The House Inside Each of Us

My little sister and me, rockin' it old school, circa 1981-ish, in the backyard of our new house.

My little sister and me, rockin’ it old school, circa 1981-ish, in the backyard of our new house.

Miles run today: 3.5

Bunnies spotted on my run: 4

Apple pies made yesterday: 1

Happy Fourth of July weekend, my friends!

Back on the Fourth of July weekend in 1981, my family moved to Atlanta.

It was hotter than three shades of you-know-what, and the new house my mom had fallen in love with sat perched up on a hill of red clay covered with straw to protect what little grass-lets existed underneath.

I would be entering fourth grade in the fall, so most of the rest of my summer was spent in daycare, going to roller-skating rinks that played Beatles songs interspersed with the Steve Miller Band.

Our new house was a classic four-up, four-down. I often wonder if the current owners have knocked out  the wall between the front living room and den/family room in favor of a more trendy open plan.

I only started getting to know our new house that first summer: my front bedroom that looked out over our creek with the weeping willows, the big picture window in the kitchen where my mom sat to drink tea millions of times over the years, and the scary basement that held boxes of our old shoes… for what purpose, I never knew. (The basement had an egress window, which I kept in mind in case someone or something tried to attack me down there.) We saw baby owls sitting on tree limbs not far from the window over our kitchen sink, snakes slithering through the woods in the side yard, and chickadees (the cheerleaders of the bird world) visiting the bird feeder near our kitchen table.

My friends and I danced to old Coke commercials and Cyndi Lauper songs in my parents’ bowling alley-like bedroom. My mom and I watched Friday Night Videos on one of the four stations we got, since it was certain we were never getting MTV. And I drove my sister crazy by littering our shared, brown-butterfly-wallpapered bathroom with discarded clothing options each day before school.

Our old house has haunted me over the years.

Every now and then, I still dream about it. People I used to know drift in and out of it, sometimes late for school, sometimes chasing me through it, sometimes mixing up the different areas of my life into one big, confusing mish-mash of fun of a psychoanalysts’ conference.

The house wasn’t perfect by today’s standards: there was no granite countertop, the windows weren’t double-paned and let in terrific drafts of cold in the winter, and my mom’s hanging pot rack over the kitchen peninsula clocked me in the head on multiple occasions.

But it was the house that set the tone for the rest of my life: close friends nearby, easy access to the pool, my own room, sheltering trees, a salmon-pink pantry that my mom and I painted just for fun. Our driveway even weeded out the faint-of-heart: its hilly curves and bridge over the creek turned away all but the ones who truly wanted to visit.

When a friend called attention to Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House That Built Me,” years ago, I understood. I wish everyone had the chance to grow up in a house with such a strong foundation. We carry these houses with us through life, the rooms and their memories still intact.

What about you? What are your memories about the house where you grew up?

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32 thoughts on “The House Inside Each of Us

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    We moved around a lot, so I never got the chance to bond with any house in particular. But I do remember living in a double-wide trailer home on an open prairie with brutal winters and muddy springs. Not so fun!

    Your childhood home sounds lovely!

    • annewoodman says:

      As a kid, I would have found your prairie trailer home hopelessly romantic, kind of like Little House on the Prairie. As an adult, I realize what discomforts that might entail. ; ) I bet you remember it well, though… and probably shaped what you wanted/didn’t want in an adult home.

      Good to hear from you again! I hope you’re enjoying your summer with your kids.

  2. David Gentry says:

    Anne, you are such a wonderful writer! I am so glad you have many fun memories. Yes, our old house haunts me still, also. It was wonderful in so many ways, mainly because our family was there. But it was beautiful in its own right, and I hope it has served other families well.

    Love, Dad

  3. vanster101 says:

    Good job! I never even knew a lot about this…well, I do understand just bringing that up to me might not interest me…but the way you have written this is so amazing! Good job, and I love you! 🙂

  4. desertrose7 says:

    I’ve had dreams that I go back to a childhood house and as I stand at the window looking out something feels very wrong, then I realise it’s because I am no longer face level with the window sill. I am an adult looking through the window. It’s a very weird feeling.

  5. Andria says:

    Anne-
    My parents bought their first house in Lombard, IL and stayed in it for 55 years, so even as adults we spent a lot of time there. My best memories are of the millions of dinners we ate around the table, My brother and sister were both kind of goof offs, so they were never allowed to sit next to each other because too much trouble brewed there. Even as adults mom had a rule that they couldn’t sit next to each other and our adult dinners usually lasted for 2 hours because of all of the laughing at that table. My brother could turn the most mundane activity into a funny story. Good, good times.

    • annewoodman says:

      Your brother always sounds like so much fun, Andria! I can’t imagine all the memories that house of 55 years contains… it’s almost magical, isn’t it?

  6. Subtlekate says:

    This is adorable. I love that you think about that wall between the two rooms. I grew up in Scotland and I inherited the house. It’s a very large stately thing under Historic Scotland protection. Strangers walk around it and point to things. That’s the thing I think of now. People’s feet walking up and down the stairs looking at my ancestors photographs. Strange what we think of.
    My brother and I know every corner and hall and could play hide and seek that lasted for days. When I think back I remember us roaming the land and thinking of reasons to stay out all day long. It’s a cold draughty house. I think of nights under 5 quilts with 2 hot water bottles and still being cold. The size of a house doesn’t equate to it’s happiness. I think the smallest of places can have the most love, while the large ones have too much to fill to make that possible.

