When I was a kid, I would spend hours curled up with a fancy pamphlet of the Biltmore House in North Carolina. It had pictures of over a dozen rooms and detailed descriptions of the grounds and rooms not shown. It was either this brochure or the book, “Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse!” [My parents somehow gave away or lost my copy of this book and I will never get over the loss. Ever. No I will not be a grownup about this ok.] I would sit in front of each picture and imagine different stories based on my mood and current deficits. The stories changed drastically, not just over the years, but day to day. My desires manifested specifically and always on a bare whim.
As I wormed my way out of college, I noticed my fantasies had started to stabilize. I could still spend hours staring at a picture of a room in the Biltmore House, but my story started to have common themes that rarely changed. There was always a sense of awe in my main character, a permanent glow of appreciation for the magnificence of each room and garden and every glossy ornate detail that made the entire spectacle glint confidently at me over the years. College spawned into my consciousness, and I dreamed less drama into my stories. The main character in my stories invested less emotionally in the house as I aged; the appreciation grew more distant with each viewing. I also, somewhere along the way, lost my love of the private bowling alley, but grew more obsessed with the old fashioned bathrooms. (As previously mentioned, I am ridiculous.)
I stumbled into adulthood with a steadfast respect for beautiful and creative masterpieces but an unwilting love for warmth and simplicity. When I glance at houses now, my first inclination in whatever story I see in them is to have it be about a home with history, and not a historical house. There’s no distance in my fantasy these days; I cling to stories of care and empathy and humanity winning somehow and in the darkest hour. (I am possibly blaming some of this evolution on various political things but whatever. Your face is political.) I think a large part of why I want my childhood book back is because I want to see where my stories are in it. I want to know if I’m still having all the animals be friends in there, and if everyone still hates the Pig Mansion because it isn’t a home. I want to see if I have found a way to convince myself that the pear house will never rot and if the squirrel house still makes me long for heights even though I know I could never stay up there without stress-balding myself. I want to know if the reason I alternated my gaze from Biltmore to Mouse was because the dichotomy of house and home was loud even in my childhood.
I want to reclaim that bit of belief in the perfect home. The seedling idea that everyone has their place, and no one’s place is comparable to anyone else’s, lurks in my yearn like a book that asks to be reopened. The story it tells is one that fits my heart regardless of where I live, and I want it back.