Posts Tagged ‘memories’

The subject for this post came to me at about 3:30 a.m., and I’m going with it. I don’t know if it’s just about habit, or if there’s more there. But here goes.

When I get up in the wee hours to go to the bathroom, by instinct I reach left first for the toilet paper probably 6 times out of 10. That’s where it was in the house where I lived for the 11 years before moving here. In this bathroom, it’s on the right.

My kitchen wastebasket is under the sink. This is where it should be. It’s where it was in the house I grew up in and in some other houses I’ve had. In others, it’s been in the pantry, beside the cabinets,  or underneath a kitchen island. But wherever, at least once a week I’ve reflexively opened the door under the sink before realizing, oh yeah, it’s not there.

My parents had a starburst clock on the living room wall for many years while I was growing up. And still — still — occasionally I look on my living room wall when I want to know what time it is. Never mind that I haven’t had a wall clock in my house for years, probably decades.

This is the sentence that came to me at 3:30 this morning: Every place I’ve lived has left its mark on me.

I have lived in lots of places. Let’s see —

  1. The house I grew up in. Lived there for 19 years. The clock on the wall. The white house with trees in frontwastebasket under the sink. Good, solid life. That place is truly in my core.
  2. The tiny house we lived in briefly right after we got married. Today it would be considered part of the tiny house movement.
  3. The 12×50 mobile home my dad helped us get. Bigger than the tiny house. Smaller than the apartment where I live now, a fact that gives me perspective.
  4. My parents’ retirement home in Florida. Temporary until we could buy our own.
  5. The house we bought in Florida.
  6. My mother’s home. Also my childhood home. Dad had died and we lived with her for 9 months, again till we could buy our own home, having moved back from Florida.
  7. The house we bought there.
  8. The first parsonage. My husband was the associate pastor at that church.
  9. The second parsonage. My husband was the only pastor at that church.
  10. The third parsonage. My husband was the senior pastor at that church.
  11. The home of a friend’s parents. Things had gone sour at the church and the congregation voted to ask my husband to leave.We did, with nowhere to go and no income. This place was shelter and storage space as we tried to heal and figure out next moves.
  12. The first house in Colorado. We bought it without seeing it, after friends on site checked it out and arranged for a volunteer crew to remodel it. It was traumatic for multiple reasons.
  13. The second house in Colorado, which we rented when we lost that first house.
  14. The third house in Colorado, which we started out renting and eventually bought. Lived there for 13 years.
  15. The house in Indiana. Lived there for 11 years. It’s the one my husband died in.
  16. This apartment, where I still reach for the toilet paper where it was in the last house. And where the trash again fits under the kitchen sink.

This litany of homes brings back all kinds of memories and emotions. But it’s what happened, and I do not think where I live now will be my last home, so the list will continue to grow.

It’s true. Every place I’ve lived has left its mark on me. It’s not the place, ultimately, but what happened there. The seasons of my  life, some quite short, in which I was changed in some way. I grew. Joy and sorrow mixed. Sometimes joy won, sometimes sorrow won.

My children lived in 13 of these homes, too. They also bear marks from those places and the life we shared, for good or ill.

I don’t want any of us to live in those places any more. I want us to move forward. But sometimes sorting through the past is necessary to move on, to heal. Just like you sort through things before a move. Some things you can leave behind. Some things you decide are either meaningful and beneficial, can be repurposed or rearranged to make them useful, or are just plain beautiful. So you take those things with you as you move . . . onward.

Let’s do that.


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Onward, but still. . .

Onward, but still . . .

I wish I still had the 1950ish-vintage stove that came with the house we bought in 1976 and we left behind in 1979. You know the kind, four burners and a sunken soup pot, an oven on one side and a drawer for pots and pans on the other, the whole thing looking distinctly automotive, rounded edges and all. Practicality says I have no place for it, but still.

I wish I could go back to Crescent View Cottages on Siesta Key.  Little duplexes each with a little front porch where we hung our beach towels, on a crushed-shell drive that deadended on the beach. They aren’t even there any more.

