If you love houses, you probably have a “dream house” or at least elements of a dream house, compiled in a scrapbook, random folder, dog-eared pages in a stack of magazines, or perhaps on the enormously popular Pinterest. Maybe you live in your dream house. But, take a step back. What would five-year-old you or ten-year-old you say when asked about a dream house? Was it based on a book, on some enormous sitcom house (really, why did they always have two staircases?), or something entirely unique.
My sisters and I spent a lot of time playing in our large maple tree because it had just enough good “sitting spots” – as we called them – for all four of us. We never had a tree house, but we had a little playhouse in the backyard that Dad built. And if you asked us, the Swiss Family Robinson House, like the one in Disney World, would have made a fun house for us. We’d dream up crazy things like a backyard full of playground tunnels and trampolines and zip lines. What more could a kid want? Or maybe a big farmhouse with a large wraparound porch overlooking fields and meadows would have suited us. We loved to play and run outside.
Why do I ask? I love a stroll down memory lane, and while nostalgia always joins in, distorting some of those memories, I think it is important to remember what you dreamt about as a kid and what was important at various ages and phases in life. Think about it: we talk about sense of place as adults. We discuss our built environment, the intangible aspects and how to improve our quality of life. But, if you aren’t a parent or don’t have young kids involved in your life, how often do you think about sense of place and the environment from their point of view? Of course, all generations are considered in our environment, but I would guess that adults might not be able to articulate everything that children think is important.
Do you have kids? Ask them about their environment, the buildings, the landscape – what they like, what they see, what they don’t like. And if you don’t have kids, do your best to remember what you thought was ideal as a child. It will help us make our environments and community more meaningful to all.