What do you remember about the house you grew up in? When thinking back on our lives we immediately think about what we did and maybe how we felt, but often forget about background “accessories,” such as the house and yard, the town, the neighborhood. A friend, who helps others find the history of their older homes in St. Louis, recently discovered History of Homes website which collects house memories of people worldwide as well as old photos, which got me thinking about the house I grew up in . . .
Our ranch home had three square bedrooms and one bathroom which got quite busy as my sister and I grew older. The living room for the longest time grew green shag carpet—a meadow for my roaming horse collection. A Japanese-style tokonoma (decorative) area against one wall was a backdrop for special family photos. The linoleum-floored kitchen/dining room (arena for a dishwater fight) had a sliding glass door leading to a patio and kidney-shaped goldfish pond with waterfall in a Japanese-flavored yard. The utility room had upper cabinet doors painted by my sister and I when we were teens: funky-style Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton from one of the Cream covers, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon triangle. The house had redwood-painted wood siding with a covering of brick along the lower front portion of the house. A mass of junipers hid the brick until my mother chopped them into giant bonsai.
Our home always felt plenty big for our family of four, but I remember well when I first returned after moving far away how small and dark the rooms seemed. What had happened? I guess I had grown out of that house as one grows out of a pair of favorite jeans. It was sad to see my old friend become just a shell for my fond memories. Much later, when my mother moved away and the new owners cut down the trees, I couldn’t bear to drive by.
Too bad I never took any photos of our old house in its prime, with the big silver maple I used to climb up to the sky, and my favorite sour cherry tree that would be full of warm, ripe red. As an adult, I’ve taken photos of each of the many houses my husband and I have lived in, and so our children will always be able to see where they once lived. When you write about your childhood, remember to include your old friends, the houses you grew up in.