The house that built me.
Think about that for a minute. What a great statement.
I got the idea for this blog from Jodi, and her blog, which I love.
My cousin Crystal wrote a post about this on her blog too. She wrote about our family farm, which was recently sold. This was was across the road from the house she grew up in. She spent a lot more time there as a child than I did and was a lot closer to our grandparents than I was. My memories of that property are more recent, after my dad took it over, when I was already married and living on my own. Crystal did a wonderful job of describing her memories of the farm, one of the houses that built her…but they are her memories. For me, this house didn’t really “build me” as much as some others did… for me, it played more of a minor role. Yes, I definitely have memories, some of the same ones that Crystal does, and I don’t think I can describe them any better than she did. This was much more “her place” than mine. By the time my dad took it over, the barn was empty, the property a mere shell of what it used to be… and I was just a visitor in my dad’s home…I view it more as my dad’s home than my grandparents’ as that’s where most of my memories of that place come from. The Noble Farm absolutely was a house that built Crystal and some of the others…but not so much me.
I want to talk about the houses that built me.
The earliest house I can remember, is a beautiful, big, yellow brick house in Fordwich. I remember holding my mom’s hand as we walked down the stairs on the morning of my fifth birthday, and I asked “Am I five now?” and she said “Yes, yes you are”. I remember listening to my colicky baby brother cry in the next bedroom, and thinking he would never stop. I remember having bubble baths in the claw foot tub, submersing my whole self under water, and loving every minute of it. There was a big black rock in the front yard. My dad told me was a meteor that fell from the sky and landed right there on that spot. I, of course, believed him. I loved that house. Later, a friend of mine from elementary school lived there. I spent plenty of time there when it was her house, but today when I think about it, I remember nothing about her living there. I can’t picture her bedroom, her kitchen or her toys. But in my mind I can clearly see our kitchen with a white clock on the wall, our toyroom with the grey linoleum floor, our wooden stairs, our big backyard with the swingset and open field behind it. That house is still there, and whenever I drive by it, I miss it. We left it when my parents separated for the first time.
If the walls could talk in that house, they would tell a story about a young family, just starting out, facing their share of hardtimes, as all young families just starting out do. The parents growing into adults, the babies growing into kids, the parents who loved their children and were learning all about life as parents.
Next, I lived in two different apartments in Gorrie. The first one was a tiny, two bedroom ground level. I was still fairly young at this time, but I remember waking up with my brother at about 4am one Christmas morning, sneaking out to the living room to see what Santa brought us, shocking my dad when he tried to sneak in to hide some presents under the tree. I remember waking up one Easter morning, and seeing the “Alice in Wonderland” novel waiting for me. I remember wishing we could live in the upstairs apartment, because it was so much bigger.
And then we did. This one was a lot bigger, and had three bedrooms. Mine was at the back, and I had plenty of privacy. I remember playing the Mini Pops, Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, and more on my “ghetto blaster”. I remember tucking my dolls into clementine box beds every night, vowing that when I had a real daughter I would name her Samantha. Or Kayla. I remember going into my mom’s room one morning and finding my Dad there too, signifying to me that they were back together. I remember hanging upside down on the couch, talking on the phone with a friend from school for the first time, and then a million more times. I remember playing a game of Monopoly with my dad one night while my mom was out Christmas shopping, and sobbing because he didn’t let me win. My mom couldn’t believe I was still up when she got home, and I think my dad heard about it when I finally went to bed. I remember having birthday parties and sleepovers with my friends in that apartment. One Christmas we got a Nintendo – the original. Our TV had a converter on the top of it to change the channels. I remember the bees’ nest in the light socket in my bedroom. Being woken up in the middle of night to go for an "improptu" sleepover at my cousin Ty’s house just around the corner. His sister Tiffany was just a baby and was woken up in all the commotion, much to the disgruntlement of her mother. I remember having whispered conversations with Ty when they thought we were sleeping. I remember staring out the front window of our apartment, watching cars driving along main street on a dark and rainy night, my mood matching the weather, wondering what was going to happen next
If the walls in this building could talk, they would tell a story about a woman getting her life back on track and gaining confidence as a mother. About kids who were starting to grow, understand, and remember. About kids whose social lives and circles were growing, and because of that, so were their parents’. About lives that were headed in the right direction, and people that were going to be just fine.
