Monday, July 18, 2011

The house that holds my heart

This is the home I grew up in, my grandparents' home, the only house I lived in longer than the one I live in now:

The photo above was clipped from a newspaper.  It was a real estate ad placed when my grandparents wanted to sell the house in order to follow my mother, sister, and me to Texas.

The real estate agent prepared the handout shown below:

If that house still existed, furnished as it was when we left, I could walk through it blindfolded now, 54 years after we left it. I remember every nook and cranny, every closet and whose clothes were in it, every opening into the attic, every part of the basement, and even the area underneath the house where I was never supposed to go: the area that could only be reached by going through the door from the main basement into what was once the coal bin, then climbing through a crawl space into the dirt-floored area that was otherwise surrounded by lattice work. I only went under there once, when I was playing hide and seek with my uncle, Joe, and his friend, Jimmy. I sat about a foot away from the lattice and watched their feet go by time and again. They never found me, and when I bragged about where I'd been hiding, my grandmother warned me about the possibility of an old well being in that space.

The house had five bedrooms, and Mother, Judy and I shared the 12x12 bedroom on the right at the top of the stairs. I slept with Mother in a full-sized bed; Judy had a small, white, youth bed on the other side of Mother. When Mother decided to paint over the floral wallpaper in that room, the paint color she chose was "Dusty Rose." She painted all the woodwork white, and it looked wonderful -- and so modern, we thought.

My sister in her little bed -- about 1953.

And me on the bed I shared with Mother -- same day, same year.

The dormer windows in the photo at the top of this post were in my uncle's room, the little 8x12 bedroom that sat straight ahead at the top of the stairs. Right under those windows, my grandfather built a storage unit (shelves with doors on them) around my uncle's twin bed. My uncle could pull the bed out at night to sleep on its full width or slide it partially under the shelves to provide daytime seating. The only other furniture in the room was a small desk. The summer after my uncle graduated from high school and went into the Army, I slept in his vacated room. I found two nudi$t-camp* magazines stuffed behind the shelves, so I was happy to have that room until I was sure there was nothing more I could learn from the grainy, black and white photographs (all shot from a distance) of nak3d* people -- all shapes and sizes of them -- playing tennis and volleyball and eating lunch at picnic tables.

When school started again, my grandparents rented my uncle's room to a college student, and I moved back in with Mother and Judy. The third upstairs bedroom, the one on the left at the top of the stairs, had beds for two students and was nearly always rented all year around. I still remember the names of some of those students.

The fact that I remember the details about this house so clearly -- and with so many good feelings attached to the memories of it -- lets me know how important it was to me. My sister may be the only other living person who finds this as interesting as I do, but that probably won't keep me from continuing the house tour some other time.


* I apologize for typing in code. I don't think the coded words are bad ones, but I didn't want to lure a bunch of Googlers here under false pretenses, either.


  1. I loved this post, Linda. As we have talked about before, I have similar feelings for the house I grew up in. When I'm trying to clear my mind to sleep at night, I walk through the house, room by room, and remember everything, even the patterns on the linoleum floors and wallpaper, and the pictures on the walls. I find it very comforting.

  2. Annette, I remember feeling moved when I read what you wrote on this same subject. It must be really true that there's no place like home.

  3. Lovely post!

    You are wise to use coded words. The one post I most regret because I'm absolutely terrified of what people are REALLY searching for when they end up on my blog is titled *d0gg1e p07n* I never dreamed there were so many people who would search for that and I'm equally certain they are terribly disappointed when they land on a photo spread of Mabel parts!

  4. So interesting! I enjoyed your memories. When you talked of playing hide and seek, I'd have worried more about snakes than old wells.

  5. I seemed to have missed the code! I really enjoyed this one, as I (to me) so recently posted about a house no longer mine to call home. Thank you for the journey.

  6. I have the same feelings for the house I grew up in. It hurts my heart that I can never see it again....only in pictures and my memories. It was torn down many years ago and apartments built on the site where the house, barns and farm once existed. The only things left are the two huge mulberry trees that once adorned our front yard. I can't stand to drive by there anymore. I loved it so and have so many fond memories. At least those can't be destroyed by anyone other than God.

  7. Janet, this wasn't too many years after a little girl named Kathy Fiscus fell into a well and died after widely publicized rescue efforts failed. I guess Mammaw was thinking of that. On the other hand, I don't think we ever saw a snake anywhere near our house or yard -- not that there couldn't have been one.

    Allison, I'm glad to know the "code" was subtle enough that it didn't interfere with your reading process.

    Val, it hadn't occurred to me until I read your comment that living so far away from one's childhood "stomping grounds" could be a blessing. I know our old house isn't there anymore, but at least I'm not faced with frequent reminders of that fact.


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