My husband and I have talked about moving closer to the country for a few years now. We love the Tuscaloosa area, but having both grown up with big open fields, along with horses and 4-wheelers to explore that territory, we miss having more land than a point-something acre inside a privacy fence. Though we love our neighbors, we prefer to be close to town rather than see a McDonald’s® “M” from our property. So we have recently started looking at the options to buy some land and build a house or hopefully just find a house with some land in our price range.
|The House that Built Me (Berry, AL, est. 1978)|
Not uncommon for small towns, I lived in the same house for all of my growing up: from the day my parents brought me home from the hospital until I started Alabama at age 19. My husband grew up the same, not moving his belongings anywhere else until age 20, when he went to Mississippi State. In fact, his older brother still lives there and is just now building his own home.
I love to draw and paint and always wanted to paint an accent wall in a kid’s room with animals and scenery, much like you see in a daycare or pediatrician’s office. But the idea of having to repaint to sell shied me away (plus being on bed rest the last month of my pregnancy). I did paint a scene like this in my mom’s third grade classroom, though.
To me, the personal touches are what makes a house a home. I have friends who built “forever houses” and added personal little aesthetics to the architecture and the decor. Then there’s my dad, who has built two houses: the one he built with my mom, and the one he built with my step-mom. Both had stucco and red roofs, which is obviously his preferred style. The second one gets even more customized, as it is in the shape of an octagon!
There are also features beyond the four walls that make a home unique. It’s common to have a family dog buried in your back yard, but ours has an actual gravesite. We got Angel when I was in the seventh grade, and she just passed away last year. At my mom’s suggestion, my step-dad dug a “grave” in the middle of our back yard. Angel has a light up cross and her own tombstone in her honor.
These are all cool, but I realize that most of the nostalgic feelings I have about my childhood come from people and/or the events that took place. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my home and still do. But the memories would not be there without the experiences or people who shared them with me.
Many fun stories come from having friends over all the time, as my mom gladly welcomed kids, being a school teacher and a little goofy at times herself. The fact that we had a pool made it a popular hangout, and everyone—including cousins, best friends, church groups, cheerleaders and football players, and kids who never had even been in a pool before—came to swim at our house.
Our house had that lived-in, kid-friendly atmosphere, which drew kids in even more than the swimming pool. I would have big birthday or holiday parties where we would play games and sing what I call “mock karaoke.” I remember having a “Y2K” New Year’s party when I was a high school junior. That was a crazy night to say the least. Many memories stick out from that night, but I will share my favorite:
1. We played truth or dare, and the dares were outrageously silly and prewritten by a few of us on cards. You had to select a dare card if you chose dare. One guy’s card said, “Go get Trigger.” Nobody missed him for the next 30 minutes until he knocked on the front door to show us he had went down the road, bridled by horse, and tied him to the porch!
2. Another friend did not get this dare, but thought it would be funny to pull his dirt bike in the front door. Needless to say, my mom was not amused and asked him to park it on the porch by Trigger.
3. We had a Russian exchange student who spent most of the time in our hot tub, except when it came time to shoot fireworks. He then ran around yelling, “The British are coming”as a joke.
4. Then at midnight, my dad made an appearance after playing a prank on everyone, which was even funnier as it was out of his character. He always preferred to watch TV or read in another area of the home while us kids carried on craziness, but at midnight he went into the laundry room and threw the breakers to make us all think the power had really went out when it hit 2000.
When our house wasn’t being used as La Quinta® Inn, which it was affectionately named by my friends for it’s Spanish style, swimming pool, and welcoming presence, I enjoyed being with my sister and even by myself. My sister and I shared a wall between our bedrooms. We had a code: Knock on that wall three times. That meant pick up the land-line phone in your room because she had something to tell you. Sure we heard a dial tone, but we thought it was cool (or we were just too lazy to walk down the hall).
One thing I loved about my childhood home was all the outdoor space. We had a front, and two side porches, and a back patio area surrounding the pool. Every door led to some kind of outdoor lounging area, and the patio was my favorite.
I loved to sit outside on a summer night, when it was just cool enough to not sweat, and stare up at the stars. You could hear the frogs and crickets, and smell the fresh pines. I would usually turn on a radio and just lie back in a lounge chair, thinking, or maybe take a journal outside and turn on the flood light.
It was these times outside in the summer air that I felt most at peace. In nature was (and is) where I felt closest to God with all the beauty He created being felt by every sense: seeing the stars, smelling the pines, hearing the frogs, feeling the air cooling my sunburned skin. (I was usually tasting Mountain Dew, but should probably taste “nature”-al things more often.) Or to get all metaphorical, I got my first taste and hunger for writing while sitting outside with a notebook and my thoughts.
Sometimes I hate the thought that the room where my son took his first steps will be trampled on by other kids (not from us) and that he will likely never have a house to build him. However, I see this as a great opportunity for my husband and I to make sure we are the ones who builds him up. We can teach him that houses, no matter how long you occupy them, are still temporal in the grand scheme of life. What matters is relationships and memories from living, not being, in a home.
There are a lot of fond memories from my childhood home, but there are some pretty bad ones too. I cried a lot in my house over the years for reasons ranging from a fellow cheerleader bullying me to my parents getting a divorce. Yet there are no pictures of those times, as we all would like to forget them. The pictures taken from our porch or entryway all show us smiling and dressed up ready for the first day of school, prom, graduation, etc. Never showing us sad (except for the ones taken right after we just got braces).
As I move through life there will be more sad times, and I have experienced several in my current home. That gives me more reason to cherish the good times and look forward to the next stage in life, no matter where it may take us. I know that as long as we have God and each other, our next house will be home as well as any house we take residence in from now on.