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This Little Old House, My Little Heart’s Home


Over the weekend, my childhood friend, Susan, put a post on my Facebook timeline.

The Redfin listing of the house I grew up in.

And something happened in me I was not prepared for.

Memories flooded. 

Old emotions rose to the surface.

Faces flashed before me and milestones long forgotten appeared out of nowhere.

A familiar warmth spread through my bones and butterflies of anticipation, excitement and the hope of a young girl fluttered their tiny wings again.

Of course, it doesn’t look exactly like it did all those years ago.

https://www.redfin.com/WA/Olympia/1831-S-Bay-Rd-NE-98506/home/15727513

The address has changed from 1827 to 1831 and the paint color is now burnt orange instead of the brown or green that I remember.

The hedge in front has been removed and replaced by a fence.

But it’s  still my old house.

And, in fact, when I look at the pictures of the inside of this home I once loved so much,  I am surprised by how many things have remained the same.

The original wood floors are still there.

Some of them, once covered by shag carpet and braided area rugs, now show their naked faces.  It almost seems like they are smiling at me, reminiscing the times we spent, the things we saw and experienced together. Wrestling with my dad and brothers, my knees on it’s planks asking Jesus to come into my heart. Undoubtedly they still creak with that beautiful telltale sound that told my parents I was sneaking out of bed again.

I let my mind wander upstairs and I see a picture of my old room. The wood panels that lined my walls are still intact and as beautiful as I remember them.  If they could talk, I’m sure those same walls would ask me what became of those ideas I had as I stared at them each night.  They would wonder which boy that I’d dreamed of to songs on the radio had  been the one to finally capture my heart for a lifetime.

There’s my little closet.  I see its door and instantly am reminded that this is where my desire to create beautiful surroundings began. Pushing my clothes as far out of the way as possible, I would set up a small seating area where only I would fit. Cozy and as cute as my young mind could imagine at the time. I remember sitting by the dim glow of a flashlight writing of the heartfelt longings of a girl and her visions of love and life as she knew it.  Her vast experience of 14 years put to paper.

This is where I learned the therapy of writing as a means of expression.

The windows are new but right where I left them.  Those portals to the outside world that I would gaze through as I sang and cried to the love songs of Olivia Newton John.

This is where I found the influence of music on the soul.

The kitchen has been updated and now boasts a beautiful farm sink in the spot where I would unwillingly wash dishes. I can almost smell that delicious vanilla and cinnamon scent in the room where my sweet mama introduced me to baking and showed me how to mix each homemade batch of cookies by hand.  She taught me the secret of  undercooking them just enough to get optimum flavor and the perfect chewiness.

This is where I came to believe that the way to most people’s hearts is through their satisfied tummies.

That a plate of warm cookies and a hug can melt even the chilliest of souls.

And now my mind walks through every room, lingering just long enough to savor a single memory in each space.

This trip down memory lane takes me down the once rickety stairs to the basement my precious dad finished and beautified to become a home for my grandparents for a time while my grandpa was recovering from heart surgery.  And I can see it.  My little kindergarten self, running down the stairs to see my grandpa and grandma after school.  They would ask about my day and then grandpa would give me amazing little gifts of art and creativity.  Little cartoons of birds saying whimsical things.  Toys and inventions made from the simplest of materials that would leave me awestruck with childhood wonder and amazement.

 Is this where I gleaned the love of creating much out of little?

Long after my grandparents left, the basement would serve as the best place for hide-and-seek.  A teenage hangout.  The home of a ping-pong table under which at least one make-out session happened.

We had a laundry chute to the basement where our washer and dryer resided, and a babysitter who swore to us that she used to sail down that laundry chute when she was young.  My memory flashes to all the unlikely stories she told that left my brothers and I both entranced and a little frightened. 🙂

Her well-told tales opened my eyes to the strength of a good story.

Most of our living happened on the main floor. So my mind heads back upstairs.  Our living room, now empty in the picture, was always a place of gatherings and entertainment.  Strangers were as welcome as friends on the oversized brown tapestry couch that took up an entire wall.  This also served as the family room, where my hair was put up in rollers every Saturday night as we watched Lawrence Welk on our black and white.

