THE HOBBIT UNDER THE STAIRS
(for the OnDisplay
29 July 2003
We had this house built and moved in in 1973. At the time we thought
we had really committed ourselves to an astronomical debt--it was nearly twice the price
of the house we were leaving in Oakland. In retrospect it seems ludicrous. Within two
years, house prices in California skyrocketed and our house was worth, overnight, three
times what we paid to have it built. When I read what the median price of a house in these
parts is now, I just laugh. This cluttered, unkempt tract house is worth--by 1973
standards--a small fortune. (Definitely not a fortune by 2003 standards!)
But of course we didn't know that at the time.
It's 2100 square feet, which sounds huge, but it doesn't feel huge
because it's a two story house. Block design. Downstairs there is a 21x15 foot living
room, a hallway, and then a 21x15 family room/eating area combination, a small kitchen,
and a 9x12 office that I had tacked on because I needed a room of my own for my
Upstairs there are four bedrooms, the largest of which was shared by
all four boys and varying numbers of foreign students through the years.
In the downstairs hall is a closet which Walt adopted as his
"wine closet." It's not exactly a cellar and it doesn't exactly have controlled
temperatures, but he does store wine in there. Along with a couple of vacuums, shoes I
haven't worn in decades, and large on-sale packges of toilet paper and paper towels.
In the family room, under the stairs, is a small door to another closet. The top of the
door hits me at about waist height. Behind the door is a very small closet.
What in the world are we going to do with that? I wondered when we
In the first month that we were here, our friend Dick came to visit.
He and his wife had introduced us to the Tolkein books--she was a fanatic about them at
that time. Dick took one look at the door and said, without blinking, "Oh--it's a
Of course! It was a perfect place for a little hobbit to live.
So we had a sign made to put over the door and forever more it has
been called "The Hobbit Hole."
Initially the hobbit hole was a place for the kids to play. Then Ned
decided to take up the drums and we turned it into a practice room. Talk about bad ideas!
We covered the walls with carpet remnants to absorb the noise and put him in there with
his drum. The closet is not tall enough for him to stand up in--even not yet fully grown,
but if he was seated, he could fit.
The carpet remnants did not absorb the sound at all (and let me warn
any parent whose kid wants to take up drumming--there is no place that is far enough away,
unless it's on another block--for "practice.") What's more there was no air
circulation in there and in very short order the sweat of a child drumming his heart out
in a stifling Hobbit Hole got overpowering.
I don't think the "practice room" idea lasted very long.
Ultimately, the hobbit hole became a storage room, and when Jeri
moved out--whichever move that was--she stored her things in there.
In due time, as my collection of videotapes grew (to now over 600
VHS tapes--anybody want any? I'm ready to bargain), and the need for wall space to put
videotape cabinets grew, the hobbit hole got covered up. In truth, we haven't actually seen
the door in years (I had to move a cabinet to find out how tall the door was--I'd
Jeri has, at some point, sorted through her things and threw away a
lot and I have this feeling that we also put additional stuff in the hobbit hole, but in
all honesty, I don't have a clue what is in the hobbit hole any more.
For all I know there is a hairy footed little creature in there
sipping a cask of amontillado.