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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