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House rule: House rules

Does your house talk to you? Mine talks to me. A lot.

Me: “I think I’ll hang this painting over there on that wall.”

House: “No, you won’t! I don’t want it there, and if you try to put it up, I’ll make sure it looks awful and you’ll hate it! And when you take it down, I’ll leave a huge, ugly hole in the wall. So there!”

Guess which one of us won?

House and I have had many conversations about where furniture should be placed, whether to hang drapes (and if so, which ones), where to store this or that so I can actually find it again, what color the rug should be or if there should even be a rug at all, and, frequently, which artwork should go where or if the item in my hand really is worthy of being displayed anywhere, ever again.

No matter what the battlefield, House always prevails, with a smirk on her face.

I learned early that each home has its own personality and quirks. The older the structure, the more profound are its idiosyncrasies and foibles.My grandmother’s residence was a four-story Victorian-era stone behemoth set on 2 acres about 25 miles outside of New York City.

That House was Queen Victoria crossed with Ellen DeGeneres.

We who grew up in or around her were convinced she had a ghost who made things go awry at the most inopportune moments, along with a mean little troll who snatched things and hid them in obscure spots as he cackled about his cleverness.

Ganny’s House also had, I kid you not, occasional bouts of hiccups.

At night, I’d hear what was undoubtedly the shifting of beams and boards, probably due to the wind, sheer age or the drying or expansion of the wood. It was a metronome-like “Crick. Crack. Crick. Cough. Sputter. Crick.” It wasn’t particularly restful white noise, and it was almost as bad as the whine and clatter of the radiators.

Here in Cambria, our first House together was built in the 1950s, so her foibles were profound, too. Sherwood House was a sprightly middle-ager with spirit and a nifty sense of humor, often employed at our expense (financial or emotional).

White noise? The sound of the ocean bashing against the cliff.

After she was destroyed by fire, we mourned, rebuilt and switched our allegiance to our wide-eyed toddler of a New House.

No creeks, cracks or crankiness. Nothing went bump in the night. It was strange, but it didn’t last long. During the nearly 15 years we lived there, New House delighted in taunting us like the whimsical, emotional teenager she was, blowing a gasket over here just as we were going out the door for a four-day vacation, or giving the microwave a nervous breakdown in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.

These days, our current House is a grand lady with a skip in her walk and mischief in her heart, a structure with a profound sense of both whimsy and dignity.

She’s undergone as much plastic surgery as Phyllis Diller.

Courtesy of many remodelings, House bears little resemblance to the one Loraine Ellis and Claude Ratliff built in 1974 on a remote Top of the World parcel.

House’s magical lightshow changes minute by minute, but I’m sure she giggles as she regularly beams sunshine through the skylight directly onto my computer monitor.

If I walk by the dining room hutch or by my bedroom chest of drawers, House’s floor will creak and sigh, undoubtedly her hint that I should be more diligent with my diet.

If Husband Richard stomps over to his side of the bedroom, the door to his armoire opens.

And House just laughs at us.

The only bell in our bell tower is the doorbell. The only creatures in the fish pond are tadpoles and tiny frogs (the raccoons would devour anything else, I’m sure).

House just chuckles.

I wonder maybe my grandmother’s troll has just been following me around all these years.

But, whatever the game, the rules of engagement never change. House always wins.

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