In grad school, I had a final exam with a one word question. We had to write about this one word. (For the life of me, I can’t remember how much time were were given, but it was at least two hours.) The word was home.
Some people move a great deal. Some people are unhoused. Some people experience violence or trauma in the home. Some people have a home passed down from one generation to the next. There are many ways to experience home.
Some people decorate and some punch holes in the walls. Some people share home with many and others live alone. Many of us are experiencing a great deal of home as we stay home during a pandemic, worried to leave.
I have my home now with the life I’ve made, my husband, son, and dogs. And I have the home I left.
I’ve written mostly about the lake my childhood home was on.
My feelings about the lake are less complicated.
Let’s skip why.
But if you have complicated feelings about home, I understand.
The houses in my novel are important. The home a character grows up in matters. In many stories, the home is a character. In the novella I serialized last year, The Fairy Tale Asylum, the asylum was home for many, and in spite its horrors, it was still home. In the novel I’m currently serializing on Patreon, Drowning Karma, magic can literally change a home, but ultimately cannot change people. And the a novel I’m trying to write a new synopsis for so maybe I can get an agent, Sunlight & Mercie, a house changes itself, moving walls and rooms, protecting who it chooses to protect.
In my published novel, The Blue Jar, there are houses that are safe and houses that are not. I almost always have a specific real world house in mind for each character.
Do you (or one of your friends) like to post on Facebook about weird houses for sale? In this corner of the world, a guy decided to embrace his love for pink. And some of the houses here are a delight. While I would not want to live next to the guy with actual jail cells on the property and I’m a bit concerned about those houses with toilets in very unexpected places, mostly, I love a weird house. You do you. I’d be amused to live next to pink house guy. Think about how easy it would be to tell people where you live. “Just look for the pink house! You can’t miss it.” And it will make a great conversation piece!
Tasteful home are all alike; every weird home is weird in its own way. (If you don’t mind using up one of your free reads for The Atlantic Magazine, go to this fun look at houses from around the world.)
And let’s not forget McMansion Hell for when you’re in the mood for snark and houses.
I know this is pure superstition on my part and I certainly have no science to back it up, but it feels as if homes have vibes. When I was little, there were almost no other houses on the two-mile long road we lived on. But one of the other houses was two lots away. And older man lived alone. He often left dolls for me on our front porch, and back in those years when schools got kids to collect aluminum cans for fundraising, he would let me take bags for beer cans from his backyard. I could also go back there to pick oranges though I never did by myself.
His house gave me the creeps.
It was a small house. Probably a shotgun-style house. He asked me once or twice if I wanted to come in. I always said no, and he never insisted. Realistically, the vibe had to have come from him, but when I was little, it also came from the house.
That feeling must be why we tell so many haunted house stories. We often can’t help but believe houses hold the past.
I wonder what the new family moving into my childhood will feel. I hope the stories they have to tell years down the road will be good. I’m glad the walls can’t talk.
Do you have a favorite house in fiction? I loved the Addams Family mansion and the professor’s house that kept the wardrobe leading to Narnia. I dream of houses with secret passages to other worlds. Of course.