I wish I still had the yellow ceramic lamp we got with S&H green stamps in 1971. Tall and just short of gaudy, with gold braid around the top and bottom of the white drum shade.

I wish I had the aquamarine ring my parents gave me in high school, that I lost a couple of years later. Careless youth.

I wish my kitchen had the old built-in cabinet that was part of the kitchen where I grew up. Floor to ceiling on the wall next to the kitchen table, painted white. Plates, glassware, serving dishes, and vitamins in the top part, canned goods in the bottom part, with a middle shelf where paper clutter landed.

Good stories are always told in sensory specifics. These are details of memory, parts of my story. Every day has been, is, and always will be filled with details. How many slip by unnoticed? How many of them will I long for later? How close to true are the details of my life? Does memory change them?

Good stories need great characters, too.

I had two tough grandmothers. They withstood a lot. I miss them.

I miss talking easily and often with my brothers.

I miss sharing life with my children.

How many people whom I know today know me, a multi-layered me, a 3-dimensioal me?

Missing won’t bring anything back. What colors my life today? Who do I treasure today? Will I pay attention, or will I let the days slip by?

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I just read an essay by Bob Greene: “At holidays, those who stayed make ‘home’ home.” It’s an ode to the people who, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, never left home. It’s also about what makes “home” home.

My husband and I did not stay. Not only did we leave, we moved around alot. Of course this happens in many families, so I don’t mean to paint it as a melodrama. One of my best friends also moved around alot as a child, and she attributes her adaptability and ease with new people to all those new places. But one of the consequences of many moves is that children don’t have a physical place to think about as home. The question is whether as adults, there’s any one place other than their own homes  that they identify enough with people they love to think of going there as “going home.”

I’m in my fifteenth home, not counting college dorms. My children lived in thirteen of those, and they’ve never lived in the house I live in now.

House #1: I grew up in one house. I moved into the aforementioned dorm, in the same town, when I went to college, and came home on breaks.

House #2: When I got married, we moved into a tiny rental house outside town.

House #3: About a month later my dad helped us get a mobile home and we moved into a trailer park. That’s where we lived when Heather was born.

House #4: A year after Art graduated from college (it would be 33 more years before I graduated), when Heather was two, we moved to Florida where my parents had a home where they planned to retire. They let us live there while we saved money for a down payment.

House #5: We bought our own house and lived in it for two and a half years.

House #6: Art got a job back “home,” so we moved north again. My dad had died before he retired, so we lived with my mother for nine months, waiting for our Florida house to sell and saving our money.

House #7: We bought another house, my favorite of them all. That’s where we lived when we adopted Tom and Paul was born.

House #8: Art joined the pastoral staff at a church, and we sold our home and moved into one of their parsonages.

House #9: Two years later he took a church in Colorado, and we moved west, into that little church’s parsonage, where we lived for nearly six years.

House #10: Art took a church back “home,” so we moved east and into another parsonage. That’s where we lived when Heather went to college and then got married.Things at that church went south, and I’m not talking geography. We had to leave after two and a half years.

House #11: We had no home, no savings, no paychecks. A friend’s parents wintered in South Carolina, and they graciously lent us their home while they were gone — except that they came home over Christmas, so for two weeks we had to vacate the house and make it look like we hadn’t been there. Our Christmas “vacation” was spent in Art’s parents home, since they also went away for the holidays.

House #12: After four months, we moved to Colorado again, this time to a different part of the state. Friends of ours who lived there found a house for us and engaged their whole church in remodeling it before we got there. We lived in that house for two years, during which time Tom left home.

House #13: The business Art was starting was struggling, and therefore so were we. Hint: do not start a business without money to live on for awhile. So we lost the home, which as it turned out had a crumbling foundation anyway, and we moved into a tiny run-down rental house.

House #14: Three months later we found a not-as-run-down rental house, next door to our friends, and we moved again. We ended up buying that house and lived there for 15 years. Paul graduated and moved out while we lived there, making it an empty nest.

