I’ve always had a fascination with houses that have names. What would it be like to live in such a place? A place so steeped in history and tradition that it had its very own name. As a kid, I secretly fantasized about living in some grand manor — or, maybe, a little cottage covered in ivy and roses — both of which would, of course, have a name befitting their appearance and station in the world. There’s something madly romantic and, perhaps, a bit whimsical about living in a house that steps in to claim its very own title.
I used to whisper names to my childhood home, in hopes of finding that one special moniker that would perfectly express everything that made it “home”, as well as showing my undying devotion to it. In retrospect, I realize this was a tall order, so it’s no wonder I never succeeded. But my eight-year-old self was destined to live with the crushing disappointment of failure.
Now, I’m an adult with a house of my own. And I find I’m still as enamored with the idea of naming my home as I was when I was a child. Honeysuckle Cottage, The Willows, Highfield, Ambleside, Aberford Lodge … The names invoke images that dance through my mind’s eye with a charm, whimsy, and romance that tugs at my heart with an undeniable pull.
And so, I wonder: What’s in a name? It should be something special, and it has to be something that invokes the qualities and characteristics — the very essence — of this place that I call home. Is my house charming? Is it welcoming? Is it funny or quirky?
Like me, my house is creaky and a bit unbalanced. She tends to be disorganized, a bit squidgy around the edges, and, maybe, she is starting to show her age — just a little. Where I am quiet, she tends to be rather loud, singing all the different songs of our lives at the top of her voice. And, sometimes, it is a bit hard to think around here. So … no. Not perfect or funny. Or charming.
This house is the place where laundry goes to breed. Sometimes, in the night, I swear I can hear the socks giggling at the bottom of the hamper. She’s a house that’s full of Very Safe Places: you know, that place where you store something — some vitally important thing, like a birthday gift or Christmas present, only to lose it when you really need it. And, of course, everything in my house is covered in a fine layer of dust.
Everything inside my house is a bit of a mishmash, and little, odd treasures are stashed inside the china cabinet, instead of dishes. This is the place where Totoro perches on my desk and supervises my creative endeavors. I’m never sure how successful I’ve been at letting my muses loose in the world, but Totoro always looks hopeful — like he believes in me. It’s a small thing, but it helps.
Home is the spot where two dogs wait for me every day, just inside the front door, with wagging tails and joy on their whiskery faces. This house contains the echoes of hundreds of bath times, curving around the sweet memory of my little daughter singing in the tub — silly rhymes that she made up all by herself. This is the place where I snuggle my cat and where I grieved the passing of an old dog — friendship and love cut away much too soon.
My house is clutter and chaos and treasures and dreams. She cradles the echoes of hours of laughter, and, yes, even a few tears. She is the place where we retreat and hope. Where we fight and make up and feel safe. She has stored away the smell of meals cooking and clean laundry. Dusty and disorganized she might be, but this house always welcomes me back at the end of the day — soft, golden light spilling from her windows to hold the chilly night at bay.
So what name could possibly do all of this justice? Dust Bin House … Dust Bunny Hill … Two Dog Manor? Or, possibly, I should go a bit more “United States” with the whole naming tradition and adopt a comfortable sort of moniker. Bob or Gladys or Maude.
Truthfully, I’m still not sure. Each one seems right, in its way. And yet, each also seems wrong. At the end of everything, I suppose there’s no name better than the one my house seems to wear with the most pride: HOME.