Saturday, February 1, 2014

There's no place like home.

A few weeks ago, my dad called with some news. At the time he called, the news seemed like no big deal, almost expected, really, and I hardly gave it much thought initially.  It wasn't until a few hours later, talking with my sister (she lives with us), that I really began to focus on what I was told.

The news? The home I grew up in, for the most part, is set to be torn down soon. 

This house, my childhood home, is the very first house I lived in. My grandma owned the house, when I was born, and it's where I came home from the hospital to live. She lived there many more years. Granted, I did not live there my entire childhood, but after a little less than a decade, my family moved back into the house, and it's where the remainder of my childhood years were spent. I have countless memories created there, both when she lived there, as well as when my immediate family did as well.

I haven't lived there officially since 2005, but up until this month, my dad and youngest sister still did. Needless to say, I've never stopped "going home" and spending time in the house I grew up in.

This house, a double story home on Main Street, in a tiny rural town in Minnesota, was built in the very early 1900s, by the man, a railroad executive, that my hometown is named after. I used to recall a lot of interesting history about my home, but alas, time has dulled those memories. I know at one time, it was a duplex, with a full apartment both upstairs and down. I could show you the spot in the wall where the second story entrance once was, even though I never knew the house in that state. 

I remember when we moved back in during my elementary years, I absolutely had to have the bedroom that was my  grandma's   when she lived there. It had a variated blue carpet. I painted the bottom half of the walls a lilac color, and had a blue and purple morning glory wallpaper border separating it from the white top half. Over the years, our family size grew, and I moved across the hall, into what had been my parents room (they moved downstairs) and their big "closet." That closet at one point had been the upstairs kitchen, and still had a sink and pipes. It was gutted, and I had a bed with shelving underneath it built into the wall, in the small 6'x12' room. I spray painted the walls in a cloudy swirl fashion, in mauve, and signed my name at the foot of my bed. I also was allowed to use the bigger room (where my parents had been), and acquired an old couch. I painted it in bright colors and decked it out with my favorite song lyrics written on paper and spaced strategically around the room. I loved it.

The front porch has (had, soon) a roof that you could climb atop if you went through the windows in my former purple room. I spent countless hours sitting on that roof. It was my thinking spot. I would listen to music, journal, write letters, or just veg out. I would have friends join me there from time to time and carry on great conversations.

Across the alley, from my "new" room window, I could see the back yard of one of my best childhood friends' family home.  It was pretty wonderful to have a friend that close, when we had moved from living right next door to my lifelong best friend (we moved next door to her family in the spring of 1991 and became friends immediately) when we came to this home. It helped ease the loss of moving five blocks away from her. (Yes, that is dramatic but it seemed like a huge change back then.)

I once duck taped my youngest brother to one of the beautiful maple trees in the front yard. I had his permission. I left him there a half an hour at least.

I learned to pass and kick a football in the back yard, as well as play kickball and various other games too. There were often a swarm of bees out back in the spring that terrified me, but I never once was stung. I can recall sitting on the big cement steps leading out the back door in the summer and can still nearly feel the warmth of the cement on my bare feet. I can recall the holes from where large rocks must have been stuck but eventually loosened in the steps.

There was a summer I made my brother eat peanut butter and leaf sandwiches in the back yard because he whined at me all the time to make him something to eat and he was fully capable. My bad.

I had morning glories on the south side of the house, as well as the west (back yard). You could enter the basement fe the cellar store outside, and as much as it was (rightly so) advised against standing atop the wooden doors, my brother and I did so frequently.

The living room seemed so huge growing up. The ceilings in the house were high and seemed to soar above us. The living room and dining room had stained glass in the top section of the picture windows. They were (in my opinion) a bit ugly and obscure, but still very cool. 

You could see the high school I attended from the dining room window. We lived half a block away, so it was hard to be late (though my younger brother totally mastered the skill of being tardy on a regular basis).  

In the summer, we would walk to the local swimming pool. It was about 8 blocks away. We were about 4 blocks from the grocery store and post office, and walking to get the mail was somehow always (unless the weather sucked) exciting. I even had my own key!

You could sit on the porch all day and but a few cars drive by, it seemed. Main Street is extremely wide, but it is a one-way street and not a through road at that, so traffic was very low, and we took advantage by playing in the street frequently. During my exploration phase where I wasn't easily grossed out, I dissected a snake in the street with a stick. 

The sidewalk would flood every year when the snow melted and we would have a last pushing water as fast as we could with snow shovels to splash as high as possible. I did snow sculptures in the front yard for my younger siblings.  I painted Pooh characters on a wooden castle fort in the backyard for my baby sister.

My brother and I made home videos in the living room when our parents were at work and we were home, even though we were told not to. We tried music videos, documentaries, action segments, and even a horror flick. 

I hosted my first "boy-girl" party there, and we sang karaoke to country songs. 

I had my first kiss from my first boyfriend there in 10th grade. I remember thinking it was kind of gross and he was kind of slobbery.  We didn't date long. Haha.

I remember the first time my husband visited the house. It was August 31, 2001. He came with another friend I had recently met. They stayed for hours, late into the night. He played my guitar in the dining room, which still had brown wooden panels at the time. I gave him a tour, and when we were in the basement, he saw a centipede and ran up the stairs like a terrified little girl.

I spent countless hours on Tuesday nights sitting on the kitchen counter talking to him on the phone. I wasn't supposed to sit on the counter.

He kissed me for the first time in that house. He told me loved me in that house. He tried to be super romantic and played guitar in the back yard outside my bedroom window one night on a surprise visit- standing out there for who knows how long, because I had gone for a jog after mailing him a letter. I did find him when I got home and was completely smitten.

He played my favorite song for me the first time in the living room, shortly after I cut my head with a piece of paneling I was tearing off the wall helping to rid the dining room of the atrocious decor. 

Spencer spent hours there two summers ago playing in a pool my dad got for him and put in the front yard. Collin met "his puppy," Wendell, for the first time there, as when I was pregnant with Collin we needed a bigger place to live and we couldn't find one affordable to us that allowed us to keep Wendell here.

Granted, I have memories that are less than wonderful, but it's rare I focus on them, especially now, when I'm figuring out how to process letting go of my home.

Letting go... It seems so surreal. To know that it's likely the next time I "go home" to visit, I will drive by and the lot will be vacant. The image of desolation I have flash through my mind is really hard to grasp and process. I'm not looking forward to that day. 

After my dad told me the news, I heard the song "the House that Built Me," by Miranda Lambert. It's been a favorite for years. This time, it made me cry.

I tell myself it's just a building. It's old and very, very run down (that's why it's being demolished). It's not really worth saving. But impractically, I wish I could save it. 

Since I can't, I had a friend take a picture for me. She still lives in my hometown. I treasure this photo more than I can describe, now.

Hold into it. I know, realistically, I will hold onto the memories and that is what will matter.  But it pulls at my heart strings to know that I won't be able to drive by when my children are older, point it out to them, and tell them the memories I so vividly can see myself. It won't be as tangible to them. It just won't be there anymore.