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My favorite house of dreams and longing that was meant to be only that
I think most of us have ideas about what our “dream” house would be if we could perfectly imagine it, find it, or or even build it . That’s because embedded deep within us is a rather ancient yearning for stability, for a resting place on this old earth that we can call “home.” And more often than not, that notion of “home” is materially realized in a physical structure, an abode, a dwelling place that becomes our sanctuary in this restless, turbulent world.
I don’t own that “dream” house yet, and I don’t really know if I ever will. For me, once again,, my “home” is an apartment that I have lived in now for almost two years, and I am very content here. It is probably the best location I could have possibly found.
The neighborhoods surrounding me where I walk are as familiar as those from my childhood. They hold countless reminders that this has become a very special place for me: the little landmarks such as flower-and-vine-covered mailboxes along the streets; specific lawn ornaments; certain distinctive houses and yards; openings in the sky where I watch the sunsets on my walks; enormous oak trees. These familiar sights, this anchoring in a place I call my own neighborhood, gives me a very powerful sense of having arrived somewhere and put down roots again for what could likely be the last time.
But every now and then, when I was traveling or driving around, I saw houses that set my imagination wandering, that stirred memories of other places, other times. Just the sight of these houses triggers something in me, imaginings of what might have been.
On a tree-lined street in the historic district of a small city in South Carolina, on a corner lot with a sidewalk in front, is a turn-of-the-century house that for more than 50 years, since I first saw it, has stirred my imagination, roused long-ago memories of family times together at Christmas, and provided the missing ingredient for the life I might have lived in some past age had different circumstances placed me there. Who knows? There is some reason why this house stirs such deep and passionate feelings within me.
I loved to pass by on walks and look at it longingly. I admire its gracefulness, its beautiful architecture and symetry. It seems to be so well proportioned.
I love porches, and this house has a big, wide wrap-around porch with rocking chairs which calls to mind a gentler more neighborly era when every house had them and people spent long hours in summer outside talking and laughing, resting, and daydreaming on a swing hung from the porch’s ceiling, and also greeting neighbhoors who stopped by. Children played in the yard or on the sidewalk, or in the small city park that was nearby.
I can imagine entering the front door and noticing a slightly musty, old-house smell. Memories from childhood would immediately come to mind simply because the house was old, as I am now. There would be a worn rug on the wooden floor in the hallway adjacent to the stairs that lead to three upstairs bedrooms. A parlor to my left would have comfortably upholstered old furniture, a glass-paneled mahogany bookcase with volumes of Dickens, Mark Twain and Shakespeare, a fireplace, and windows that opened out onto a shady yard.
When I pass this house, I think of the decades people lived there. I wonder about the holiday feasts that filled the home with happy relatives and friends. I can smell the roasting turkey or fried fish dinners at midday with cornbread and poll beans and fatback and rice and gravy. Such indescribable aromas, for those are the smells I remember from my aunt’s kitchen during blissful days of summer vacation far from my own childhood home in New Orleans.
I can imagine all this, and yes, I think this house I have been describing and imagining must be my all-time favorite. I have never been inside it. I know nothing in particular about its history. Yet I do know that it must hold many lovingly guarded and cherished memories for several generations who have been lucky enough to call it “home.”
Interestingly, a few years ago, I discovered it was for sale. I visited the real estate Web site and took a virtual tour of all the rooms. How I relished that experience! At last I knew what it looked like on the inside. I wish it had been furnished, but I was not disappointed. It saddened me that I couldn’t buy the house, but although it would would have delighted me no end to live in such a grand old Victorian home, in the city where my mother and aunts grew up, it would have involved enormous expenditures for remodeling and upkeep for just one person. Nevertheless, I could and still can “dream a little dream” whenever I see this house.