House #15: Six years ago we moved here, where I still live. It’s a thousand miles away from my children, and none of them have ever lived in this house. I’d be very surprised if any of my children think of where I live as home. In fact, likely this place holds bad memories, since  their dad was deteriorating or near death when they visited.

As a mother, when they were younger I tried to make home a good place for them, for all of us. I hope they felt that. Now my first priority is to establish a home within myself, for me, and hopefully we can get back to the place where they will feel at home when they are with me, wherever we are. That’s the best I can do.

The irony is that the area where I live now is home to me. I left home again, to come home. I have returned, and I can feel my roots here. I guess I hope my children feel that way about where they live, either now or eventually.

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I find myself this morning burrowing through boxes I thought would stay closed for a good long time. It all started yesterday when I found out that I need a new furnace.  The good news buried in that bad news is that a new heating/cooling system will be hugely more energy efficient than my current 1975 models and will save me money big time on my utility bills, but I still have  to figure out how to pay for this. I know God will provide for me. He always has, one way or the other, but I’m working with him here. I know my cushion won’t cover the whole expense. For some time I’ve been tossing around the idea of signing up with airbnb.com, offering my guest room to travelers for some extra income. Now the furnace issue is pushing me to get serious, and before I can actually do that I have to clear out the closet in there. Hence, going through boxes. Some I can just carry downstairs, but others maybe it’s time to weed stuff out. Again.

I boxed this stuff up during the year after my husband died. As widows do, I went through his stuff, got rid of lots, and saved some. I haven’t opened it again in two years. So far I’m one book box in. Already the process drains me. I thought I was done with this.

Just now I messaged a relative to ask if she and her husband, in seminary, want some of the theology/devotional books. I’ve put a Spanish-English Bible and a U.S. Constitution/Declaration of Independence booklet in my tote bag to take to work Monday, to put out for food pantry clients, because our experience shows that people are not just hungry for food, they are hungry for something that feeds their soul and mind.

Then I picked up a couple of my own books that I’d boxed up because I hadn’t looked at them in probably fifteen years: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple and If I Had My Life to Live Over I Would Pick More Daisies. They’ve become stereotypes since I bought them, and I figured they were Goodwill bound. But when I opened one and read a random poem, it took me straight to my mother, who died by my side in 2001, and I think I may need to reread both books again. I go to another poem, and there I am, too. At least for now, they will return to my shelf.

I still don’t know if I’ll follow through on this airbnb.com idea, but I’m closer to it than before. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be done sifting through things — and thoughts, and memories, and emotions. This is what it means to be alive, right?

By the way, I’ve been reading Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist. If you want encouragement for simplifying your life, you might want to check it out. Just be warned, that the process of thinning out possessions will often take you to some important emotions. But that’s really a good thing, too, is it not?



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Saturday morning

It’s Saturday, and here I sit in my jammies. I’ve had breakfast, I’ve had tea and I’m thinking about another cup. I’ve washed last night’s dishes, read the news online. I’ve checked my Facebook and Twitter accounts and done a crossword puzzle. Basically I’ve just been frittering the time away, and I only feel a hint of guilt.

When I was a kid, even on a Saturday mom would have made me get dressed by now. It was shameful to be found in your pajamas by anyone outside the family after about 9:00 a.m.  Since the paper boy came to collect in the morning, it was better not to loll around.

Here’s where this post goes totally retro and I run the danger of revealing my age, but oh well. Saturday mornings would usually find us on the living room floor watching TV. Now that I’ve raised my own children, I understand how freeing it was to Mom when something interested us more than going with her to the  A&P. She knew that if our attention was occupied, we could stay with Grandma, who lived with us, and it would be easier all around.

Here are some shows from my Saturday mornings past. I know they will seem unbelievably quaint.

“Here I come to save the day!” — That would be Mighty Mouse. Note that shameless product sponsorship is nothing new. At least here it was toothpaste and not Twinkies.

Heckle and Jeckle — not my favorite, but still there, so I watched. That’s what you did when there were only three channels and no recorded movies, yet TV was still a completely, captivatingly, new medium.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They saved the town from bad guys in 30 minutes every time.

