The House That Built Me

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On Sunday we had brunch with my parents, and by that I mean we ate breakfast around 11:00 at Cracker Barrel. About a year ago my parents bought their dream home and told no one until they had already closed. The day they decided to “show us a house they liked” my Dad measured off a space and asked us to mark out four corners in the kitchen and into the living room, which is open, huge, and gorgeous. With Joseph, my brother and I marking the small space, my Dad tells us that this space would be about the size of where he and my Mother began. Dad worked all his life to give my Mama her dream home. It is as though it was built specifically for them, and it is starting to feel like home. But this past Sunday, they wanted us to all go by and see Orchard Drive for what would probably be the last time. How do we say goodbye to a place filled with so many memories? For a minute I felt panicked, then incredibly sad. We only walked around for a few short minutes, but in that time, a movie reel rolled out in my head…

This was the first home my parents ever built, and there are a million tiny details that my Dad tweaked and touched that no one may ever notice, but I remember. Long nights when I was eleven and Alex was seven, when we nearly passed out on bare subfloor while Dad screwed 87,000 more screws in the floor, so as to avoid any creaks. I remember the view from the front door, with my backpack flung over my shoulder coming home from school, and seeing a tiny little dog kennel in the kitchen with two eyes peeking out at us. Vanderbilt was truly the most loyal and loving dog I have ever known in my life. In the middle of tears and teen angst, he would come inquisitively, with his ears laid back and tiny docked tail wiggling. I swear I know he was saying, “Are you ok? Let me sit with you for a while.” We had fights and family meetings, countless naps on the couch, thousands of prayers around the dinner table, celebrations of birthdays and graduations, cookouts and late nights. My Dad was generally nice to boys when I started dating, but for some reason they didn’t especially like coming around our house. It is possible, no- probable, that a few were too scared of him to come back around more than a couple of times. There may or may not have been some intentional intimidation.  But in the end the only one that made the cut made me his wife.

Perhaps one of the most poignant memories of our old house is the sound of the back door. The challenge was always to see if we could get in the door, get the alarm turned on, and not come around the corner to find Dad as if he had risen from the dead to slay an intruder. Coming up on him in the dark is not a fun time. Especially if we were even two minutes late. Mom would toss around on the couch and pace as the minutes counted down, ‘please get home, please get home’ she would pray. I always pushed the envelope, shocking, I know. I figured if I made it to the driveway, that should count as on time. Even if I stayed out there a while joking with my sweet Hannah, or coming home from a date. Hannah and I siphoned gas from Dad’s mower canister in that driveway, my friend Jeni and I stayed up laughing silently for hours. My room was of course right over my parents, so I really wasn’t a good time if my friends came to my house because I spent the whole night stressed to the max that we’d wake the beast, so all I did was just repeat the cycle of have fun for about 5 minutes- then start shhhh-ing everyone to death- have fun for about 5 minutes, and so on and so forth.

Alex and I bounded up the stairs a million times. We got the giggles and acted foolish if we ended up brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed at the same time. We had “my side” and “his side” and we did not cross the line. We slept with our doors closed, washed our cars together outside, compared our tans standing in the mudroom looking into the half-bath mirror. We tripped over Alex’s huge shoes everywhere in the house, and learned to lock every door behind us. This house was where a lot of my growing up happened. Heartbreaks, milestones, where I learned to spread my wings. Watching Aurelia’s tiny feet make her own little footprints in the house that built me was simply surreal. The most precious memories we will take with us, where home will be where my family is, in my little hometown. Saying goodbye was bittersweet, as it always is, but oh if those walls could talk…

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