When I think back to the houses I have lived in or that I visited often as a child, I call them by various names. One I refer to by street name. Another, only by street number. Others I name for their style or location – as in the Boathouse or the House on the River.
Of course, all my relatives speak the same house language. All one has to say is, “When we lived at 550 … ” and we all know exactly what house she is talking about simply by hearing the house number. No street name necessary.
However, another long-ago house is always referred to as Scott Street or, simply, Scott. I know the house they’re talking about but have no clue as to the exact address.
I would never refer to the home I live in now simply by its street address – unlike we do for old 550. It sounds silly. It doesn’t work. Years from now, if I no longer live there, I will probably refer to it by its street name.
It’s hard to explain, but certain names just sound right. It’s like the names of couples or the names in television shows. “Shirley & Laverne” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Laverne & Shirley.”
I earn a living talking to people about their houses – past and present. I’ve heard about the beach house named for the willow tree originally on the property. I’ve heard downsizers refer to their former residence as the Big House. I’ve heard about the City House, the Old House and – this one just rolls off the tongue – the Double.
Horse farms, cottages and bed-and-breakfasts often have great-sounding names, unlike our house. I would love it if our house had a cool name like that, but frankly we don’t have horses, we don’t live on the water, and we don’t serve home-baked muffins to strangers for a small charge.
Nor has our house earned a nickname, as some do. One friend said that her father’s childhood home was always referred to as the Koop – and always with a capital “K,” for reasons she said remain unclear.
In her own childhood home, she said that family members have always called a section of the house the South Wing.
“It sounds so pretentious, but it’s just a room that was added over a suburban garage. It’s on the south side of the house,” she said.
This reminds me about how, years ago, a bunch of us visited the Cape Cod family home of a college friend. We were all assigned our sleeping quarters. One was sent off to the Yellow Room. Another, to the Pink Room. The names were hardly quirky – no one carried her bags off to the Crow’s Nest or Hideaway – but the memory remains of each room being identified by its own unique color.
Come to think of it, I could come up with a few names for the rooms in our current house. The Messy Room, perhaps, or the Ceiling Needs Painting Room.
And I think I just came up with the name for our house, too. Barking Dog.