My sister Jo-Jo is famous for naming houses and spaces. Sometimes the names are aspirational, other times more fitting to their geographic location, and still others…pure fantasy. When I think back to Shangri-la – the name she gave to the third floor attic space that my Father converted to a bedroom escape at his Blueberry Pond Drive house on the Cape – fantasy comes to mind. Shangri-la is of course a reference to James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon which speaks of this “mystical, harmonious valley….”.
If you’ve ever been party to the modern family mash-up, coming together under one roof in search of open sky, sun, beach, and a cool ocean breeze, you know that serenity is not exactly what is produced inside those walls. After scaling a mountain of steps, and locking the door to keep out unwanted intruders, the attic did likely take on the mystical, harmonious qualities of a valley in the form of – quiet. Jo-Jo owned the space because she named it.
Then there is the Surf Shack, The Manse – she insists on naming them. I came up with a host of clever names for the Shack that were rejected out of hand, not because they weren’t perfect in my opinion, but because through the naming, there would be ownership. I still secretly think of it as The Buttercup Bungalow. A childhood name that she hated, and I adored “Buttercup” and her desire to have a California Style retreat. Plus I love alliteration. There’s a cadence to it that appeals, and my little fingers type out those bouncy words as fast as they pop out of my pouty pursed lips.
My PR Agent came for a visit and was gratifyingly appreciative of the way No. 4 has taken shape. She asked, as many do, is it hard for you to say good-bye to the properties. I answered as I always have – no – once they are complete, I am ready to move on to the next project. Design ideas, and materials, and furnishings that have yet to be expressed are bubbling over, and I am antsy with the need to be unleashed.
I wonder though if my habit of numbering the properties, rather than naming them, keeps it clinical. It’s much harder to fall in love with something that you don’t give a special name to. Even my very first property I only refer to as Charlestown. As a habitual nick-name giver, I know that they express affection in a way a number never will. Now that I have so clearly etched my number 10 in marble, what will happen if I don’t make it? Will I never find love? Say a little prayer for me this Sunday. Keep naming…keep believing.