“Safe as Houses”

I used to think a lot about what kind of house I would make for myself when I grew up.  I still have the sketches and everything, some of them less practical than others. (The  underground cavern in which the furniture is made out of protruding roots and the plumbing is provided by a stream is something I have- mostly- grown out of wanting.)  For a while I spent large amounts of time reading about earth ships and hand built homes, ala Tasha Tudor. The concept of having a space of my own that has always engaged me. After all, what’s more grown up than having a home completely of your own? Six (Seven, Eight, Eleven, Thirteen…) year old Kaelen couldn’t think of anything.


Not very surprisingly, I never could get it right.

…This caused me to spend far too many hours on the Sims painstakingly recreating the Green Sage’s hut from Jak and Daxter: Precursor Legend.

A factor of this continuous fascination with my eventual “grown up” house is because I associate places with emotions. Memories of my great grandparents’ old house are synonymous with memories of eating berries, feeling loved, and running around in an old, oversized skirt that transformed me into a fairy princess. When I think of that house I also think of the time there was a large fire that, if the wind had blown the wrong way, threatened to move into the trees: in typical child fashion I ran around, feeling brave and helpful by tipping teacups of water into the blaze, while my grandparents actually put out the flames. I think of the swings that they had right outside their door. Nowadays, if I have free time, I’ll culmatively spend a couple of hours a week on the swing set close to my house.

A house my family used to occupy in the suburbs of Greater Vancouver brings back memories. My second story bedroom’s small  patio, which I used to fantasize jumping out of if there was ever a house fire,wondering which order to save my stuffies in. The tree in the yard over, where I would play with the neighbour’s kids, and first hear, “He likes you.” The kiddie pool on the deck, where I spent the majority of my summer, gaining my first really bad sun burn, my skin peeling off in surprisingly painless sheets. The giant pillow fort I built right before we moved out of that house, which still remains one of my favourite structures, amplified by the glamour of recall.


 Pillow forts were a big part of being a kid. And when not a pillow fort, a whole house visualized in a room. My bed was the cottage of a jungle peasant who stalked the wild savannahs of the room I shared with my brother. A closet was the tent we took shelter in the sand storms from. My living room was the nursery in which “Katherine Tyler the eighteenth century British nanny” made her siblings and various stuffed animals play pretend. My bedroom was a room in the house of Mr. Craven of “The Secret Garden,” in which I had to escape to explore the many other levels, nooks and crannies of the house.

 Looking back on how much I attach to the structures that things take place in, I’m really grateful my Mom homeschooled me, giving me the time to play pretend to an age where most girls were more concerned with boys and makeup. Staying at home was a big plus for me with my learning. (Incidentally, I don’t think I’ll have too much emotional attachment to my school’s building when it’s time to graduate.)I got the time to make up these amazing feats of architecture, which never existed outside of my head, but were more real to me than a lot of what I was actually living.

The other day, a friend and I were discussing what we would have in our “dream houses.”

  • A room entirely devoted to crafting: painting, knitting, sewing, and instruments.
  • Lots of music playing devices in various nooks and crannies. Maybe a juke box somewhere, just for the heck of it.
  • A tower, containing my bedroom, a spiral staircase, and a fire-man’s pole.
  • A personal library.
  • Cats.
  • Hammocks.
  • A claw foot bath tub.
  • An indeterminate amount of other people. Sometimes it’s just me I visualise in my “house of dreams” (Thanks for the phrase, Anne of Green Gables), other times there’s shadowy ideas of nieces and nephews and an eventual partner.

I’ve no idea when I’ll actually own a house to myself, and it will certainly be no time soon. Twenty years? Thirty? Forty? Perhaps never, in the form I’m thinking of. But in the meanwhile, it remains an important concept to me, for reasons of solidity and day dreaming.


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