If I could instantly be transported to any place, any place at all, where would I go? Would I lose myself amidst the maddening rush of New York, find sanctuary in a Tibetan monastery, or might I seek out something more fantastical like a walk in the Shire or unlocking the secrets of the Batcave?
No, I think instead that I would seek out a ranch-style house in central Pennsylvania. A house that has been home to my two closes friends for the past 8 years. It has also been the site of many parties, barbecues and lazy afternoons spent watching TV on the couch or playing video games.
My friends moved into the house shortly after their first wedding anniversary. It’s a large but unassuming home in an idyllic locale, about twenty minutes from Penn State University, where they both work and where I was studying at the time. They used to live closer to the campus before that, but were now far away from all that, trading the sight of brick buildings and frenzied freshmen for farmland and mountains.
The house lies along an unpaved path that can be reached through an easy-to-miss turn on a quiet country road. The path is surrounded on both sides by a sea of sprawling grassy yards, dotted with houses that are similar, yet so very different. Maybe it’s my own bias, but that house just seems special, it’s creamy beige exterior standing out against the emerald landscape. The yard is practically a little park, with an unused barn on one end and peach trees marking the boundary on the other side.
The house was built in the 70’s, and it shows in the light brown shaggy rug and plain cream colored walls. My friends had their own ideas for decorating the house, and I’ve spent a few summer afternoons helping to paint their walls in the colors of domestic happiness. The living room ceiling has an odd series of mostly concentric swirls that we came to call the ‘demon portal’. To my knowledge, not a single demon has been glimpsed entering or leaving the portal, but that’s probably for the best.
But of course, a house isn’t a home unless it’s filled with good people. My friends fit that description handily, and helped make a home not just for themselves, but for anyone that spent time under their roof.
I have been a frequent weekend guest and occasional housesitter, and they’ve always been glad to have me over, whether for dinner, a movie or just to hang out and while away the hours chatting about nothing. I have had the pleasure of waking up to a majestic view of golden sunlight reflected off slopes of green and purple, as if nature itself wanted to wish me a good morning. And I’ve seen the sunset paint the sky in brilliant shades of red and gold while sitting on the porch having a beer.
As time went by, my friends added some children to their happy home. Well, not human children. They adopted a pair of dogs, two of the most delightful little pups in the entire world, who made the house seem even brighter with their fuzzy, playful presence. The house developed the distinctive odor of dog that every dog owner’s home seems to have, and the furniture became furrier than it used to be. But it’s hard to beat a wake up call that involves a wagging tail and an excited face licking.
I left that house behind almost five years ago due to circumstances that were beyond my control, moving half a world away. It’s undergone a few more changes and renovations since I last saw it, but the people (and the two adorable non-people) make it instantly recognizable and familiar. And that’s where I would love to go right now, into a house on an unpaved path off a quiet country road, where I can sit with friends so dear that we can discuss a lifetime without exchanging a single word, drinking a cold beer while watching the dogs play their doggy games and basking in the postcard scene that is the neighborhood.
Oh, what a wonderful place to be.