I got thinking the other day – about the house I grew up in. It was a good enough house I guess but even as a kid all I could see was its flaws — because that’s how I’m wired. The floors were wide planks painted brown, with a sheet of linoleum laid on top in each room — much like area carpets people use today. The piece in the living room had big blue and white flowers on it and the edges were so worn and tattered that I wouldn’t be surprised if the flowers heard tales of the civil war first hand. And every time we painted that room, each stroke of the wet paint caused flowers to emerge from the wallpaper underneath because the former owners couldn’t be bothered to remove it. Apparently neither could my parents.
While there was a floor in most of the bathroom, there was not one underneath the claw foot tub. It actually sat on the ground and sometimes you could find mushrooms under there if you were so inclined. I wasn’t. I would hop in and out of that tub with lightning speed because I was certain that snakes and other disgusting creatures were just waiting for my tender toes to appear.
There was a hole in the corner of the middle room where the baseboards met — or technically didn’t meet anymore. We could see outside and even pass pencils and rulers to each other through it just for kicks and giggles.
These were the things that drove me crazy. My older sister recently told me about what the house was like when they moved in — before Dad did some remodeling. More on that later.
But my mother loved her house and I couldn’t understand why. It’s not like she came from nothing because my grandmother’s house was nicer than the one my parents purchased. Gramma’s was a cute, dark brown cedar shake place trimmed in white that sat across from the west end of the Minetto bridge — until sadly it was torn down to make room for the remodeling of the bridge.
Maybe mom was just tired of living in various apartments ever since she’d gotten married. Maybe it was because she needed room to expand the family beyond the two children they already had by then. Maybe at $2,000 it was a bargain they couldn’t pass up. All I do know for sure is that she was determined to protect and claim all that was hers. From her driveway on Eighth Street to the rosebush on Erie Street, all hell might break lose if anyone encroached on her property — especially after we all moved out. She put up a fence in the backyard and I planted a bush in the side yard so people would stop cutting through there and getting her all upset.
Still, there are days when I get mushy over that house. It was the background for all my childhood memories — both good and bad. It kept us dry and safe but not particularly warm. It was where my father granted all my mother’s desires of further remodels and where my mother wished to die — and almost did. I mean that’s where she was still living when she fell and hit her head which resulted in her death at the hospital just five blocks away.
They had a good run, those two. Mom and her house walked hand in hand for nearly 70 years. It’s been hard letting go of it. Even though new people have moved in I still call it Mom’s house, and I still park in front of it to go for a walk, but it doesn’t feel like my safe place anymore. And I surprised myself when I realized this because I hadn’t known I felt that way about it.
I guess you have to lose something in order to appreciate its true value.