Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Little Houses

There is always one moment in childhood
 when the door opens and lets the future in.
~~Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

Long ago and faraway, there was a little house...

Little House I c. 1947 with me, 5, and sister Linda, 3.

When my father left his job as a college professor to pursue a writing career, he moved us to the mining and logging region of northern Minnesota. There, in a woodsy wilderness filled with unruly creatures, he set up his studio in a sliver of space between garage and dairy barn.

We lived in a bungalow set on a hill overlooking a quiet, sylvan lake occupied by giant snapping turtles and near the back of a vegetable garden where wild rabbits snipped off our lettuces,
 D-I-Y Dad created a play yard. Inside the log fence, he hung tire and rope swings from trees
and built a tiny log playhouse.

I was enchanted by the little house.
 In its 5 x7-foot space, I arranged and rearranged furniture~~wooden crates
 that to my imagining eyes seemed like tables, beds and chairs
 when paired with dolls and their blankets, tablecloths, and teacups.

All was beautiful and orderly in my tiny domestic world until new siblings began
 to toddle into my well-tended interior and turn things upside down.
 My antidote for this was to move every stick of furniture out into the yard and use
my little dimestore broom to sweep away the dust and turmoil.

 Ah, a clean and empty space!
 Oh, the joy of moving everything back in and making my little house beautiful again!
+   +   +
By the time I was 9, we moved to a hobby farm on Lake Andrew where Dad's writing studio
was the attic of a Four-Square, milk cows and pigs lived in a big, red barn,
 and Little House II was an abandoned granary.
The granary was tall so D-I-Y Dad built a loft in it~~a loft with a ladder for going up.
I was thrilled.
I turned the upstairs loft into a bedroom where my sibling charges could snuggle down for a nap now and then. A time or two, we may have slept together overnight side-by-side, six-across,
fireflies flitting in the dark over our shingled rooftop and crickets chirping a childhood lullaby.

Downstairs, a kitchen and another bedroom fit under the sleeping loft but the living room had a full-height, cathedral-like ceiling at the front of the house where the door and window invited light inside.

But the same sibling playtime chaos undid my well-tended rooms of Little House II and,
as for Little House I, I emptied the furniture into the yard, swept away the dust and disorder, and knew again the joy of clean and empty spaces awaiting my beautifying hands.
+   +   +
Big houses occupied the next decades of my designing life but when I took early retirement, Mr. Wonderful, my current D-I-Y guy, built Little House III. A frivolous desire, to be sure, but I longed for a tiny getaway with a hammock under trees nearby, a handmade guest house at the back of our city lot...something clean and shiny, pure and undisturbed by real life.
 And so it came to be...
Little House III, c. 1997 as it is today.

A garden shed is attached at the rear of the house.

"Pale Sunshine," a Laura Ashley high-gloss paint floods the enchanted interior
 with a warm light and the high ceiling gives me
 Virginia Woolf's "Cathedral space which was childhood."

Little House III  doesn't belong to me anymore.
 However, I can still visit now and then because we sold our property to our son and his wife when we downsized to a condo five years ago. Every now and then, my adorable daughter-in-law lets me move the little-house furniture into her yard and shine up the interior in time for her next lawn party.

For this party, I child-proofed the fireplace by moving furniture in front of
its light-reflecting mirror insert.

Antique sherry cruets line the mantel of the faux fireplace.

Mr. Wonderful made the floor by pouring concrete aggregate
 into spaces left by a treated-wood grid he built.

For in every adult there dwells the child that was,
 and in every child there lies the adult that will be.
~~John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things


S. Etole said...

Enchanting! Utterly enchanting.

mermaid gallery said...

...such a wonderful childhood followed by a life of creativity.....All of the houses are fabulous but #3 is sublime....must have been a labor of love.....lucky love.....it just keeps getting better......!!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Most enjoyable piece. And place. Has calm written all over it.

Hanne Bente said...

