46 years ago my parents bought this house. They didn’t move in right away but they did get moved in before I was born…roughly one week before I was born.
When my family moved in my oldest sister was almost 8, my older brother was 6, and my other sister older than me was 3. The house must have seemed huge for the size of family that was moving in. But then I was born, and two years later my sister was born. Then three years after that my younger brother and youngest sister (twins) were born.
Growing up in this house, for me, was enjoyable. Sure there was fighting between the siblings, but there were plenty of fun times. There was plenty of work that we were assigned around the house, and there was the garden outside that required help until my dad decided he didn’t want to vegetable garden anymore. The back yard is huge, which allowed for kickball, croquet, whiffle ball, games of tag, playing catch, etc. There would be water fights, eenie-eye-over (or however it’s spelled), camping out, and creating cities in the dirt for the Hot Wheels cars. A covered patio made for a great place to eat dinner in the summertime, a shelter from the rain in the spring and fall, and a great view of the Wasatch Mountains any time of year.
My parents always made this a good home for us. Dad taught us about the importance of hard work…a lesson I didn’t necessarily want to learn. But for many years, as much as I hated having to mow the lawn, pull weeds and pick up rocks in the garden, trim bushes and prune trees, the reward was always a soda and a treat from the local 7-11. If I had a t-ball game, the yard work still had to be done. But sitting in the shade of the patio drinking a Big Gulp with my dad was worth it.
Mom always did what she could to have the house be nice looking, inviting, and comfortable. Whether it was having us vacuum and then rake the blue shag carpet, dust all of the wood on the furniture, or sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, we knew what we needed to do to have the house presentable for visitors. Many times I think she looked past the toys and clothes being shoved under the bed just to appreciate that I had some empty floor space in my bedroom to walk on. She was the referee in the boxing ring when needed, and she gave a good dose of Tabasco sauce on the tongue when we deserved it.
This house was our home for 45 years. Some of us took turns living there again after reaching adulthood and leaving for a time. Various aunts, uncles, and cousins were also welcomed when they needed a place to live temporarily. People were always welcome and a bed was made available as a resting spot during a long drive.
Earlier this year my mom decided it was time for her to sell the house and move into something smaller. As would be expected, her decision produced a variety of reactions and feelings. After all, this was the home that we all knew and it would be hard to not be able to enjoy the house and yard anymore, and more so, to see someone else pull into the driveway and walk in the front door.
In August, my mom had all of her posterity that were available (almost all of us) come to the house for one last dinner in the backyard. After we had filled out stomachs with tacos we sat together and shared memories of the house. I’m sure it was quite a learning experience for the grandchildren to listen to my generation share what was a favorite memory for us growing up. They probably didn’t even know some of the experiences ever happened or that the landscaping had even looked like it did. Regardless, it was a good time of reflection on 45 years of living.
Over the course of the last couple of months, my wife and I have gone through the process necessary for us to buy the house, and as of last week we made it official. My childhood home is now my adulthood home. But it hasn’t been my only home.
For the last 17 years plus, my wife and I have raised our kids in the first house that we bought. We only had two children when we bought it but even they don’t really have much of a memory of the places we lived prior to buying. Obviously the three children born since won’t have memories of any other house. So for my kids, they gave up their childhood home so that we could move into my childhood home.
Throughout my life I have asked myself if I would want to own the house I grew up in. There have been times when I definitely did and times when I did not. As my mom decided to sell the house, I asked myself again that same question. As I realized how weird it would be to not have the house in the family anymore, the only reason I could give myself to buy the house is so that I could continue to make memories there. But that was the only reason. All other reasoning in my mind was pointing me in a different direction and helping me to realize that this wasn’t the house that I really wanted. I was even able to come to terms with the idea that someone else that I didn’t know would be buying the house and I was okay with it.
As we were prepping the house to be sold, I was alone one night looking at some areas of repair that needed to be made. In those moments of quiet and solitude, as I was planning out the work to be done and remembering so many times throughout my life when I worked on the house and yard to make them look better, I heard a voice tell me that I needed to buy the house. It wasn’t an audible voice but it was one I heard in my mind. And it wasn’t my own voice. I don’t know if it was my dad, my brother, or someone else that doesn’t inhabit a mortal body at this time, but it was definitely a clear message. Clear enough that even though this wasn’t the house I wanted to buy, I knew it was the right decision.
We have been living in the house for almost a month now (we moved in before everything was finalized) and I think my family has adjusted. We still have boxes to empty out, things to put away, but we are getting settled. My middle child would still prefer to be in the house that we moved out of but she understands that that isn’t going to happen. My youngest thinks that when she is an adult she will buy and move into the old house (I hope it is still standing at that point and that the new owners want to sell it or she will be a bit disappointed). We are only four blocks away so we can easily visit with our former neighbors and see the old house (even if it is just from the outside).
There is a saying I have heard that states “a house is just a building, but a family makes it home.” I believe that is true. We can be just as happy in this current house as we were in the previous. That is because we are together as a family. I hope my extended family will still feel as comfortable coming over as they did just a few months ago when my mom was the owner. It is a place that has meaning for all of us, and even though it wasn’t the house I wanted, I’m glad that I can provide future opportunities that can be just as meaningful. I’m grateful that I have this opportunity, and that my own family will be able to have similar experiences as I had growing up. They may not be pulling weeds or raking shag carpet, but there will be plenty of opportunities for them to enjoy living here as they finish growing up and start having families of their own that they can bring to the house…just as I did. Because, it’s home.