Monday, February 7, 2011

Old Houses

My great aunt and uncle had an extraordinary house. It was one of those mysterious, brick homes on a street lines with ancient trees that are more commonly found on the eastern part of the continent. The home had been in our family forever. We used to go visiting when we were in that part of the country. The house was wondrous enough to transform me from a hyperactive child who never shut up into an awestruck creature with enormous eyes. Walking through the front door was like walking into a book. The staircase was dark and narrow. We weren't allowed to climb it, because the upstairs had been converted into apartments and rented out.

My great aunt and uncle lived in the ground floor apartment to the left of the stairs. Our arrival was always greeted with the sharp, happy barks of Jacque, their little scottish terrier. My sister and I sat primly on the antique couch and looked up at portraits and paintings that were nothing like those in our friends' houses. When we used the bathroom we stepped gingerly over the puppy fence and stole glances of the ancient bedroom and kitchen. Everything smelled like linens, perfume, sunshine, and terrier.

I started having dreams about the house. In my mind the upper floors expanded to become an entire wonderland. My sister and I climbed up a little ladder in the bedroom and found ourselves running through room after room. There were secret passageways and seemingly no end to the parade of wonders. Like the downstairs apartment, the upstairs rooms with filled with curios from other eras, but without the dimming effect of time.

I loved those dreams, even when scary things chased me through the house. I loved to explore and push the limits of the dream to see exactly how large my imaginary world was. Every time I thought I'd come to the end of it, there was something new to discover. Another twist would lead me to a room I hadn't seen yet.

All of this to explain why I create. Curiosity. For me, the apartment below is my every day brain. The brain I don't have to work so hard to use. The one that has answers at the ready. The rest of the house is my creative brain and I'm determined to see exactly how far it stretches. Every time I make a dance or write a story I'm adding another room. Guess I'll keep going until I run out of space.

What about you? What were the things in your childhood that fascinated you? The places that seemed more like book worlds than reality? Do you think they spurred you on to a creative life?

Reader's log:
12. The Last Years of Nijinsky - Romola Nijinsky


  1. Do you remember how we used to make up stories about what might be in the hidden rooms? I remember insanely huge libraries, rooms like those in versailles, I think maybe even Hurst's Castle.

  2. That house plays in my memory and imagination... but don't forget the basement... full of long unused pieces of life. I love that house and all of those memories!!!

  3. I was also fascinated by secret paths in the woods or cupboards in the house. They seemed so magical!

  4. And the garage with cars of a long gone era. Parked and left at the end of their life...but not forgotten by those that knew their past.

  5. Great post! I loved attics the best and I still do. A day spent poking around in trunks and boxes in a dusty attic would be perfection...

  6. Oh, I love this post! That house would make such a wonderful setting for a story! And it's an amazing alalogy for your writing mind. Great job!

    The place that fascinated me most as a child was the house that we bought. I remember visiting when it was empty, before we started filling it with furniture and possessions. It was a blank canvas. My cousins and I used our imagination to turn the stairs into a waterfall and my bedroom into the top of a mountain. We had many adventures that I still remember today!

    Quitting My Day Job

  7. Lovely post!

    I'd say that I write out of curiosity, too. I'm always asking questions that don't really have answers, and writing enables me to explore all the different scenarios in a relatively safe environment. I'm most fascinated by people -- how we think, what we feel, why we feel what they feel, why we make the choices we make.