Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home. ~ Author Unknown

I will most likely never see this house again in my lifetime.  It is the home of my childhood in a small town in Washington State, not too many miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.  My parents bought this house in 1960.  I believe we moved in to it during the week my mother was in the hospital after giving birth to my baby brother, 6 years my junior.  It wasn't the first house we'd lived in.  The first was in the town of Aberdeen where I was born, up on Thinkame Hill.  The only memory I have of that house is of the big fireplace in the living room that I could stand up in.  We moved to my hometown when I was 3.  This house...this beloved house...was the fourth one we lived in after moving there.  My dad worked for Texaco: "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.  The big bright Texaco star!"  You have to be of a certain generation to remember that commercial song.  And I am.  One of that generation.  My mother stayed home and raised us kids.

Prior to the time I met my husband, this house held the most precious memories of my life.  It is where my family lived its happiest years.  It was big enough where my three brothers and I each had a bedroom of our own and an extra bedroom we used as a storeroom for toys.  It had French doors leading to what we called our "TV Room".  It had a butler's pantry.  Room in the kitchen for a table big enough for six people to sit at for meals, maybe one or two more, depending on any stray neighborhood kids or friends who happened to be around at dinner time.  It had a back porch where my father would stand and yell for any of us who weren't there when my mom put the food on the table.  If we were anywhere within a quarter-mile radius, we could hear him.  My dad was a wonderful whistler.  You could hear that all over town, too.  He whistled a lot.

As you look at the house, my bedroom was at the back left corner.  When we lived there, the arborvitae to the right of the porch was there.  The only other tree in the yard was a very old and very big cherry tree out in the back.  One of my bedroom windows overlooked it.  In spring time, when the limbs were full of cherry blossoms, my room would glow from the light they cast off.  I spent many hours sprawled across my old cast iron bed reading library books, munching on apples, and gazing out at that tree.  I also got the last spanking of my childhood under it at the age of 12 when my mother caught me eating green cherries.  There's a long story behind those cherries...her telling me never to eat them because they'd make me sick and me never getting sick from eating them.  I think she swatted me out of frustration more than anything.  She was barely 5'3" and at that stage I towered over her at 5'7".  It was humiliating enough that she was spanking me, but made even worse when I spotted a boy I knew from school walking down the hill next to the house witnessing it and laughing himself silly at my expense.

We survived the Columbus Day Storm in that house, in October 1962.  It was the closest thing to a hurricane any of us in the Northwest had ever been thru.  My dad was in the National Guard at the time and I remember my mother fretting and worrying he'd be called out for action.  But he wasn't.  He and my mother nailed heavy Army blankets over the big picture windows in the dining/living room and we camped out on the floor.  We lost our electricity and my dad lit a kerosene lamp in the house.  If the storm didn't kill us, it's a wonder the fumes from the lamp didn't. 

I had the hard measles in that house.  I ran a temperature of 105.  I was sick enough where my dad set up an Army cot in the TV room on Christmas Day so I could be with the family when they opened their gifts.  I was so sick I don't think I had the energy to open mine.  I remember an act of kindness I've never forgotten.  My poor harried mother also did day care thru many of those years and there was precious little time she could spare for tender moments.  She really wasn't a tender-moment mother anyway.  But a friend of hers came to visit, and Betty came into the darkened TV room where I lay, sat on a chair beside the bed with a basin of water and very gently bathed my face and my chest with it.  It felt like heaven! It felt so good it almost made me cry.

Back in the years I lived there, families still had lots of children.  There were my three brothers and myself.  The Wilder family had 10.  The Ritters had 6.  The Nelson family moved in with 7.  And when you added all of our town friends from school coming over to play we never lacked any playmates.  Oh, the games of Hide and Seek we'd play in warm summer twilights!  Oh, how we dreaded to hear our parents come out on the porch as nite would fall and call us home.  How many times I begged for "Just 5 more minutes, mom!"

We moved away in 1966.  And from 1966 until I married my husband in 1974...well, those are years I don't care to remember.  Three different middle schools, three different high schools.  Who and what I had been in my little hometown meant nothing to the kids I came across in the last six years of my schooling. My home life was not easy, either. I lost myself somewhere along the way.

When I lived on the West Coast in Portland I didn't make it up to my hometown very often, even tho it was within a 3 1/2 hour drive.  It hurt too much to go back, to be reminded of the happy years.  It brought back too many ghosts.  But the last time I was there, when I took this picture, was in March of 2006.  A couple of weeks after my first grandson was born.  The reason I was there, with my younger brother and our spouses, was to have a memorial for our dad who'd died 8 days after my grandson Dylan was born.  As my brother and I had talked over what we felt might be appropriate I suggested to him "Why not go up to Lake Sylvia?  That is where some of our happiest childhood memories were.  You could hit a golf ball out into the water!"  Our dad was a lifelong golfer.  My brother thought that was a splendid idea.  So we made plans to meet at the house of our childhood and to go to the lake from there.

So, as I look at this photo, not only do I have reels of my childhood spin thru my head but I also have the sight of my brother taking the golf ball we'd written a memorial message on for our dad, slicing thru the air with an almost-Tiger Wood swing, and launching it way out over the water until it landed and sank below the surface.  For a March day it was a beautiful didn't rain.  I walked over to the dam at the lake with a handful of spring flowers and kissed each one before I sent it for each of us children, one for each grandchild, and one for my best friend Lizzee who was loved by and loved my parents almost as much as I did.

What is a house but four walls and a roof overhead?  But the stories that house could tell of the lives we lived within it!  That's what makes it a home.  My very beloved childhood home.


Donna said...

My daughter introduced me to a song by Miranda Lambert called "The House That Built Me". If you've never heard it and seen the video, you should go to Youtube and watch it. I don't like modern country, but this was a song I could relate to.

Bridget Locke said...

And you say you're not a good writer. Pfft. You just made me a good way.

Judy said...

Beautiful Kris. Truly beautiful.

Jean said...

So enjoyed the read! Thanks.

Anita said...

Straight from your heart. That's why we all like what you've written. so descriptive: I could picture it all. And yes, I remember the Texaco man. :)

I had to laugh when you got the spanking and the neighborhood boy saw. I saw a few kids getting dragged in the house being spanked at the same time, too, during my youth.

Very nostalgic, and such an honor to your dad and your life foundation.