After awhile we moved to a house in Gorrie, which was a really big deal for us. The four of us; My brother, myself and both of my parents. This is where I stayed until I left for University. This house had a major role in “building me”. I remember sitting with my mom in the TV room on the couch, her legs bent and creating a space just big enough for me to fit; she called it the “mousehole”. Years later I sat on that same couch with a boyfriend, crying over the sudden death of a friend’s older brother. I remember eating supper at 6:15 exactly, every night, for years and years, as that was the exact moment my dad would walk through the door. I remember spending hour after hour on the phone, with friends from elementary and then highschool, and with boy after boy. I remember laying in my bed, sick with mono. I remember talking on the phone, under the covers, long after I was supposed to. I remember sitting straight up in bed when my mom broke the news from my doorway that two of my highschool friends had been killed in a car accident. That Princess Diana had died. I remember my dad banging down the stairs in the middle of the night when his fire pager went off – waking all of us up, time after time. I remember when the phone rang in the middle of the night, announcing my Dad’s dad had passed away. I remember finding every single spot my parents hid the Christmas presents, year after year. I remember sitting up in my room for hours, reading, writing, thinking, dreaming. I remember bringing boys home to meet my parents, I remember passing out at the kitchen table, right in front of my parents after coming home, promising I hadn’t had anything to drink. I remember playing in the backyard…baseball especially. I remember bonfires too, and countless family get togethers. I remember building a shack with a group of friends across from the creek. Hunting for crayfish. Building miniature dams. I remember the road hockey games outside our house. I remember when my brother and cousin Mark came into the house screaming at me to call our moms at work because Mark had fallen off the dirt bike and had a gash in his knee. The day Jeff and my brother befriended a couple of baby squirrels. I remember my brother’s BMX bike. His skateboard. His snowboard, and the front porch full of ball equipment. Our house was the hangout, for my friends, and especially for my brother’s friends. They were all welcome, any time, and they all knew that. There were Nintendo, Sega and Playstation tournaments. Serious ones. Later there were parties hosted by my brother. Lots of them, with our parents always nearby, or, once, called for backup. Because youth under the influence might do a lot of things, but cross our father wasn’t one of them. I remember the night my dad came up my room and announced he would be moving out. As soon as he left my room I pulled the phone out from under the covers and called Jeff back to tell him.
I remember waiting, anxiously, at that house with my cousins as my grandparents and our parents were in London. I’ll never forget when my mom and aunt came in, and announced to us that our grandpa had cancer, and that it wasn’t good. I’ll never forget that year’s Christmas at that house, which my grandpa spent in the hospital. Christmas with my mom’s family was always a loud, chaotic affair – so much happiness…the one day with my family I looked forward to all year. But that year was so different. Such a heavy, sad feeling throughout the entire day.
I remember doing homework through the years at that house, spread all over the kitchen table, all over the TV room floor, all over my bedroom. I remember spreading all of the paperwork from the Universities I had been accepted to, all over the living room floor, as I attempted to make the biggest decision of my life at that point – Waterloo, Western or Brock? A decision my parents trusted me to make on my own.
Every room in that house and places outside too hold memories for me. Some good, some not, all which helped shape me into who I am today. Relationships were built in this house, and relationships were broken apart…there was family drama, there was sibling drama. There was boyfriend drama and later with my brother, there was girlfriend drama. Both Mike and I suffered our first broken hearts here, and both of us brought home to this house the people we would later marry. My brother and I spent our teen years in that house, and we both moved out to start our own lives from that house…
Oh if the walls in that house could talk…
There’s another house that built me too…one I never actually lived in, but I spent so much time at, it feels like I did. A house that played as big a role as any of the others.
My grandparents bought their house on Albert St in Gorrie, for $700. It is the only house my mom ever lived in as a child, and has been a big part of my life since the day I was born. My grandmother babysat me from the day my mom went back to work, until I was old enough to look after my brother and myself. I had sleepovers there, and wouldn’t bring my own pajamas, because my treat was to wear one of my grandma’s old cotton nightgowns. One that was miles too long for me and so I had to hike it up to my shoulders to be able to walk up her stairs to the bedrooms – the steepest stairs in any house I have ever been in in my life. I would sleep in “my room”; the “dark room”. The room had no windows and so it became completely black at night. I had the best sleeps ever at that house, once I got over my grandparents’ snoring. I remember my grandma babysitting my cousins, my brother and I every day. We always looked forward to Fridays after school, because that’s when we were allowed to have our one pop of the week. I remember my cousin Krissy choking on a loonie, and my grandma pounding on her back while yelling at me to call her mom. A large group of our extended family crammed into the living room, barely any room to move, to watch The Blue Jays win the World Series. A clock that chimed a different bird call each hour. Billy Bass. Sardines. Fresh peas in the pods. “Brandy” the Irish Setter, “Dudley” the cockapoo, “Jacques” the bird and “Maggie” the cat. I remember bringing boys to meet my grandparents, their opinions mattering just as much as my own parents’. I remember as soon as Jeff and I walked through the door, my grandpa got up and went to the fridge to get Jeff a drink. Every time. Christmas Eve get togethers there – everyone talking over top of one another, eating, drinking, telling stories and laughing. We announced our engagement to our extended family in this house, as well as our first pregnancy. I spent the morning of my wedding preparing at this house, and the pictures after the ceremony were taken there. I remember playing in the backyard too, perfecting cartwheels, searching for four leaf clovers, and watching caterpillars climb up the trees. I acquired a love of gardening from that house. I remember sitting around the backyard during different family occasions, and will never forget when my cousin Travis’ name was unofficially changed to Todd, when cherry tarts were dropped off at my grandma’s house just after my grandpa died, and all of us gathering there that day, and walking to the funeral home from there together, as a family. When Jeff and I first got to the house after being called home when my grandpa died, I remember walking through the door and being bear hugged by my mom. I remember going there the day after my wedding, and for reasons I couldn’t explain, bursting into tears, and my grandma doing the same as she gave me a big hug. I still visit frequently, and have lunch with my grandma there every two weeks. This is my very favourite house in the world. A simple, white sided, 3 bedroom house with a big backyard, in the middle of Gorrie. The thing I remember about this house, above all else, is love, and laughter. My grandparents loved us all so much, and together made us laugh, so much.