 This is where I learned that family and living were synonymous.

But wait.  We haven’t even gone outside yet!

My old yard holds just as many memories as the inside of the house. The tree we called a Sycamore is still standing big and tall just behind the kitchen. It must be at least a hundred years old by now.  I loved and hated that tree.  I loved climbing its strong branches and resting beneath its shady cover and dreaming.  I hated it for shedding immeasurable leaves every fall, causing arguments between me and my brother (who had to rake up the unending mess) and gaping blisters on our palms .

The driveway is still there.  It felt so long as a kid, but looking at it now I realize it was all perspective.  Countless hours were spent gathering pebbles and “polishing” them with buckets of water with my little brother.  That driveway saw my first bike and my first driver’s license.  It would witness scraped knees and bruises.  Accidents and spills.  The cars of friends and suitors.  All the comings and goings of life.

Looking up at the house from this vantage point, I see my back door, now surrounded by a lovely deck. A pit hits my stomach.  I’m remembering the day our little house was burglarized.  I’d almost stayed home from school that day with a stomachache but had, at the last minute, changed my mind.  I got off the bus at the end of the day only to find my mom in tears and the back door completely splintered and broken on the ground.  Things were stolen, personal items ravaged.  I think this was the first time I ever felt a sense of violation.  That someone had disrespected not only our things, but my sense of safety.

A little bit of my Pollyanna outlook was rubbed off that day.  Some people were not nice.  That was a lesson I never wanted to learn.

Not wanting to end on that note, I swung back around to gaze at the yard past my tree.  It looks as though the lot has been divided and our 1/2 acre yard isn’t as big as it used to be. But back when the Brady Bunch was a hit, we had a huge garden.  My dad, ever the farm boy, set us up with vegetables galore.  It was my brothers’ and my responsibility to take care of it while we were on summer  break.  We hated getting up early to pull weeds and harvest carrots and beans and corn.  This was my first memory of truly getting my hands dirty in hard work.  Of splitting open a freshly picked pea pod and tasting the sweet burst of a pea I had helped come to fruition.  I have loved playing in soil ever since.

There is something therapeutic and extremely meaningful to me when I plant and prune now.

I don’t know what the neighborhood is like now, but when we were young, it was quirky, to put it nicely. We had wonderful neighbors and horrible neighbors and strange neighbors.  We had neighbors that threw appliances through closed windows and neighbors who caroled at our door every Christmas Eve. We had dogs, cats, cows, rabbits and, for a short time, even ducks and chickens and there was no homeowners association to stop us from having a little farm in our own back yard.

I learned a lot about people and animals.  Though there are so many variables, they all require a little TLC.  

1827 South Bay Road was my life. My entire childhood world.

It carried me from kindergarten through high school, housing the lessons that would teach me about being girl, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and eventually a young woman that would one day become a wife and mother.

I lost my first tooth and found my first faith in that little house. I discovered my true north and met my true love.  All of my dreams and values and personal shaping took place at one address in my formative years.  In a tree, in a garden, in a closet, at a kitchen counter, next to a bed, under a ping-pong table.

I was becoming me without even knowing it.

The house is much older now.

So am I.

Parts of it have been removed and replaced.

Without a doubt, the same will happen to me.

It has seen good days and bad.  Fair weather and Northwest rainstorms.

Me, too.

But it retains the bones of the house I knew so long ago.  Its memories still intact within and without its walls.

It says you’ve been sold, little house.  That makes my heart so happy.  I hope that the family who moves in will have a little girl who can experience her own memories that will give HER pause and sweet reflection 50 years from now….

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7 thoughts on “This Little Old House, My Little Heart’s Home

  1. Awesome! So many memories! Funny, when I saw the back door, I too remembered the time your house was broken into. Interesting what the mind automatically remembers by a single visual cue. I don’t remember neighbors throwing appliances through windows, but I definitely remember caroling on Christmas Eve! And my sister and her stories — we never did believe her about sliding down the laundry chute, but she still insists to this day that she did it! Fun times in that little house! Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

    • Oh, Susan! I went down a lane yesterday that I had to force myself to come off of this morning by publishing this! Glad you don’t remember the “appliances through the window” house. Lots of crazy came from the house on the other side of the back alley! 🙂 And I still miss you guys knocking on our door and the beautiful harmony you brought us on Christmas Eve! xoxoxo

  2. Oh Jana, I walked through every nook and cranny along with you as you described your childhood home and memories in detail. Your tour reminded me of the day I put the keys into the mail slot of my childhood home’s front door for the very last time, having just filmed the inside of every empty room, also for the last time. After our mama died, it was time to sell our home and bring our last days there with mom to a close. Thankfully, God brought us a little family who felt the house was PERFECT for them and they told us how grateful they were to get the opportunity to raise THEIR children there! I, too, could rejoice that God had a plan for the next phase of our childhood home.

    • That’s so sweet, Kathy. How fun that you got to meet the family and know that your beloved home was being placed into appreciative and loving hands. xoxoxo

  3. Okay, as the ‘babysitter who swore…that (I) used to sail down that chute’…..I’d like to share my side of the story. A piece got lost early on, and I’ve been haunted by this version for over forty years. What really happened: my friend Liz (the former occupant of the house, who btw has similar memories and feelings about that house to this day) and I used to stick our heads into the laundry chute through the hatch doors in the bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. We’d whisper echoing secrets to each other, or make up stories about what would happen if we could magically slide down the chute. Some of these were quite fanciful, taking us into another world, others dealt with the hard reality of landing on a cold concrete basement floor, or a pile of smelly laundry, or getting stuck when we grew too big. I did actually get stuck once when I tried to get my shoulders into the chute. But at fourteen, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been in distinguishing the real occurrences from our imaginary scenarios – I was just trying to entertain my charges before putting them to bed. I got into big trouble the next day, and had to go to you kids to explain and apologize. Since that “Jonah” day, the only “insisting” I’ve ever done is to try to set the record straight. It breaks my heart that I didn’t succeed.

    But this blog is about happy memories of a sweet home, and my happy memories of that place are numerous. My first best friend lived there, and we are still friends to this day. We had many real ‘adventures,’ such as churning butter from curdled cream while sitting in front of the ancient stone outdoor fireplace; camping outside under the sycamore tree, protected from the falling leaves and pitch by an old card table with a blanket over it; picking huckleberries in the ‘forest’ next door (where there’s a McMansion today); and playing the piano for hours down in the unfinished basement. Every time I cook bacon, I think of Liz’s mom cooking bacon for us when I’d spend the night in what was later your bedroom. And speaking of your old room, Jana, I still have the seafoam-green carpet that was there when you moved in! It still has the purchase tag on it with Liz’s father’s name and the store it came from in downtown Olympia. I also still dream of one day having a house with a fireplace in the middle of the living room wall, flanked by low bookcases and windows that look out onto a field or forest.

    • Oh, girl! I LOVED those stories! I had no idea you ever got in trouble for them. We loved all of the stories you told us and whether they were real or imaginary, we just enjoyed the lovely power of a story well told. You had, and have as shown by this beautifully written comment, an incredible gift of capturing the imagination and making us all feel like we’re there!

      My telling about your tales WAS a very happy memory. I think about those days often and our wonderful neighbors up the hill (you guys) who always had a way of making us laugh with your humor and smile with your beautiful music and harmonies.

      Hugs to you, my friend. Thanks for giving me yet another taste of your stories with this post!

      • Thanks, Jana! We always loved caroling to an appreciative audience! (Which is why we ‘extended the neighborhood’ after you moved away, so we could keep the tradition going!)

        Back in the late ’90s I took a year-long writing course for the express purpose of helping me complete the grade-school-level storybook I wanted to write, using elements of my own childhood – people, places, events. I managed to finish a few chapters before conceding that I’m not the type who can successfully juggle writing a book with homeschooling four kids, teaching piano, and making things from scratch. Now that I’m ‘retired and empty-nested,’ I’ve been itching to get back to that book. Your post has inspired me! Thanks!

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