One of my casual entertainments is to drive around and look at houses. it used to be lots of fun years ago before everything became a “master planned community” where all the houses look the same. No, I like driving in the older neighborhoods when houses were individually built and people got to say what it was going to look like.
I come by this honestly. When I was a little girl that was one of the Saturday entertainments — to drive out in The Valley (That would be the San Fernando Valley where we lived) and check out houses under construction. In those days, the Valley was mostly orange groves, walnut orchards and alfalfa fields. Mother and dad would spot a house that was framed, and we’d prowl through it.
“This is going to be a large living room,” mother might say standing in the middle of an open place. Or in another part of the place, “Do you think this is a third bedroom or is it going to be a den?”
They would stroll around and I would trail behind, figuring out that the very tiny room was a closet and the place with the pipes sticking out of the floor would be a bathroom.
Dad would make remarks like “I wouldn’t put the bathroom right next to the living room,” or “It looks like the garage is going to be attached to the house. Look — there’s a door between the garage and the kitchen” (a novel concept in the 50s). “Really?” mother would say, “You think that’s the garage?” “What else would it be?”
And so it would go as they wandered around figuring what went where. It was actually a lot of fun, wondering why people had decided to put the windows so high up or set the house so far back from the street, or myriad other puzzles.
So, as I said, I come by this honestly. Shortly after I moved to Las Vegas, I would drive around the older neighborhoods and look at the different homes. And I distinctly remember a house that was so different and so cute that I immediately wanted to live there. It was like an English cottage — it had a steep, shingled roof and the garden was lush and somewhat wild with rambling roses and other flowers. There was a large tree in the back — maybe an oak — that caused enough shade to make the house look slightly mysterious. I remember exactly where that house was although, strangely, I never went back.
One day a couple of months ago, I was driving down Arville and thought about the little English house that was nearby. On an impulse, I made a couple of quick left turns and went to the end of the block. No house. Well, yes, houses, but not the one I was looking for. I remembered it was at the end of a cul-de-sac on the east side. Obviously, I was on the wrong street.
I have a very good sense of direction and almost always can find my way back to someplace where I’ve been. Of course, this was years — no, decades — ago. It is possible I remembered wrong. I drove around several streets, but none of them seemed right. Many of the houses were the right era — probably the 60s — but most of them were tract houses.
After several attempts to find it, I gave up — at least for the moment. It’s possible, probable actually, that in all those years the house has been sold, re-done, re-landscaped. Or it’s possible that my mind had enhanced an ordinary house with a flower garden into something much more. Maybe the English style garden has been re-done into “desert landscaping.”
I decided not to spend any more time that day trying to track down something I thought I remembered. “I’ll come back another time,” I told myself as I made my way back to Arville and headed for home.
Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just let that sweet little house continue to live in my mind and hope that it really is there, somewhere tucked back in a cul-de-sac with hollyhocks and larkspur. It makes me happy to believe that.