This house may be on its way out of my family, as my grandma is considering moving on to something smaller and easier to maintain. I get tears as I write that, as no words can convey the meaning it has to me. Everywhere I look, there is a memory…memories that helped to build me. If I could buy that house and move it to Goderich, I would. If I could stop time so my grandma could stay in it, forever, just as she is now, I would.
If the walls could talk in this house they would have a lot say – over 50 years of stories, about a woman and a man beginning their life together with their four children, about thosechildren growing and leaving, about the squeals, laughs and cries of grandchildren, the sorrows, the decline and loss of a patriarch, and a woman soldiering on, now a great grandmother, whose door is always open to all those she loves. There is always a beverage in the fridge, always new photos to look at, always a story to be told, or heard.
At the moment, of those houses I have written about, my grandma’s house is the only one I have access to anymore, and my time there may be limited. The rest of the doors have closed to me as my mom has moved on. From Gorrie she went to Listowel, and is now back in Fordwich.
All of the experiences and all of the memories behind those closed doors, within those rooms, held up by those walls, all of which are still standing, shaped me into who I am today. They have influenced what I want my children to experience in the home Jeff and I are building for them. Growing up in different houses makes me appreciate what a home really is. When we first moved into the house Jeff and I are in now, I hung up a picture that says “A house is built with boards and beams. A home is built with love and dreams”. I believe that. I also believe that “home is where your story begins”. With each house came new experiences and new memories. I look back on each one fondly, as they all played an important role in building me.
But I’m not finished. Now I am being built into a wife and mother and with each birthday my children celebrate, I grow too. Perhaps the greatest house to “build me” will be the one I am in right now. If the walls could talk in my house, the one I pay the bills on, what would they say?
They would tell a story about a woman who is still figuring it out. What it is to be a wife. A mother. A mother of two. A friend. A sister and sister in law. A daughter to parents who still need her in ways she didn’t expect. A career woman. A friend to those close by, and to those far away. How to do and be all of that based on the foundation that those other houses built.
They would tell you about the first steps taken by a little girl, and then a little boy, both in the same hallway. About sleepless nights. About the recliner that has rocked babies to sleep and held their mother and father all night long. The colicky baby, and his older sister who wondered if he would ever stop. About the stairs that were built by Jeff’s dad’s bare hands that both babies learned how to climb up and down. The flower beds that were built up from nothing. Quiet conversations while rocking in the hammock swing and the glider on the front porch long after dark. The candles blown out on birthday cakes. The phone calls. Announcing Mike was getting married. Adam was getting married. Heather was getting married. That Mom had left Jim. That Shelly had left dad. That Logan was born. Quinn was born. Cayden was born. That grandma had died. Phone calls between Adam and I. Heather and I. Jodi and I. Between Jeff and Kevin. Between Jeff and Glenn. With my brother and then my dad. With my dad and then my brother. They would tell you about the day Tim and Nicole rushed through the front door to announce that they were adopting a baby – in three weeks! They would tell you all about the laughs, the tears and the prayers. The secrets confided, the harsh words spoken, the worries agonized over. They would tell you about a family just starting out, experiencing the joys and the hardships all families just starting out do.
But most of all?
The walls in this house would tell you that they weren’t finished. That there were more stories to tell. That it was in the middle of a work in progress.
That the people have a lot more work to do on the house, and that the house has a lot more “building” of its own to do.
4 hours ago