Other People’s Houses

Jackson, old house, sunlight

Sometimes I think of other people’s houses as places where I could hide away. It’s a strange kind of envy; if I found a way to get in and stay, I could disappear into someone else’s story and never be responsible for my own.

Each window hides mysteries: What’s it like in there? Sleek and modern? Or old, dark, and creaking? Is it the home of a hoarder? A clean freak? A night owl? A conjurer? What kind of furniture do they have? What are their jobs? Who are they?

One house, I imagine, hides a middle-aged man who lives alone and pines for his dead mother. Another holds a family with an only child who is growing up, no longer oblivious to his parents’ miseries. Another, I imagine, nurtures a young couple with a baby on the way (so far, so good).

In Chicago winters I walked along Arlington Place, envying the stately brownstones, their gold-lit windows warm while I froze outside. I assumed the people inside were rich and happy. I never took photographs of those places, but I have the photos in my mind.

Other people’s houses are mysteries to be imagined. When you write a story, you can solve the mystery.

Sometimes people drive by our house and slow down. They have to, because there’s a speed hump. But I like to think they’re looking and wondering, like I do.

#house#writing prompts


  1. chris - April 7, 2017 @ 04:26

    Well u made me start thinking… Yes, some house have joy in them, others sadness, anger.. See u made me think… How about cars- the type of owners that chose them? And writers can put their imaginations to any subject and no two will be a like..

    • Petrea - April 7, 2017 @ 08:02

      No excuse for writer’s block, eh? Inspiration is everywhere.

  2. Foundpoem1 - April 7, 2017 @ 07:22

    I miss living in a neighborhood lined with now-distinguished older homes – the original Victorians and Mediterraneans and Craftsmans and the occasional custom contemporary. They exist elsewhere here, not too far away but, anyway.

    Will these production homes popping up everywhere, 200 or more of the same “style” family, erected over one spring and summer, ever look like classics with lasting narratives? We currently live in one and when we moved in, the slow process of dismantleing and replacing the utilitarian production staples began.

    I doubt the first-built Volkswagen Beetles didn’t give anyone the impression of a new classic when thousands of them rolled off the lines. But when a rare 1969 basic Bug is seen on the street, the stories still well up.

  3. Foundpoem1 - April 7, 2017 @ 07:25

    Oh I didn’t proof very well with that unintended double negative in the second to last sentence.

    • Petrea - April 7, 2017 @ 08:05

      No grammar police here!
      You never know what’s going to be a classic, I suppose. Who could have known that certain Hot Wheels models, or cheap cereal toys, or original shotgun bungalows would command high prices one day? It’s a case for holding onto some things, at least those you care about.

  4. William Kendall - April 7, 2017 @ 08:47

    Most of my neighbours – at least where I am for the next few weeks- are professionals in one way or another. They’re fine where I’m concerned, but not so much for the owner of the property. But then he more than deserves it.

    • Petrea - April 7, 2017 @ 10:31

      Seems like you know everyone (goodies and baddies). That’s a good kind of neighborhood.

  5. Lowell - April 7, 2017 @ 11:26

    I am also intrigued by houses and their present/former inhabitants. In fact, we drove through old historic Ocala today looking at the huge variety of beautiful and not-so-beautiful homes, many of which have withstood some tough times. I try to take photos but the streets are too narrow and inevitably some car comes up behind me as soon as I stop!

    • Petrea - April 7, 2017 @ 11:57

      Ah, the struggles we go through to get a good shot! I’ve lain on the ground, searched in vain for parking and then just hoped for a red light, guessed, zoomed, and shot in all directions, trying to get an interesting angle. With the exception of an impatient dog on the end of the leash I held in one hand, this shot was straightforward.

  6. Foundpoem1 - April 7, 2017 @ 11:36

    Yes, the keep or discard balancing act.

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