Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cape Cod or Colonial -- jcarolek

In 1963, upon returning to the U.S. from Cyprus, we moved into our first "new" home. Dad and Mom had entrusted the oversight of the construction process to Grandad, as trying to keep tabs on such a project from half a world away would have been virtually impossible. Our new house was in Bowie, MD, and the "model" selected by my parents was the "Cape Cod."

Growing up in this house, I became well versed in the "reason behind" the selection of this particular model over the three other models offered in this community of homes built by Levitt. Models NOT selected were the "Rambler" -- single story, three bedroom, L shaped, left or right bend option, the "Colonial" -- two story, three/four bedrooms, with or without a front "porch", and the "Country Club" -- two story, five bedrooms (I think), front porch. The "Cape Cod" offered two stories, four bedrooms, two baths, and a front porch.

Her design was such that the upstairs bedrooms were in a "glorified attic" meaning much of the square footage offered was at a height that really limited its usefulness...still, the two story design lent itself well to more efficient heating and cooling. The smaller of the two downstairs bedrooms was used as a library in our early childhood years, with the four boys sharing the larger downstairs bedroom and Jeannie and I sharing the smaller of the upstairs bedrooms -- across the tiny hallway from Mom and Dad.

I recall liking that Cape Cod house...I liked the glorified attic ceilings of my bedroom -- it felt "cozy." BUT I also recall feeling as if we were the "poor" folks who could not afford wall-to-wall carpeting, or a TV or matching furniture.....

Now Dad was quite clear that wall-to-wall carpet was a complete waste of money because you were paying for carpet that was never really used....that the high traffic areas would demand replacement of the whole carpet before the WHOLE carpet was worn out. So area rugs adorned our floors. Dad was also adamant that TV was NOT something he wanted in his house. His children would not be raised on the "boob tube" but would be raised reading and playing games....indoors and out. And matching furniture? Well, with six kids and one who was VERY hard on furniture, I suppose we were lucky we even HAD a couch and a couple of chairs!

Once this little Levitt built neighborhood was fully occupied, the personalization of the standard four models began to take place. One by one the neighbors "added on" to their abodes, providing their families with additional space to spread out, and distinguishing their house from others of the similar model. We too "added on." When we returned from England in 1971, and moved back into our house, it was apparent that the once-spacious Cape Cod was just a bit on the small side.

So Dad and Mom worked with a contractor and devised their that would be MOST cost effective (of course). This meant that they had the shell built and we did the interior finishing. I learned about paneling, dropped ceilings, linoleum tile and more during this adventure. And when it was complete, our house, though remarkably unchanged from the road view, was hugely different inside.

Over the more than thirty years that Dad owned that house on Farris Lane, he with my step mom now added on, and remodeled on several occasions. A few years ago, when they decided it was time to sell the house they had now been renting out to others for a number of years, I went to see the old place. I was taken by the smallness of the yard, the 1/4 acre lot that had seemed so huge to me as a child. And as I showed my hubby the interior of the house in which I had grown up, I was amazed at the smallness of the rooms we children shared. And I wondered, as I had way back in the 60's and 70's, what it would have been like to have been raised in one of the other models.

Had I been an only child or one of only two, I would, most likely have been raised in a "less efficient" three bedroom rambler, with wall-to-wall carpeting, a TV and matching furniture. If I had been one of three or four children, with a Dad who worked for a "company" rather than for the government, I would probably have been raised in a Colonial, with wall-to-wall carpet, a TV and matching furniture. And if I had been one of five or six children, with a dad who worked for a "company" rather than the government, and a mom who worked outside of the home...I would likely have been raised in a Country Club (with wall-to-wall carpet, a TV and matching furniture.)

Instead, I was one of six kids, with a dad who worked for the government, and a stay at home mom. We had as the centerpiece of our living room...sitting smack dab in the middle of the RED area rug, that was more cost effective than the wall-to-wall carpet, the monkey's cage (with the monkey residing therein.) Our non-matching furniture was strewn with bodies as were the chairs, and often the floor...bodies totally engrossed in their own books, laughing out loud to their own stories, while the neighbors tuned into their TV's.

And so, now you know...the Cape Cod is why I am who I am today. It was inevitable.

No comments: