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.
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.
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.
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….