Thursday, August 2


I recently watched the movie, Bridge to Terabithia, and it has awakened memories of my favorite books as a child. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was one of them, the others were:

When I started thinking about this last week, I realized that they all have something in common: elements of the supernatural or magical. Which makes sense. I still love the magical and supernatural. But I've also realized a second theme running through them: the love and care of old houses.

In Terabithia, Chapter Seven - The Golden Room includes a wonderful bit about house restoration:

First they ripped out the boards that covered the ancient fireplace, coming upon the rusty bricks like prospectors upon the mother lode. Next they got the old wallpaper off the living- room wall-all five garish layers of it. Sometimes as they lovingly patched and painted, they listened to Bill's records or sang, Leslie and less teaching Bill some of Miss Edmunds' songs and Bill teaching them some he knew. At other times they would talk. less listened wonderingly as Bill explained things that were going on in the world. If Momma could hear him, she'd swear he was another Walter Cronkite instead of some hippie." All the Burkes were smart. Not smart, maybe, about finding things or growing things, but smart in a way Jess had never known real live people to he. Like one day while they were working, Judy came down and read out loud to them, mostly poetry and some of it in Italian which, of course, less couldn't understand, but he buried his head in the rich sound of the words and let himself be wrapped warmly around in the feel of the Burkes' brilliance.

They painted the living room gold. Leslie and Jess had wanted blue, but Bill held out for gold, which turned out to be so beautiful that they were glad they had given in. The sun would slant in from the west in the late afternoon until the room was brimful of light.

Finally Bill rented a sander from Millsburg Plaza, and they took off the black floor paint down to the wide oak boards and refinished them.

"No rugs," Bill said.

"No," agreed Judy. "It would be like putting a veil on the Mona Lisa."

When Bill and the children had finished razor-blading the last bits of paint off the windows and washed the panes, they called Judy down from her upstairs study to come and see. The four of them sat down on the floor and gazed around. It was gorgeous.

Leslie gave a deep satisfied sigh. "I love this room," she said. "Don't you feel the golden enchantment of it? It is worthy to be" - Jess looked up in sudden alarm - "in a palace."

The Old Westerley Place is a main character in Headless Cupid:

Right out in front of the landing and at almost the same level was the hall chandelier, and beyond that the fan-shaped colored glass window above the front door. When the sun was low, it shone through the glass and was spattered by crystals of the chandelier into hundreds of shivering spots of red and green and gold. The front door was wide and thick and set in a carved frame of shiny dark wood. To the right and left, doors led into the living room and parlor and dining room, and if you leaned against the bannisters, you could also see th ekitchen door, farther down the hall.

The staircase itself was one of the best parts of the house. It was not very wide, but it was made of the same dark shiny wood, and the bannisters were elaborately carved. The fanciest posts were at both eends of each flight. They were carved to resemble a thick vine, twirling up to a huge wooden ball, and on each side fat wooden cupids reached up to touch the ball with chubby fingers. David's father said the bannister was very unusual and in good condidtion considering its age. There were only a few places where the wood was chipped or cracking, and there was one cupid, there on the landing, who had a missing head.

The Westing Game is All About Real Estate. The characters all live in Sunset Towers:

Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shore five stories high. Five empty stories high.

It is the apartment you've always dreamed of, at a rent you can afford, in the newest, most luxurious building on Lake Michigan:

# Picture windows in every room
# Uniformed doorman, maid service
# Central air conditioning, hi-speed elevator
# Exclusive neighborhood, near excellent schools
# Etc., etc.

You have to see it to believe it. But these unbelievably elegant apartments will be shown by appointment only.

The building is built next to Old Westing House, an empty mansion once occupied by the famous founder of Westing Paper Products and subject of the mysterious game.

Growing up in San Francisco with a mother who was a sucker for an old decrepit house, it's not a surprise that this was an interest to me. But it's always so fascinating (to someone who changes as much as I do) to find these roots of my current day interests back in the little girl I once was.


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