Hello Becky.
Incredibly beautiful.
We sold 2 years ago our cottage on the island of Fur, for our son.
We decided after 13 years with both large house / cottage to have only ONE place.
Our house is 216 m2 + patio.
Wishing you a good day.
Hugs Hanne Bente

Mise said...

What a captivating post, Becky. You must have had such a happy childhood (despite those pesky siblings putting your houses in disarray). You must always have had such a home-making instinct.

Stan said...

While I appreciate you picking up and keeping things so neat and tidy, I think your creativity and imagination has always been the greatest gift to us.
Thanks for all you do -- and trying to understand why you do it.
Brother Stan

Anonymous said...

Love Love Love everything about this post and the wonderful woman who authored it!---Love, The Daughter-in-Law

Beach House Living said...

What a sweet story and little house III is divine. It's wonderful you can still go and visit.

ells said...

oh my...i just love this...so beautiful...glad you dropped by my place....blessings~

Brian Miller said...

very cool...what an awesome place...love the inlaid wood...this is really cool...

tammy j said...

i don't even know where to begin!
i'm like all the rest of your fans above.
this post is so exquisite on so many levels... nostalgia not being the least. but you know what? the secret most lovely words in it are
"my adorable daughter-in-law."
that brought tears to my eyes.
i wanted so badly for my mother-in-law to like me, much less love me!
but it was never to be.
you are blessed in such unique ways becky. your innate creativity (that showed up in tiny-hood!) and your love for all things beautiful, spiritual and good.
it's just a pleasure to know you.
tammy j
ps... and the 'anonymous' comment from the adorable daughter-in-law was ... well, just adorable! lol.

Life 101 said...

That's a beautiful space. My wife Jilda and I have an old house at the back of our property that was built early in the last century.
We plan to make it our creative space. Now that it's getting warm in Alabama, we plan to get started soon.
Love your place.

emily wierenga said...

oh my goodness.

your guest home look like heaven. so white and pure and divine. i want to live there. i think i would make it my writing studio :)

i loved this piece about your childhood, about you, becky. thank you so much for linking. love e.

rosaria williams said...

Oh yes, a little place that is full of charm and personality! I love that little house!

Debbie said...

Oh Becky....How lovely is this place.
what a wonderful post. It warmed my heart to read it. You have such a sweet spirit.
Have a blessed day, my friend.

Rachel Cotterill said...

I love small spaces. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by having a big house! You know I used to live on a boat, right? That was pretty compact ;)

lori said...

Those pictures are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your memories with us :)

Dimple said...

Enchanting in all three versions, Becky. Each helped mature your desire for clean lines and uncluttered elegance. I love the idea of moving the furniture outside in order to bring order from disorder!

Deb Colarossi said...

This post just makes me squeal inside.
Really? Really?


just all of it. wow.

RuneE said...

I envy you - I need an archaeologist just to clear my desktop ...

PS Than you!

Leslie said...

This is a gorgeous space (you and your Mr. Wonderful are very talented designers.) And I loved the story of your childhood play spaces (and your dad, who also sounds wonderful :)

mimi said...

What a charming post Becky! love all the little houses and the love and warmth they represent.


What a beautiful picture you have painted here of the significance of your space, your sweet men who built them, your love of order, and your creative use of home.

No wonder you were so good at your job in the magazine world.

Delightful and charming post, Becky.

The Silver Bunny said...

Hello, there Becky, please pop over to my blog, where I have presented you with an award. Beautiful post !xxxx

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Glad to hear you're still moving the furniture about. My Grandmother used to do that whenever she was feeling down, she was still lugging armchairs around well into her nineties.

Ramblings by Carol Nuckols said...

What a delightful reminiscence about your childhood, and such beautiful spaces. You must have been born with beauty in your soul.

Jeanne Klaver said...

Ah, Becky. How much I learned about you today, reading this post and viewing these pictures. You are amazing!

Beth said...

I just now got to read this. It's incredible---the story-telling talent and the story itself. What a wonderful 'gift' you've given your daughter-in-law. What a wonderful gift you were given. I have always wanted one of those.