Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Built Me


I've never been a very sentimental person, but as I age, I certainly hold a few things close to my heart that I once took for granted. This house is a perfect example. I grew up here and never considered that there would be a day when that front door wouldn't welcome me home.

My grandparents bought this house right around the time I was born and it was home in every sense of the word. Walking up those paint chipped front steps (where I perfected my dance routine to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All") into the front door every day gave me a feeling of security that I wouldn't recognize until I was an adult. My family no longer owns this home and hasn't for many years but one look at it takes me back to my childhood.

Along the edge of the front yard, there was once a beautiful old Mimosa tree. My Mamaw would tell me to pay attention to that tree when I was outside playing because when the leaves closed and the tree went to sleep, it was almost time for me to do the same. Over to the right of the house was a gorgeous Dogwood, whose branches held me as I plotted my next adventure. In the back yard, she taught me to hang clothes on the clothes line and the proper way to take them down. For hours at a time, I would sit up on the riding lawn mower and pretend that I was a school bus driver, using the lever that raised and lowered the blade as my handle to open and close the door for my students. Once I had driven them safely to school, I would take a few steps over to my makeshift classroom and teach them their lessons for the day. I was too much of an over achiever to have only one pretend job.


That sidewalk leading to the front door proved more nemesis than friend on Christmas Day when I was about ten years old. Santa brought me a new bike and I tried to hop onto the sidewalk as I rode, but the front tire didn't quite make the jump. Those paint chipped front steps left a nasty gash beneath my right eye. I got plenty of attention to make up for it and pictures (and a scar) that will still elicit sympathy!

Over the years, I've tried to think of my favorite place in this house but I couldn't narrow it down. My first thought was the kitchen because I loved sitting at the table watching my Mamaw cook. She rolled out her biscuits just so and every single time, she'd take the last bit of dough and roll it back and forth lengthwise between her palms to make it a special shape...just for me. We called it my "Roly Poly" biscuit. Along one wall of the kitchen sat her sewing machine. She could make anything, often without a pattern. I loved watching her sew. I was amused when something would go wrong and she'd curse but more amused when I saw her finished product.

The living room where I sat with her watching her "stories" in the afternoons is another favorite place. I'd sit on the couch in the evenings between my Mamaw and PaPete, watching Matlock and knowing that there was no place I'd rather be. This is the room that welcomed you into the house when you entered the house and although I knew so much of what to expect when I walked through that door, one thing was never certain...the furniture arrangement. Mamaw was notorious for moving furniture around often. I don't know if she got bored or just liked to exercise her decorating skills but the furniture placement never stuck around long. The living room is bittersweet for me, in some ways. It was there that my PaPete took his last breath, in my arms. If I think about it too much, I feel like I'm still there, begging God not to let this be it even though I know it is. It's almost been 20 years now.


Really though, if my heart was forced to choose a favorite, it would be the master suite. Whether it was nestling in between my favorite two people to sleep or sneaking into the bathroom to rifle through my Mamaw's huge supply of makeup and hair products, this room still holds my heart. I watched many UNC basketball games sitting in the middle of their bed, often crying, cheering or bargaining with God that if He'd just let them win this one, I'd be SO good. Playing hide and seek with cousins, this room is always where I would hide. I felt safe there and my cousins never seemed to know if it was ok to go in so they often wouldn't look for me there.

Several years ago, I was home for a visit and as J. and I passed the house, it was vacant but there were a couple of contractors outside doing some work. We stopped and explained that this had been my home and asked if we could go in. They were happy to oblige and I was surprised at the butterflies in my stomach as we entered. So many things surprised me that day, actually. In my mind, this house was huge. There were four bedrooms and plenty of space for everything we needed. Walking in as an adult, it was so much smaller than I remembered. It was in the process of being re-modeled but to me, it looked so much the same that I could picture just where everything should be. I felt the oddest peace as we walked from room to room looking around and telling stories. Until we got to the back of the house to the master bedroom. Walking in opened the floodgates of my heart. (Even now, remembering, I am crying.) I could almost smell Mamaw's Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume as I turned to go into the bathroom. It was the same and yet, so different because they weren't there. This home was now there for someone else to make memories.

As I'm writing this, I realize that so much of my nostalgia and memories are special to me more because of WHO was in the house and not the house itself. Still, there's just something about this house. It's not grand or even that impressive but it's so special to me. It's home.

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