Castles of Wood and Stone

by The Cowl Editor on October 3, 2019


by Clara Howard ’20

There’s a half-remembered ranch house with a stream in front. A perfect place for playing princesses and pirates. On the outside, white siding gave way to honeycolored stones. On the inside, rooms opened their arms wide, ready to embrace wild imaginations, cooking mishaps, and childhood innocence. Wallpapered bedrooms smiled at stuffed animal fights and nightmare soothings. At Brookmede, we had free reign of our fairy-and-pirate kingdom.

There’s a small, two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of an old building with no elevator. Tile steps and wroughtiron railings wound their way up to a haven that felt close to heaven. The kitchen, no bigger than a closet, witnessed midnight meriendas, daybreak desayunos, and celebratory cenas. The windows, unhampered by screens, opened wide to see Popocatépetl keeping his smoky watch over the valley. En México, éramos príncipe y princesa de una cultura materna.

There’s a one story clapboard house sitting prim, proud, and proper on the almost-corner of a treelined street. Hard-won, held onto for 68 years, it had “Howard” engraved on its bones. Never much room for stretching out, summer days passed with Betty Boop, Lucy and Ricky, Bing and Fred. In the evenings, the dining room table cleared, beware the card shark-infested waters, and whatever you do, don’t hold on to your aces! Winners got flying saucers from the Carvel down the street. At 42 Jersey St., we were the youngest in line to a crocheted throne.

There’s a ranch house made of brick. It stands between trees and expanses of a green yard. In the summertime, riotous color blooms: delighted magenta bounces happily, regal violet sways with sophistication, and sunset orange stretches its arms out along a soil horizon. In the back, herbs have the lay of the land (as much as mint tries to mutiny), and perfume the air to make one hungry. Inside, wooden floors creak under older sets of footsteps, walls dress up in food-named colors, and we have our own rooms. Laughter still cracks the still air. At Old Fence, we choose to rule on our own on separate sides.

There are various rooms in various buildings on a relatively small campus. In room 411, the sunrise wakes me up those first few weeks because my independence manifests itself in leaving the windows and shades open. My view encompasses the skyline of a fateful city. In 2AL, I have a corner of a building, which means I have my own corner of the world, and the crosswinds through my windows make me wish for wind chimes. My view is of green, green grass and a world of endless possibilities. In 203, my nights are like an endless slumber party: laughing, crying, and sharing secrets with friends who become the only bright stars in a depressed nighttime. My view changes from other brick buildings to a weeping willow across the street. In 410, the apartment is infused with colorful mugs, animal-themed decorations, and comfortable blankets. My view is of a courtyard and a curious maple, of vibrant, beautiful hearts, of an idyllic time slipping away. In Providence, I learn to be queen of a kingdom that lost some of its magic, but never any of its allies.

Other things that are only mine: a corner of the bunk bed where I can whisper and pretend that my unicorns and puppies have lives of their own; a window in the blue room where I can peek through and see the Aztec warrior weeping over his lost love; an indent in the kitchen floor, right by the doorway, that fits the shape of my heel perfectly, as if I had made it myself; a single shelf where my most favorite titles nestle nice and snug together; a set of linens, including a comforter with the Eiffel Tower to prove my elegance and maturity, that covers a bed that will never be comfortable, but will sit and stand beneath laughing faces, chocolate quotes, and faithful protections.

In my castle, my home is built of memories.

A stone castle on a hill with a blue sky background
Photo courtesy of