from The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante


Maybe the wealth we wanted as children is this, I thought: not strongboxes full of diamonds and gold coins but a bathtub, to immerse yourself like this every day, to eat bread, salami, prosciutto, to have a lot of space, even in the bathroom, to have a telephone, a pantry and icebox full of food, a photograph in a silver frame on the sideboard that shows you in your wedding dress—to have this entire house, with the kitchen, the bedroom, the dining room, the two balconies, the room where I am studying… p 55

I dream of houses.

At night while I sleep I walk through a maze of rooms only to discover an unexpected room or a hidden door I’d never noticed before.

I replay scenes from my favorite childhood haunts. The attic from my aunt’s house in Cleveland, the back bedroom at my grandmother’s where I spent many a weekend, the daybed at the top of the stairs at my best friend’s farmhouse.

I dwell on imagery from certain books: The Lion, The With and The Wardrobe, The Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, and Pippi Longstocking. I can close my eyes and see the homes set amongst the fictional landscapes and if I could I would walk into Narnia and live quite happily with Mr. Tumnus, though I’m not sure his ceiling are high enough for our bookcases. Our shelves must fit in at least one room, that point is non negotiable. I’m willing to compromise on other aspects, but that one is a must. (I’m also hoping for a claw-footed tub, glass doorknobs, an unfinished attic and an exposed brick wall–but those are wants, not needs.)

I feel quite certain that the house we finally decide on will have to be a mash-up of all of these different pieces. I hope that when we walk in, my heart will whisper: “This one…”

After renting for over 20 years, the list of desires has grown and the expectations have become quite high. I know that no house is perfect, and each one we visit has certain attributes and its own brand of charm.

When I was little I would spend time imagining my future life. I would write my name over and over, pretending to be married to different boys I fancied. The words “Mrs. Elizabeth So and So” covered countless pages in my notebook. I knew that when I grew up I would have a dog and children and we would live happily ever after in our home. The house was never clear in my mind, except that I knew the rooms would be filled with books.

Until I was in kindergarten, my family lived above my uncle’s garage. It was an exceptionally long flight of stairs that had to be scaled to get to the apartment we inhabited. I had my own room painted a special shade of seashell pink and a play room across the hall where I spent time with my imaginary friends– Timmy and Scotty. The room was filled with windows and led to a covered porch that felt like a very sturdy treehouse. I see now that I gravitate towards some of these features in the houses we tour. I have a deep connection to the second story sunporch in one of those houses we are considering.

We only lived in that apartment until I was 4, my mother was adamant that we move to our own place. We eventually moved to a much smaller house a few streets over and I lived there, sharing a bedroom with my sisters, until I left for college. Looking back now I can see why we moved, the need for ownership overpowering and primal. But back then I missed my own room, I missed climbing the adventurous stairs and I missed the tree in the backyard—as well as the perfect hill for sledding on our Flexible Flyer.

I don’t know where M and I will end up. Each house we visit allows a brief glimpse into a future that may or may not happen. Pulling into each driveway I silently ask the question, “Will this be the one?” Knowing that one day I will finally hear the much awaited answer, and that will be the home for us.



5 thoughts on “from The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

  1. Beautiful, as always. I hope so much that you and M find that house of your combined dreams very soon. And then we’ll come, bearing bread, prosciutto, cheese, and champagne to celebrate…!

  2. I really enjoyed this. I never realized just how vividly I remember the places I grew up… the rooms, the hallways, even the overall feel.

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