I sometimes feel like I’m a mild acne on the face of this house, with my little piles of things sitting on the beautiful 90 year old floors and my cheap knickknacks cluttering the built-in cabinetry and the giant mantelpiece. A Craftsman doesn’t have the forgiving nature of a Victorian, which has enough wacky little details that it can more or less embrace your particleboard furniture and tiny framed postcard art. The whole point of a Craftsman is that it is so well-constructed that it doesn’t need many embellishments. Its beauty doesn’t come from an odd shape or gingerbread trim; it comes from the gloss of the wood and the pleasing proportions of the rooms and the layout which is designed to encourage large gatherings of people all eating and cooking and warming themselves by the fire (and playing Super Bomber Man III, an activity the architect could not have foreseen but which the house seems happy to adapt to). This house was at its most beautiful before we moved in, when there was nothing to distract from the elegant skin and bones of it. Then we arrived with our truck of stuff, as disruptive as puberty.
Mind you, we’re not all bad. Occasionally, I put up a picture or set out a little whatsit and I can almost hear an audible click as the house settles into place around it. The house likes having its own original blueprints hung in the dining room. It likes the American-made wooden end tables that we have on extended loan from Pam and Clark. But for the most part I feel the house is just tolerating us and our rash of things, waiting until it grows out of us or we grow into it.
More specifically, it’s tolerating me — not just my stuff, but my whole mindset. The trouble is, I have a Victorian sort of brain: I like whimsical daydreams and fussy little details and the old lady clutter of memories. To have a Craftsman brain would be something better, I think. Imagine a mind so well-constructed that it needed no daydreams, no emotive uproar, no fidgety little worrying happening constantly in the corners like mice running in and out of the walls. How clean you would feel every morning to wake up to a brain with its memories properly filed, floored in hardwood morality and possessing giant windows onto all your many interests out in the world; a mind not devoid of imagination, but not ruled by it either.
If all of that is sounding familiar, you’re not wrong. When we moved in, I heard that happy little click as the house settled around Gene. And while it may never fully come to terms with me and my squiggly gingerbread-trimmed brain, I am slowly learning to listen to it. It might transform me yet.
And if having your whole mind-space transformed seems like a harsh price to pay just to live in a house, know that as my revenge I’m already planning the centennial party I’m going to throw for it in 8 years. There will be plenty of whimsical paper decorations. It will hate that.