There aren't many places I remember fondly from my childhood, since I don't remember much, but one stands out: the home and neighborhood of my best friend Rebecca, from when I was 15 to 19. I loved Rebecca passionately and wanted to spend all my time with her, but I loved her family too because they made me feel safe and gave me a place to escape feeling dismissed, ignored, or attacked. It was a place where people treated me as if my thoughts and desires mattered.
I had such positive associations with their house that it crushed me when they finally moved. That house was a four-story tower, originally the home of the architect of the neighborhood, but it was just barely enough space. The bottom floor was about a story and a half off of the ground because it was built at the edge of a steep slope. It was very quiet and dark, and it was where Rebecca's dad, a computer programmer, worked from home in a highly modified, sensory-reduced setup.
The next floor up was called the "blue level" because the carpet was blue: this was where Rebecca and the other two oldest kids lived. There was a kitchen, a bathroom, and two bedrooms (Rebecca shared with her sister), as well as a large main room. In the main room, there were long folding tables on top of which were three or four desktop computers. During the day there were always at least 3 boys playing (silent) games, and I would often sit and watch them if Rebecca was busy.
The next floor up was the main level, with a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, a TV room, and a sitting room called "the peacock room" because of the large ornate peacock rug hung on the wall. There was almost always someone in the kitchen and/or TV room, where the younger kids would play console games or watch movies. Along one hallway was a built in bookshelf filled with books that Rebecca's mom lent out. I think I read at least 90% of them.
Finally the top floor had the master bedroom, three bedrooms, the laundry room, and a bathroom. When I was younger, Rebecca and her sister had one of the upstairs rooms, and their other siblings shared the other two. I think at that point the blue level was occupied by people who worked for Rebecca's dad. But when I was best friends with Rebecca, the three upstairs rooms were occupied by her four younger siblings.
I loved that place so much. The way it smelled, the way it felt, the way it was decorated, how it was always untidy but clean. I loved how much ownership the kids got over their rooms, and how if I wanted company I could have it and if I wanted to be alone I could have that too.
Outside, a creek ran through the yard. The younger kids would play there, and Rebecca and I did too. More often we ran through the woods next to the house, to a place we called our "clubhouse" which was a little clearing next to the creek that we decorated and spent time in. I loved feeling wild and animalistic running through thick woods, leaping onto and off of logs. I doubt our clubhouse was more than a quarter mile from the house, but it felt a world away.