Once upon a time I wanted desperately to be an architect, almost as desperately as I wanted to be an author. I collected floor plans of houses out of magazines: House Beautiful, Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal. Quite often when they featured various houses in these magazines the floor plans were also included and after my mother was finished with the magazines I'd confiscate them and snip the floor plans out very carefully with a pair of scissors. I had a paper bag I'd store them in and quite often I'd sift thru all the floor plans in the bag until I'd found five or six I felt like 'playing' with and I'd spread them out on my bed. I had two favorites I played with the most. One was of a beach house...a mansion, really, somewhere in southern California with a huge lanai overlooking the ocean. The other was a bird's eye view of Queen Elizabeth's childhood doll house with the roof off, looking directly down into all those sumptuous rooms. I could play with these floor plans for hours, dreaming up families and different scenarios for each one who lived in the houses. The children would go to school, the father would leave for work carrying his briefcase and a cup of coffee as he scurried out the door. If the furniture settings were already drawn into the floor plan, all the better. I used my index finger as I moved in and out of each room in each house. I quite often drew my own floor plans and filled them with furniture I drew as well, creating my own imaginary families who lived in them. I even landscaped the yards on those...a tree here with a swing...a bed of day lily and roses over there. It gave me endless hours of entertainment on rainy days when I couldn't play outside.
I was a weird kid.
Yesterday evening I picked up someone I know who is interested in buying a house and went to meet my old friend Bill the Real Estate Guy. After a big bear hug from him...he was our Guardian Angel who helped us thru a botched-up mess with a mortgage fiasco when we first moved here...and after catching up on the "How ya doing'?" "How's the family?" questions we went inside to look thru this little house my friend is interested in. I asked Bill, "Does anyone live here?" There was a couch and a TV, a table and chairs in the eating area in the kitchen, a double bed in the master bedroom, clothes in the closet. A picture of a smiling little girl around my grandson Dylan's age with "Happy Birthday Daddy!" on it was fastened to the refrigerator door with a magnet. But the house was cold. There was grime built up on the hood over the stove, piles of laundry on top of the washer and dryer and a table in the basement that looked as if they'd been sitting there a long time. The second bedroom had a few little-girl type toys in it but no bed. There was shampoo in the tub shower. And yet, it just didn't feel as if the soul of a family lived there. It felt creepy, like we were some kind of voyeurs, and I hesitated to look at plumbing or for cracks in the walls or any other kind of 'red flags' you look for when you're walking thru a potential home for yourself or someone you care about. Bill told me that yes, someone was living there but I just kind of shook my head and "Hmmmppphhhed" my way along behind him. He's used to me. He says "You're not called krazy miss kris for nothin', you know" and I tell him yeah, yeah...I know already, and we laugh about it. But he also knows how sensitive I am about houses, how as we walked into one of the houses he was showing me when my daughter-in-law and I came househunting that I stopped as soon as I walked in and said, "Bill, I don't even want to go any further inside this one. Something's bad here." He also knew, when he showed me the one I live in now, that when I turned to him and said, "Bill, I want this house!" I meant what I said and he told me, "Kris, I'll do everything I can to help you get it."
The one we looked at was a cute little house, structurally sound. Perfect for this friend of mine. A nice private back yard with lots of landscaping that's scruffy and overgrown at the moment but will look lovely once she takes some shears to the bushes. Big trees are in the front yard and will offer lots of shade in our hot summers. She'd probably be happy there if she decides she wants it. I know she'll bring the warmth, the homeliness, the soul to it that's missing now. She'll put up artwork and have plants and photos around, a bed for her dog, the shades open to let in the streaming sun. I hope she's able to get it.
But ever since I dropped her off and was driving home I couldn't help wondering about who lives there now. My grown-up version of an imaginary family. But my childhood ones always had happy endings.