Ever since I was a kid I always used to label people’s houses by those who lived in them. When I wanted to visit a friend’s house I’d ask my mom, “Can I go to Brian’s house?” or “Can I go hang out at the Gralski’s house?” Any house I ever visited was defined by who I wanted to see there, not necessarily by the house it self. The house had no attributes to itself; no character of its own; no atmosphere to define it. Instead it was simply a place made of wood that kept us warm, dry and safe. Like the rest of society I had made this a habit until a conversation I had a couple of months ago.
One day I was talking to Antonia while reading a section of ‘A Severe Mercy’ together. She had just finished reading a paragraph, and looking up at me from her book she said, “I like stories where houses have names. When a house has a name it is given a personality of its own, and through that name a new atmosphere is created around that place.” (She said this because the house in ‘A Severe Mercy’ is referred to as ‘Glenmerle’). To expound on her point she referenced the story ‘Anne of Green Gables’ (one of her favorite stories) and pointed out how the story finds much of its beauty and romance from the place where Anne lives entitled ‘Green Gables’. In the story it is not simply place where people live called ‘Anne’s house’ or ‘The Cuthbert residence’, but is a home, where memories are made and where love abounds, given the name of ‘Green Gables’. We talked for a while about this idea and observed that many houses from the past were given names just as ‘Glenmerle’ and ‘Green Gables’ were, but how over time people have neglected this tradition.
It was an inspiring and beautiful conversation, but over time it had slipped into the corners of my mind.
Then, a few days ago, Antonia came up to me and said, “I came up with a name for it!!”
Confused I asked, “You came up with a name for what?”
“A name for my house,” she answered.
Curious and very intrigued I asked her, “Oh yeah, what did you name it?”
She got a big smile on her face and said, “Hemlock Hill!”
I can still see the big smile on her face while I write this and have been inspired in two ways since hearing her tell me that she named her house:
1. I have been trying, the best I can, to refer to her house as ‘Hemlock Hill’ and not ‘Antonia’s House’ or ‘The Simonik Residence’.
2. I have been trying to come up with a name for my house.
It might sound strange, but there is a profound beauty in referring to a place by a name you have given to it. Antonia was right, when a place is given a name it is also given more personality, romance, character, atmosphere, mystery, beauty, life, and security. When you use that name you are thinking not only of the person who lives there, but also of memories made there, and of the great love that can be found in that place.
So, just as I am searching for the right name for my home, I encourage all of you to give a name to the places in your life that mean the most to you that you might experience them to their fullest.