Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 30, 2005

Dream house

On Christmas Day, I got my dream house, complete with gingerbread trim, porch and turret. It's only four-and-a-half-inches high by three-and-a-half-inches wide by an inch deep, but it still made me smile.

"My Victorian house," I exclaimed when I pulled it from the wrapping paper.

I thanked my daughters, including German daughter Nadja, and gave them all hugs.

"It's all we could afford this year," oldest daughter Mariya said, grinning.

The girls have often heard me say that I'm a Victorian woman living in a split-level house. I love old two or three-story homes with gingerbread trim, wide wood staircases, wood floors, wrap-around porches, corner turrets, bay windows and roomy attics.

I especially pine for such a home during the holidays. Every time Art, the girls and I drive to Wisconsin around Christmastime, we pass by houses that are decorated with wreaths on every door, garlands wrapped around the porch railings, candles in every window and Christmas trees on lower and upper levels. They look so romantic set against a snowy background.

Then I think of our home. The front door leads to a six-foot by three-foot landing from which we must either go up steps to the main living area or down steps to the family room and laundry. There's no fancy trim on the outside, all the floors except the kitchen one are carpeted, there's no porch, there are no turrets or bay windows and the attic is reachable only from a small opening inside the hall closet. I've never been in the attic, but Art assures me I wouldn't want to go there anyway.

The house was built in what I call the "avocado-green and harvest-gold era." When I married Art and moved in, it still had 1970s pea green carpet in the living and dining room area, green and brown carpet in the kitchen, and embossed green and gold wallpaper on several walls.

At least those are all gone. And, over the past 17 years, we've made other improvements such as painting walls, adding bookshelves, building a deck and doing some simple landscaping.

But I still pine for my Victorian-era home.

Well, maybe not quite as much as I did. A friend who recently purchased such a place has told us a few stories about the challenges he and his wife and three kids are facing. They hope to open the house as a bed and breakfast someday. In the meantime, they're contending with major electrical work, plumbing repairs and much-higher heating bills. This winter they are keeping the house at 55 degrees. Last summer they air conditioned only three rooms.

When Art and I went to lunch with Dave last week, we asked how he was getting along.

"I wear four layers of clothes when I'm home," Dave told us. Then he added with a grin, "We're willing to raise the thermostat to 62 when company comes over."

Brr! For someone who likes toasty hands and feet, that doesn't sound very appealing!

Dave said it's a challenge maintaining such a home, describing it as a balance between upgrading and modernizing while retaining its old character. For instance, he wants to keep the curved glass windows in the turrets, but so far has had no luck finding multi-layer thermal ones.

"You don't really own a home like this," Dave said. "You're really just a caretaker."

Dave loves working on home projects and so it appears he'll be beside himself with happiness for some time. But I think I am more into enjoying the end results rather than the "getting-there" part.

So maybe our home isn't so bad after all.

And the kids agree.

"I love it because it's my house," traditionalist daughter Katie said. "I love my room, even though sometimes I wish it was bigger. And I like the way the living and dining rooms are connected."

"It's where I grew up," Mariya added.

Hmm. . . Maybe I'm in my dream house after all.

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