Town House


A Girl Named Bowser and a Beloved Old House
From the moment I understood what wishes were, and that they’d only come true if you wished on a star, drove under a moving train or blew out birthday candles, I made the same wish over and over again. I wished I would turn into a dog, Lady from Lady and the Tramp, specifically, because I thought she was the most beautiful being imaginable. I wished harder and harder with each opportunity, convinced that if my conviction was stronger, it would happen for me. It never did.

Eventually, I grew old enough to understand I wasn’t going to turn into any kind of dog, cartoon or real life. So I saved my wishes for more material things and channeled my canine energy into pretending I was a dog. I crawled around the house on all fours and spent way too much time finding the sunniest spot on the living room carpet to circle several times before curling in a ball and pretending to nap. When I awoke from these pretend naps, I would pant a little, lick my chops, then stand up and stretch before padding into the kitchen in search of a snack. Probably too frightened to seek out a child psychologist, my family humored me, calling me Bowser and barely complaining when I made off with their shoes.

While I gradually played Bowser less and less, that passion for dogs stayed with me, eventually working itself into a blond, waif-like character named Lucinda. I knew she’d pretend to be a dog, I knew she’d look like me and I knew she’d eventually fall through her bedroom window while gazing at her pretend ponies, also like me. But this Lucinda would be much bolder than I ever was. She’d be bold enough to bite her mother in the leg and sneak into someone else’s house, something I only did once, when my best friend wanted to steal a real baby diaper for her new doll, and the guilt and terror nearly crushed me.

So here I was with a character, but no book. Another, far less embarrassing, obsession I have is with old houses and architecture. I was watching a show on HGTV in which a dilapidated town house was being renovated in preparation for sale. Only the exterior was shown, but it was four stories with original windows and trim. The homeowner wistfully mentioned that the entire fourth floor was a stage and that she’d raised her children there through many rough times, times when they had no heat and no furniture. 117 Battersea Road was born.

I had my setting, I had my girl. All I needed now was a hole in the wall and someone on the other side with a really big problem. Someone who had put up their own invisible walls that Lucinda could not only break through, but ultimately break down. Someone like Jack.