Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
- TITLE: Building a Home.
By Helen Murray
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The first mistake we made was to build in a fire-prone area. Well, the hills were magnificent and the views amazing. If truth were told I’d have awful trouble refusing that block of land again, but I think we’d put in a swimming pool and some absolutely grandiosely enormous water tanks – there was enough annual rainfall to fill all that! Then we’d keep the land close to the house paved or lawned for wonderful outdoor areas and also for protection.
Then I’d make no bones about the materials – no timber posts or floors, all steel-framed and cement (difficult when you are building split-level, but still, essential). There would be a sprinkling system on the roof – or better still, the house could be built into the hillside itself so that it was covered with soil and grass, so that the bushfires would go right over the top. This would be very eco friendly as far as heating and cooling efficiency goes. The views would be exactly the same, so that whenever I became restless or distressed with the baby’s colic, I could carry him just as tenderly to the window, and there look outwards over the strawberry farm to the horse paddock where the Shetland pony grazed with the grey cob, and from there to the little stream that flowed into the spreading pond where the spring delivered its pure, crystalline mountain freshness, and the little calves were feeding and growing contentedly, or lining up for their daily bucket of milk. My frayed nerves would bounce into survival mode until a couple of hours later when the crying stopped.
Would I build split level, so that my son, who earnestly studied those four stairs and the people ascending and descending constantly, could immediately climb them the very minute he discovered he could crawl? Why, yes, I’d build that identical split, just to recapture that wonderful moment of exultant determination in one so very young! A couple of years later he rode his tricycle down those same stairs with disastrous results – namely that the tricycle was put firmly in the shed! Well, that wasn’t the only tricyclic escapade of his. He also rode right through a window, which we had to replace with armour-plated glass! His dad followed up by breaking another window in his very creative carpentering efforts! Maybe armour-plated glass right through would be a sound invention!
I think I’d put the children’s bright, red, swinging plank suspended from its blue steel frame right in front of the kitchen window, so that when the older children, aged three and two, took the six-month old baby outside for an unprotected swing, I’d know their intentions immediately instead of wondering why things were so quiet, panicking when I couldn’t find the baby, and having to search everywhere for those disappearing children so full of wonderful ideas!
Some things I’d do the same. There were lots of compliments over the gold curtains hung over the floor to ceiling picture windows in the lounge. I never revealed my secret – that I had made them of lining material, waiting for the day when we could afford to purchase proper curtain material to cover them!
I still couldn’t resist the plan we chose for our hillside site, split levels with cathedral ceilings and huge picture windows to bring the great outdoors right into our home so that our lungs seemed to fill themselves to the brim with fresh mountain air the minute we woke up in the morning. It’s still the best plan ever, in my mind, but in those days it was most advanced thinking! Oh, and it did bring out the amazing hidden talent my young husband had for landscaping with stone. It began a lifelong passion for him – the first of many houses so treated to their own magnificence.
When the bushfire came, it left only those stone walls standing. The ponies, rabbits, guinea pigs were all burned, but the goldfish in the shed survived. Even the brick walls of the house were flattened. Later, the pony club got together and found another pony for my daughter, which carried her on many an outrageous adventure, and did absolutely everything she could ever ask of it, the wonderful creature. People’s response to these situations is incredibly moving and memorable. There is so much to be thankful for.
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