What's in a Name?
When my husband, Ron, and I lost our minds and decided to borrow tons of money, buy land and build ten small houses that would become Hill Country Casitas, we talked at length about naming each house, or Casita. My good friend, Frank Eck, had named all the rooms at his amazing farm in Virginia after family members, with their name inscribed on a brass plate above the door, and it made each room that much more special. So following in Frank’s footsteps, like we’ve done many times over on this project, we knew we had to name each Casita.
Our first awesome idea was to name each Casita after one of our favorite Texas Music Artists. The Jerry Jeff Walker, The Lyle Lovett, The Robert Earl Keen, The Jerry Jeff Walker, and so on. We thought we were brilliant. Our lawyer friend, Tony, said NO (you are not brilliant) due to trademark issues. Bummer.
We then passed on the obvious: The Bluebonnet, The Roadrunner, The Armadillo. We also considered Texas rivers that are so vital to our state: The Pedernales, The Frio, The Colorado. But how do you match a house and a river? Seemed like a stretch to me. Then, the next brilliant idea: we could use Spanish words since we already went there with Casitas. But neither Ron nor I speak Spanish, so what seemed brilliant was just plain stupid and very gringo, like Mexican food at Applebee’s.
So we numbered the Casitas, #1 – #10. So NOT creative, but necessary during construction with subcontractors all over the place and basic communication necessary among our team, and for insurance purposes, not to mention making reservations! So they got numbered and in sequential order as they were laid out down the hill.
But we never forgot our most ever brilliant idea of naming our Casitas after our beloved Texas musicians.
Before we nixed the idea, we named our Luxury One Bedroom Casita, #1, after Pauline Reese, the state’s leading female country musician, and our friend. I met Pauline before I met my husband and was a big fan. He then became a fan, as most heterosexual men do. While she is extremely talented, she is also very attractive and fun. So, my husband became a devoted follower. A couple years later, she played our wedding. Over the past 9 years, we’ve transitioned from fan to friend. We try to see her whenever she’s playing nearby and enjoy catching up and watching her little girls grow! Her eldest was at our wedding, in the womb!
So Ron had picked our most luxurious Casita to be Pauline’s. Following my lawyer's advice, we asked her permission, and of course she loved the idea! So Casita #1 is now, and forever, to be named “The Pauline”. Recently, Pauline and her two little girls stayed in her Casita and loved the down time together. Her husband, Bill, even got to join them in between rodeo gigs!
Since the first naming last year some time, we have only named a couple others. For me, it is personal, probably not too far off from naming a child. But when it’s right, it’s easy. Our good friend Gina B. has helped us so many times. She’s spent weekends doing hard labor at The Casitas and last fall earned an unofficial 1% ownership in the business. Her adopted Casita is our Premium Studio Casita #2. Upon arriving at the Casitas, she opens the door of #2 and exclaims “I’m home”! But the Casita fits her too.
Gina is an adventurist and not afraid to go solo. #2 sits atop the hill, higher and away from the other studios, proud, graceful and independent. The views and star gazing from #2 are worthy of this outdoorsy, national park enthusiast. And the coziness and warmth of #2 reminds me of the love and compassion that radiates from our good friend. So #2 is “The Gina B.”
There is one other Casita that naturally, and more recently received a name. My semi-retired cousin, Polly, has been a cheerleader of the Casitas since day one, just like so many family members and friends. She lives in downtown Houston, and like most Houstonians, loves to get out of Houston from time to time. So Polly shows up at The Casitas with her cowboy hat on standing tall at 4’9”, maybe? Her incredible strength is not in her height, but in her love of life.
Polly was married to my first cousin for several decades, all while he suffered from kidney disease. He fought it for most of his life and about 10 years ago, he died. Their union was special and regarded by many as the embodiment of “true love”. She’s told me of the birthday and anniversary cards they gave each other over the years that they would keep in a box and pull out and enjoy reading for that 20th or 30th time. Her grief and loss after his death were real, I’m sure. Part of her “therapy” was crafting. For one of her projects, she painted and decorated a small, rustic end table with a big red heart on it. Their names, Polly Ann and Mark Benton, are inscribed on it, along with the words “key to my heart.” On her last visit to The Casitas, she asked if I could find a home for it. It has been some time now, and while her love for Mark will never fade, she is getting on with her life. Time for the grief project to relocate. It now sits comfortably on the porch of Casita #7 spreading love to all who set a coffee cup or a cocktail on it!
During a tour of our property last week, one visitor walked up to #7 and stared at the limestone exterior with great interest. I walked up to her wondering what spider she had found?! She pointed at a natural crevice in one stone, right at eye level and directly next to the porch entrance. That crevice, created by air and water pockets over time, was in fact in the shape of a heart. I was shocked. In 9 months’ time, I had never noticed the heart. Now I can’t walk up to #7 without looking its way and smiling.
Casita #7 was the Casita in which Polly stayed on her first visit. She has since tried out several others! Not to mention, she is our advertising office in Houston always talking up The Casitas and encouraging Houstonians to go to the Hill Country and stay at The Casitas. But it is her love of life, past and present, which moves me to name Casita #7, “The Polly Ann”.
In the years to come, thousands of people will visit and many will make significant impacts on us and on our lil’ project, Hill Country Casitas. No doubt, some naming will occur along with interesting back stories. But I will wait for these stories to find us. Because, just like true love, it’ll be easy when it happens. And I look forward to sharing The Casitas with friends, family and guests for many years to come, and celebrating love and life with all of them.