American West heroes modernized: Sky King and his niece Penny to the rescue not on horseback but in a Cessna — or was it a Piper Cub? Obviously I don’t know my aircraft.  More shameless sponsorship: Nabisco

Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney with a live audience of kids. I’d almost forgotten about this one. Exclusively sponsored by Tootsie  Roll.

Enough of this. Gotta go back to being a grown-up, get dressed, and get to the bank before it closes.

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The other day my friend Becky and I spent some time roaming through The Bookworm, a used book store just down the street from where her grandparents used to live. I actually purchased some books. I know, I know, I just wrote about how I read books from the library first before I buy them, but finding bargains for a little bit of nothing works for me too. And these three spoke my name:

The Short Story: 50 Masterpieces. I love used lit books. It all started when my dad, who taught among other things high school literature, was on the faculty committee to find new textbooks and ended up bringing home several samples from various publishers. You know the type: anthologies with names like Adventures in American Literature, full of short stories, poetry, plays, essays, usually even a novel at the back. I was the kid who when I first got a library card thought it would be cool to read every book in the library, and my favorite thing to do on hot summer days, unless we were going to the lake, was to lie on the floor in our living room, between the open window and the floor fan, and read. So when Dad brought those lit book samples home, I salivated. That summer I read Poe and Sandburg, Wordsworth and Eliot, Steinbeck and Dickinson to my heart’s content. (One of my best garage sale finds ever was a copy of the exact American Literature book my dad taught from when I was in his class. Yes, yes, I know, these anthologies are out of fashion, and I really agree with that, as long as students are getting introduced to good literature, which I don’t think is a sure thing. But that’s another post.) Collections like these still speak to me. I will welcome working into my life one story at a time from this “new” find, which starts with Nathaniel Hawthorne (many of his stories are old friends) and goes to Joyce Carol Oates.

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question, by Po Bronson. Why did this jump out at me? First, this is a question I still have not fully answered for myself, even yet. Second, I’ve seen Po Bronson quoted in some other books and articles I’ve read recently. Third, I always appreciate stories, and rather than approach this question purely to give advice or as psychological analysis, this is filled with real people’s journey’s. Bronson writes transparently, too, which I love. He’s honest about his own journey, in other words, and clearly it’s not finished. I’m up to chapter 13 so far and loving it.

Big Ideas for Small Spaces, by David Lansing and JoAnne Liebeler. This beautiful book is photo-rich with a little text about design principles. It’s very colorful, and most of the rooms are quite modern. Colors, individual style, strength, a little quirkiness. This is like books I’ve checked out from the library — tying back to the thrift thing — and now I’ve bought one for a song that I can mark in or even cut out images I really like. No, I’m not looking to redo my house, but playing with color and design opens something up in me.

The past year and a half since my husband’s death have included the rather emotional process of clearing out many of his books. These three volumes I’ve just found are part of the next ongoing step of making my bookshelves reflect who I am. That hour’s roam through the used book store was an hour well spent, emotionally, for me. Thanks for suggesting it, Becky.

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Rumors of my death . . .

. . . are greatly exaggerated. But good grief, it’s been four months since I last posted. No explanations, no apologies. Just a new post, and I’ll try to expect less of myself and write more.  Writing more will make more good stuff come out. So, today, starting with things that make me smile:

A spiral staircase. Sand and water, preferably water that at least laps the shore. Pounding surf  is better. A wooden Adirondack chair painted either aqua or shell pink. Blue and green glass. Chocolate, of course. Also watermelon.

Yesterday I drove some country roads I haven’t been on for years and years. I saw an old, brick, square, 2-story farmhouse that I remember way back when being ramshackle. There may have even been rumors when I was growing up that it was haunted. Now it is a thing of beauty. Obviously someone lives there now who loves it. Hurray.

Speaking of growing up and old houses, I’m tempted sometimes to ask the current owners of the house I grew up in if I can stop in and see it. Also the house my mother grew up in, which I have never been inside, but I have photos of me being held by my father on the steps of the front porch. What do you think? If someone called you up and said she used to live in your house, would you let her come over to see? Would you want to hear what it was like back then?

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