    • annewoodman says:

      A large, drafty house in Scotland? That sounds divine! Yet cold. We have been driving around up in Scotland in November/December, and the homes scattered all around the countryside are so quaint. Do you ever get to visit your Historic Scotland house? Does your son know all of the hidey holes, too?
      We vacationed up in England’s Lake District several years ago, and we stayed in a gorgeous, stone bed and breakfast. The owner was about our age and asked us all about the type of home we lived in (wood). She thought the idea of our wooden home was hopelessly romantic and wonderful. I have never forgotten that! ; )

      • Subtlekate says:

        LOL Yes, when I was young I couldn’t believe people lived in wooden houses. But what happens when it rains, I would think.
        The last time I was there was 5 years ago, Lachlan was 5 and just beginning to be brave enough to be lost on his own. He would stash his pockets with muesli bars just in case. My brother is visiting at the moment and one of our plans is to go home together very soon.

      • annewoodman says:

        Oh, that’s wonderful! So cool for Lachlan to see parts of your own childhood. I’d love to read about it if you do go!

      • Subtlekate says:

        That could be a fun blog. Rediscovering the hidey holes.

  7. The house I grew up in in London is never far from my mind. It was quite big and old, and needed loads of work doing to it. It was mainly just me and my Dad and my cat living there through most of my growing up years (after the two years I lived in France from age 5-7). My Dad sold it and moved several years after I left home, and I often wonder what it looks like now, and think about how the subsequent owners might have fixed it up. When my Dad moved out of it, it was in the 90s, and it still had decor from the 70s in some rooms – fake wood effect wallpaper and green paint and suchlike, a look that would probably seem quite cool and retro now!

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, 70s is so in!

      I love to think of you banging around in that old London house, Vanessa! An old London fixer-upper! Awesome! It’s funny how we never quite get over the homes we grow up in.

  8. Bernie Brown says:

    My memories of our farm house are countless. Summers when cousins would come to stay. Winters when hoar frost (the kind that looks like feathers) covered the windows. Nights watching Gunsmoke and Bonanza, my dad’s favorite shows. Holidays with so many relatives coming for dinner we sat up tables in the bedrooms. As you know, Anne, my mom just died in April. Her great grandaughter sang “The House That Built Me” at Mom’s funeral.

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, my gosh, Bernie! I would have had a difficult time staying dry-eyed for that one. What a touching tribute! All of the things you describe are exactly what I would envision of where you grew up. I’d love to see pictures of your farm house!

  9. jmmcdowell says:

    When I was 12, my parents moved from the house my older siblings had grown up in and into a newer house on the other side of town, where I finished growing up. My mother still lives there, *mumble mumble* years later. My memories are easily triggered when I go back because most things in the house are still as they were when I moved out.

    Sometimes my dreams will mash the two houses together in some strange mix that makes sense in the dream, but certainly not after I wake up.

    I often wonder if that move set the tone for my adult life. Since moving in together in graduate school, my husband and I have rented eight(?) apartments/townhouses and owned three homes. And we’re thinking of buying again next year…. That’s a bit of moving, isn’t it?

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow! Yes, that’s a lot of moving, JM! I know what you mean about the mash-up of dream houses. Our subconscious is such a wacky thing, isn’t it?

      That’s wonderful that you have a place you can return to where everything is as you remember it… no matter how often you and your husband move. ; )

  10. I often dream about the house I grew up in. Weird and/or scary dreams, mostly, though I was always happy there. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to buy it when I retire…

    • annewoodman says:

      I think living there when you retire would be so comforting! But then again, you may have your own adult home that would be the most ideal place by then! Thanks for dropping by!

  11. The cat attacking our bare feet as we raced through the study up to our bedroom. The huge back yard that took all day Saturday to mow. The big oak trees out front that were the source of so many games. Shooting archery in the back yard after dad got home from work. And finally, how small it all seemed when I went back for a visit 30 years after my folks sold it.

    • annewoodman says:

      Ah, isn’t that so true–the world was so big when we were kids. Now I understand where the archery came into play. Nice that you could carry that foundation into your adult life.

  12. Anne, really glad to get over to your blog finally – life is much busier for me these days. It seems that people are really thinking about their old homes as I read another post, but this was a house the blogger had lived in as a young woman that she couldn’t forget. I too dream about the place where I grew up. It was a really old house – Queen Elizabeth took shelter there one rainy afternoon!! It always comes to me in dreams when I am most in need of comfort.

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow! Queen Elizabeth?! You really do have better homes in England. ; ) Yes, some of our childhood haunts are nice, calming places for us as adults.

      I hope your life is a good kind of busy. I’ll try to stop by as often as I can to see what you’ve been up to.

  13. Melissa says:

    Isn’t it amazing how that house we grew up in affects us? My Mom still lives in our house. “My room” isn’t mine any more and she’s changed quite a lot of it but when things get rough or I’m feeling a little down, that place is still home.

    • annewoodman says:

      You’re very fortunate, Melissa! I guess it’s fair that your mom changed your room… is it a sewing room? I have a feeling my old room would have been turned into a quilting wonderland if my parents hadn’t moved!

  14. I have a cute memory. We were spending the summer at our grandparents’ house while my mother was looking for a new apartment. Sitting next to the window, getting drizzled by the monsoons, we could see two rooms in the neighboring building. One of them was painted pink and one a bright pistachio. We begged our mom to use those colors in our new apartment and she obliged. I shudder at the thought of that color combination now, but those were the happy days 🙂

    I am so glad to see new posts from you. Only a few lines bring a smile to my face and by the second paragraph I am laughing.

    • annewoodman says:

      I love the idea of you fantasizing about awesome color combinations! Although our idea of what looks good changes over the years, that desire for something new and fresh never goes away. ; )

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I know I haven’t kept up with all of my blogging friends’ posts… I am trying to drop in from time to time. I really appreciate that you took the time to stop and read anyway. Hope you’re doing well!

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