The House That Built Me

the house that built me

This post originally began as a ‘Big City vs. Small Town Rearing’ type thing, but has since morphed itself into a selfish ditty about the capital city where I was born, raised and lived until I was off to college. And more specifically, the red brick house within that Midwestern town that somehow managed to survive my dramatically ugly teenage years. My apologies go out to those that think I’m slightly off kilter for loving a material object so intensely. And for those that have been through this, or are currently going through it, I’m sending virtual hugs (and would love some in return).  

My parents were recently approached by a realtor, completely out of the blue.  She stated that she had a buyer for their home, my original home, the one that was not active on the MLS. Now I’m sure most children would be happy for their parents that all the hard work had been done for them, that they wouldn’t have to host endless showings and keep an immaculate house through the winter (think sloppy snow and wet boots—bleh.) Myself, on the other hand, albeit thankful that my Dad finally has an inviting opportunity to retire, was/am utterly heartbroken.

I slept in the same bedroom and brushed my teeth in the same sink for 17 years. And sure, I’ve since moved away, and I’ve lived in far too many places to count, but this was always HOME. It was my steady, an established place of love to return to for any reason in any season.  This is the house that I was brought to from the hospital.  The one to live in, to grow in, to learn in, to thrive in, to love in. Everything about my home, haunted by Mrs. Lanphier or constantly creaking from the weight lifted off of it when the radiators were removed (Thank you, my Magic), is my safe place.    

I recently was given the chance to return back to my hometown to say a final farewell to the childhood home and the surrounding neighborhood. And while I was there, a few things happened, and ultimately, the sale of the house (temporarily?) fell through. I, of course, was optimistic and thought that my parents would see this as a sign to stay put, but that is not the case. Together they’ve made the decision to eventually put the house on the market and take the necessary preparations to finalize a move. So even though this was to be my farewell tour, I feel like I wasn’t able to achieve the proper closure.

And even though I was given far too much time to go through my endless boxes of senior pictures, cards, high school letters, and knick knacks, I waited until the last minute to do it—to avoid allowing myself enough time to think about what it was that I was doing.  There is still so much I’ll be leaving behind, and in some sense I imagine that’s a good thing. For me, it’s never been the materialistic things about the house per se (other than the house itself anyway), but the sounds, smells and the super creepy attic fan (or lack there as it was removed many years ago). Then there is the secret cutout in the basement carpet, the room full of balloons and ribbon left dormant from my mom-preneur’s once thriving business, the heavenly woodwork in the living room, the creak of the treacherous metal stairway leading to the basement, the totally random garage bathroom, the horrifically smelling gingko ‘stink bombs’ in the backyard, the gallery of doors and their metal doorknobs in the attic, the cork wall, the godawful gold laced floor to ceiling mirrors in the front entry, the curved brick over the stove… the list goes on and on and on.  And although I’ll occasionally catch a scent of something that brings me right back to a room, a moment, an amazing memory, and allows me to ‘see’ images for as long as my lil’ brain will allow, sometimes it’s nice just to go back and see them, feel them, smell them.  Option #2 will not be an option for too much longer.

I do realize it’s unfair to be so selfish and not accept that the house is just too much for my parents. And in the end, it’s their choice whether or not to sell.  I know this.  I also know the home is way too big for the two of them, they’re hardly even in IL anymore, and it was built so long ago that when repairs are necessary, it reminds me of the movie ‘The Money Pit.”  But, this is a HUGE change. 

With the sale of the house, and my parents uncertainly about continuing to have a place of residence in the same city, my father would be pushed into retirement. And he’s the kind of man that thoroughly enjoys what he does. He often works Saturdays because being there Monday – Friday just isn’t enough time to practice law. I am, however, very intrigued by what his new time-filling hobbies will be. He has good friends that began creating some very interesting (and unexpected) things post retirement. I’m eager to see what Dad’s new ‘thing’ will be.

When all is said and done, and the tears stop coming as frequently, I will ultimately be happy for the new owners. In the words of my daughter, ‘Churs!’  And to the new family that buys our home, I know it is sturdy and strong and capable of evoking so many more amazing memories so I wish you pure happiness in doing so. 

May you remember to appreciate the 100-year oaks, the sound of the carillon bells that permeate the air, the close proximity to the most beautiful park, and your new, incredible, steadfast neighbors. I am jealous of the home in which you live, but I remind myself that our new roots are busy growing here in Austin, in order to create a solid foundation in which my children can feel so content about ‘that material thing’ they call home. And then, I smile and look for the quirks in our new home — the towel rods that never stay up, the beautiful sunsets from our daughter’s window, the smell of rosemary outside our door — and then, I smile.

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One Response to The House That Built Me

  1. John Tonetti September 24, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    Very thoughtful and well-written. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    If it makes you feel any better, I always go by the house in which I “grew up”, even though I lived there a much shorter time than you. I never go in… I’d love to… but the memories don’t die.

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