It was the only home I ever really knew. About a year before I was born, my parents and three sisters moved from Iowa to Illinois. After the two oldest were married and out of the nest, my mom and dad relocated the rest of us to a house across town. It was a small town. Yet, we still changed schools. I was in kindergarten and my sister was in fourth grade. But since the school year was almost over, we finished out at our old school which was just a short 10-12 blocks away. It wasn’t until I was doing a college assignment that I learned how small my hometown actually was. A brochure from the Chamber of Commerce stated it covered three square miles. It sounded wrong to me, so I counted the city blocks in my head to verify. Lo and behold, the Chamber was right. The little town certainly seemed much bigger than that when I was a kid. Of course, everything did. Whenever I’m asked where I grew up, my answer is usually, “A small town in the middle of cornfields.” It’s really not too far from the truth!
Because I was only five years old when we moved in, I only have a few memories of the old house. Like the time I sat at the bottom of the steps, trying to cut my hair with plastic scissors. It didn’t work too well. Or the time I got a rock stuck in the bottom of my foot after my mom told me not to go outside barefoot. From what I’m told, the neighbor boy and my sister carried me back to the house.
My head, however, has many memories – both good and bad – of the house I grew up in. It was the typical mid-1800’s farmhouse style that was square with two stories and a creepy basement.
The creepy basement. Two rooms off of this big room are even creepier.
With a double lot and a huge garden, we spent a lot of time mowing and weeding. And cleaning. The living room was about 25 feet long, which came in handy when having about twenty people for a family Christmas. Next to the bathroom, my bedroom was the smallest room. It was at right at the top of the stairs with no door. And no closet. I had to share the closet in my sister’s room, which meant my clothes were shoved in the back. (And my sister claims I was spoiled?) The only advantage to sharing her closet was she could never tell me to stay out of her room. Only after I moved out of the house did a door appear on my bedroom. What was up with that?
A twin bed, two dressers, a desk were squeezed into this room that served as my private haven.
My dad was notorious for starting projects and not finishing them. After the living room, the next biggest room was one he added upstairs. He started the project back in the 1970’s, I think. The plan was for it to become the master bedroom. Mom and Dad would move into it, and I would move into their bedroom. Yes! I would finally have a bigger room with more than two feet between the bed and dresser. And my very own closet! Not so fast. This room that we affectionately called “The New Room,” to this day has never been finished. It has served as a recreation room, where ping pong balls are now resting in the walls at the bottom of the house, to its current state of a storage room.
Years after moving out and spreading throughout a few states, this old house became the hub for our entire family at Christmastime and other special events. Oh, if the walls could talk! It was part of our family for 41 years, and it held 41 plus years of stuff or “treasures.” Growing up during the depression, my mom was a pack rat. I mean, she kept everything! Why throw away a perfectly burnt out blow dryer? “I may want to fix it.” Or the multitude of egg cartons and paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Those she saved in case the kids’ ministry at church needed them for crafts. Really? So when we were preparing to part ways with this adopted member of our family, I was amazed – which I shouldn’t have been – at some of the things I found. Some cool family history stuff as well as things that made me go, “Huh?” For example, I came across one of my Christmas lists from the early 1990’s. I’m not complaining. I inherited some sweet family heirloom things, like a mirror that belonged to my great-grandfather and a quilt my grandmother made. It just boggled my mind why she kept all the newspaper clippings of random topics. We won’t even talk about the multitude of recipes she collected over the years.
After a lifetime, we said our goodbyes this past summer. It was bittersweet, but it was time. The house was in rough shape, and my mom was hardly there anymore since she travels during the winter with my sister who takes care of her. The first visit home to help sort through stuff, I was caught off guard. I was squatted down looking in the cupboard overflowing with pots and pans when all of a sudden tears slid down my cheeks. Then I laughed at myself. I was crying over pots and pans! A little later as I was walking around the house, my 8-year old grand-niece looked up at me and asked, “Are you okay?” As I said, “Yes, I’m fine,” I was thinking Wow, I must look really bad! Again, I laughed at myself. When I took a good look at the closet I shared with my sister, I said to myself, “Wow. That isn’t as deep as I remembered.” Once again, my perception of size was way off.
While I will miss the house, the memories will always be with me. The times my sister and I played house on the front porch and the front door was a convenient refrigerator. Or playing Star Trek with our cousins, using the front porch as the Bridge since it housed a swing. And we can’t forget the time my sister caused me to put my hand through the back door window. I think she did that in retaliation years after I threw her Barbie down the stairs and broke off her arm. This could go on and on…
My hope is that another family makes this house their home to remember for a lifetime. Their very own Home Sweet (and Sour) Home.
My childhood home today.