to build the wrong dream house. We were shy about saying it to each other, because up to that moment we had both been so excited. Here’s what we realized:
We were preparing to build the house we wish we had raised our children in.
All those marvelous spaces—how I wish we’d had them when our two oldest were still little. Oh, the memories they would have!
But we didn’t have that house then. Instead, we lived in a spacious condo in Guilford Colony that we rented from the most patient and generous landlord in the world. Seven years we were there, when our oldest kids were little. Then we moved to our present house just as they moved into their teens. And this is the only house that our youngest has ever lived in. Most of our older kids’ memories, and all of our youngest’s, are here.
The new house we were about to build, beautiful as it was, perfect as it was, would not feel like coming home to them when they brought the grandkids to visit us over the years.
More to the point, it wouldn’t feel like coming home to us, either. Not really.
Because the house we’re in is the one where I can walk into any room and see, in memory, the younger versions of my children. Now our family room is dominated by a big screen tv. But I can walk in there and see the waterbed where our handicapped son used to sleep, and picture our youngest as a three-year-old, bringing books down to sit on the bed beside him and “read” to him. . . . .
. . . Our new house was going to have a bigger, better version of all these rooms. But there wouldn’t be any of the memories in it.
What’s the point, at age fifty-five, of taking on a mortgage that won’t be paid off till I’m in my eighties, in order to have a house that is beautiful and big but has no memories of when our children were young and still intensely involved in the family’s life?