Writers have been taught to fully establish the characters in our books. Who is the main character? What makes them different from the others? What draws us to them? They’re not perfect. They may not even be likable, yet we still root for them.
And the same can be true of a place. What is it about a place that makes it almost like a character? In my first book, Thinking of Miller Place, my grandfather’s property that was our summer oasis with its big white house on the hill and cozy log cabin garnering a corner at the other end, was a magical, powerful character for me. “That place gave me the gift of childhood summers of being blessedly unaware while I could get my feathers fluffed out like a newborn bird.” (Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort)
The book serves to show Miller Place as a security blanket, a way to remember childhood dreams, friends, and family members who played pivotal roles in people’s lives— all happening around that one acre of property.
My recent book tour back East to market my second book, Seedlings, Stories of Relationships, dropped a wonderfully synchronistic meeting into my unsuspecting lap.
My sister and I visited Miller Place to see the old property. Of course it physically looked different, additions pushed the perimeter of the log cabin out and up. The property had a new shed, was divided into two separate lots, but the air still smelled fresh, a dark verdant green was everywhere, and the old stone fireplace was visible under a blanket of plants and seedlings. The current owner, Greg Alch, graciously let us go back in time with an invitation to come inside.
An email later renewed the idea that our special place continues to be a character when Pat Alch added her story:
“I missed you when you came to see the “Old Log Cabin” a few weeks ago but my husband was able to speak with you and gave me the book that you left for us.
I found your book so charming and special. It brought back so many memories for me also as we have lived here for 30 years now.
I am a great aunt as you are and took my great niece through the “poison ivy path” a couple of years ago…She still loves the tree swing back by the fireplace though.
Up until 2002, I had childcare in the cabin and yard. My childcare boys loved to climb up on the fireplace. It was their pirate ship, spacecraft, etc…
I went to a wedding on Saturday for one of my “childcare” girls. She was still talking about the property and asked if the “Hot Wheel Hill” was still there and the fireplace. She had such fond memories of her childhood here, which made me feel blessed. Her hugs were long and genuine.
I just wanted to let you know that the house has remained a loving, fun place. And in winter, the snow is breathtaking.”
I never considered myself a part of history, but I guess all of us who have lived and played at our Miller Place are a part of that special history. And I am sure Miller Place, now a benevolent old grandmother herself, is smiling and nodding.