When I was a child, I would spend hours at the library (Sometimes with my friend Beth–not every friend likes to hang out at the library. Sometimes with my sister.*) My mother would drop us off at the really large three-story library in town and arrange to pick us up a few hours later.
In my earliest days of library freedom I hung out on the third floor where the childrens books were. I was particularly fond of tiny books. Beatrix Potter’s were the smallest, but I found the illustrations to be dull and there were too many boring words. As I got older I discovered the kids non-fiction section. There was a book about making dollhouse furniture from things around the house–again I loved small things (nearly every project involved matchbooks, which we never had on hand. I should have asked my friends whose parents smoked, but at the time I wasn’t clever enough to think of that). I must have checked that dollhouse book out a hundred times. Second on my list of favorites was a book about making really dreadful-looking Halloween make-up: mummies, monsters, that sort of thing. I tried a few ideas, but there are not very many occasions that call for wearing monster make-up. And it turns out that a face coated in dried oatmeal is extremely itchy.
When I hit the double digits I found the main floor of the library to be more my speed. This was the floor of magazines (always a huge weakness of mine) and fiction. What budding adolescent girl doesn’t love to get lost in novels? Many girls don’t move past novels, but after a while I got tired of reading about people who didn’t exist. I still find it a little frustrating to invest so much time and emotion in a fake person. Some fiction is so good that it doesn’t matter, but most fiction has never really floated my boat.
Thus I ended up on the first floor (technically the basement.)
Nonfiction. Mon amour.
I’m quite sure I read every book on that floor. I fell in love with Biographies and Memoirs (still my favorite genre).
I also discovered a whole section of floor plans. As in houses. I was charmed. Twitterpated. Hooked.
You see, I had been clipping house plans out of magazines since I saw my very first one in a Southern Living at my Grandma’s house back in fifth grade. I had accumulated a tidy little stack of them. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined whole books full of floor plans.
I would stare at them for hours, imagining what the rooms would be like; picturing myself walking through them; pondering the wisdom of putting a door here instead of there. It was my secret little passion. Most teenage girls dream of boys. I dreamed of those too, but mostly I dreamed of Dutch Colonials and Gothic Revivals.
It was only a matter of time until I started designing houses. I spent hours–hours!–thinking of rooms and façades and window placement and built-in closets. Strangely it never occurred to me that I might like to design houses for a living. I mentioned something of the sort to my father when I was in high school. He told me that architects must be very good at math. My fate was sealed. Math killed me. I have never understood it. Numbers in general just swim around my head and make no sense at all. I can barely even remember a phone number. So I crossed off “architect” from the list the guidance counselor gave me of possible future careers.
But I have continued to design houses. I can’t help it. It just happens. Me with my piles of graph paper. Designing houses requires lots of time walking through houses. Which I also adore. I love to tsk, tsk over a poorly-designed kitchen or absurdly-placed bathroom. Fortunately my sister spent many years as a realtor and all the houses in our city were open wide for our thorough inspection. Those were some good times.
Now I am getting to the point where my children will soon be gone all day and I am thinking of going back to school to become an architect. If it means I have to become good at math, then I will. But hopefully the computer will take care of all that nastiness. Don’t get me wrong; I like to write and I love to bake, but the thing that gets my engines firing is drawing up a house plan.**
I hope they have scholarships for housewives who are ready to wake their brains up again. If not, I guess you’ll be able to find me in the house plan section of the library.
*The only time I remember for sure that my sister was there was one day when I was about eleven and Arianne got a really awful bloody nose. The librarian came and got me. I don’t know what for. Was I supposed to provide bloody-nose expertise? Comfort my sister (ha!)? I just looked at my sister lying on a bench with tissues up her nose and shrugged. Then I went back to my stack of novels about the Holocaust, which was my favorite subject at the time.
**I have a firm belief that nobody except a stay-at-home mom should be designing houses. We understand them. We know what works and what doesn’t. We live in a house like nobody else.