I am captivated listening to friends talking sentimentally about their childhood homes. The houses embody such fond memories for them that they can’t bear the thought of their parents moving out and some other family living there.
“I felt like a piece of me was taken away,” one pal told me when her mother sold her house.
I’m enthralled by this talk because I have no attachment whatsoever to the home where I grew up. I’ll never forget the day we moved in, when I was three years old and my sister, Shelley, was a baby. The brand new, three-bedroom, three-floor house seemed so big, after living in an old apartment.
The house became smaller and smaller as I became bigger and bigger and a third daughter joined the family. My father’s satellite dental office took over the basement so there was nowhere to retreat besides my tiny 7-by-12 foot bedroom. The small living room led into a petite dining room and an even tinier kitchen. The five of us shared one bathroom on the top floor and, in turn, we shared the mini half bathroom on the ground floor with my father’s patients.
About five years after we moved in, my folks decided to replace the wood back porch with a “back room,” which temporarily made me feel like we were the richest people on the block. I could finally leave my claustrophobic bedroom when I needed to get away from my never-ending homework. When we sat in our shorts on the stiff, vinyl-upholstered sectional sofas during the hot weather, the backs of our legs stuck to them.
We rarely gathered around the table, as a family, for dinner and chatter about our day. My sisters, mother and I ate TV dinners on metal TV trays, in front of the TV, in the “back room.” After dinner, I retreated to my bedroom to continue my homework. My dad arrived home at precisely 8:40 every night, gobbled down his meal and went downstairs to his awaiting patients. We hardly ever enjoyed relaxing family times, all together, at home. My dad worked incessantly and my mother wasn’t one to take us to her bosom to read fairytales or ask us about our dreams.
I guess part of the reason I never strongly connected with this home where I grew up is because nothing in it made me feel warm, cozy and secure; not the furniture, not my parents, not the routine of our day-to-day lives. Once I left the house, after I married at 21, it took me many years to learn how to gain the security I never felt as a child.
A year after my father died, in 1989, my mother sold the house. I did return a few times over the years to take a look at the neighborhood and to see how the new family changed the exterior and if I could feel anything close to sentimental. I tried, but I couldn’t.
A couple of years ago, I decided to knock on the door and invite myself in when a man appeared. He gracefully took me on a tour of every corner. I tried to envision my younger self in each room. I couldn’t. Again, I tried to muster up nostalgic feelings. Nothing.
I miss my mom and my dad. Maybe the kids who grew up in the house after us will miss it. That house needs some loving.
Tell me how you feel about your childhood home