Although I didn’t actually meet Jon until 2002, the naming of Marklewood is most probably seeded on a certain day in June of 1974. I was a recent high school graduate, dating a girl from Winston Salem, and venturing the complicated route to her home for the first time.
I had just veered to the left for the seventh time, after a series of endless turns instructed on three pages of directions, when I saw at once the subdivision sign. Wedgewood. It was a tasteful stone and mortar marker under-planted with vivid azaleas. Yet, such a name struck me as odd.
Being from Greensboro, I grew up imagining all neighborhoods as having some ethereal, esoteric, or romantic name: Parker’s Park, Subjunctive Junction, or Hamilton Lakes Valley Mews Estates (to name but a few that I really don’t recall). Assuredly, no community would ever readily name such an area of fine homes after a product or a company, albeit a tasteful one. The name Wedgewood stayed with me as I continued further through Bethabara, a community which meant nothing to me, until I arrived at Whispering Lakes. Anne’s small tony neighborhood included a covered bridge, wooded landscaping, and artful and regal signage, which reassured and returned me to my provincial comfort level.
Wedgewood became the butt of many musings and wisecracks over the coming season, until that Christmas season when I went to fetch Anne to go to a party at Wake Forest. Horrors! Someone had rudely and spitefully removed the D from the sign leaving a giant “Wedgewoo” to greet visitors. It was weeks before I no longer saw humor in such a prank and most likely a year until it slipped my memory altogether.
Years later towards the late ‘80’s, I was a changed man. I lived in DC, was hopefully wiser, and living as an openly gay man. I was also living with the afore-referenced anti-Christ in Arlington, Virginia. Those of you who have followed my musings for a while will at once know that A.C. was a pretentious man, from one of the rarest of species: Homosexual Republican Pro-Life Bankers.
We had just moved into a secluded area casually referred to as Lorcum Lane, with effulgent foliage and a view of the Potomac. Our first evening there, we sat on the cedar deck admiring the forest of black walnut trees, pondering our future and the strength of our martinis, when I just blurted it out. Barrowood. Yes, my once-betrothed’s surname was indeed Barrow, and I saw fit to bestow such a mutual honor on both him and our new home. Of course, I chuckled with sarcasm (read: bitchiness) as I obsessed for hours over the “christening”, its irony, and its future.
From that night, I oft referred to our home as Barrowood, especially when welcoming cronies, who would naturally appreciate the roast. I even got out my trusty wood-burner and made a placard for the deck, and secured it within view from both the steps and the garden. It rather embarrassed the anti-Christ as it constantly reminded him of his pretention, my joy in pointing it out, and his humiliation whenever we entertained. I did, however, remove the sign whenever his family came to visit, which I thought was an adequate gesture in fairness.
Several years passed; everyone in our world referred to our home as Barrowood; and I had finally realized that I could no longer commune with a Republican banker. I packed my bags and started to load my car trunk, when I remembered a deed undone. I finished what all that I needed to do and checked into a hotel.
That night, he phoned me, furious and puzzled: “why did you remove the D from the sign on the back porch?” I informed him that the name initially was of my doing and that any letter was mine to simply take back. All is fair in such a break-up. He would just need to get used to life at Barrowoo without me!
Needless to say, he ultimately groveled and I returned home, perhaps a little wiser. But the thought of that errant “D” made me chortle with the most delicious of Catholic passive aggression. The modified name stuck. And not just in the privacy of our sanctum of dysfunction. All of our friends took similar delight in the humor in Barrowoo, as perhaps there was little else that was either joyful or humorous.
And today, some eighteen years after our final and most permanent “ending”, mutual friends tell me that everyone still refers to that home with that name, a legacy that reminds me that, yes, the Universe does indeed take care of its children. Barrowoo. I still laugh, but few know why these days.
Of course, Marklewood is different. The name itself blends both Jon’s and my names in some Zen-like harmony. The inspiration, however, was entirely different. The house is indeed magical and tucked away, far from other trappings of a commercial civilization. The very name seemed like some hybrid of sparkle, miracle, and would. And on a June night in 2002, the name Marklewood just found itself thus blurted. Marklewood will always give us joy: not just its name but all that it represents and actualizes.
If that should ever end, the “D” is always mine to tuck into my knapsack as I walk proudly down the long, dirt drive to the road.
(Image: “Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard” by Claude Verlinde, 1982.)