Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home


Home is where your heart is and have I left mine in several places.

We met with Gina, Billy and their real estate agent last night and walked through a house for sale with them. On the way home I was quiet in the car as I recalled the first house we bought, back in 1977.

It was a modest duplex under construction, in Millersville, Maryland. Thirty years later, I can still recall the smell of the sandy soil and fresh pines we breathed as we walked the lot during the hot summer months and made a list of errors in construction. That house holds seven years of memories. We brought Gina home in that house, two days after her birth in 1982. We lived with three cats – Muffet, Mini, and Maggie. Sadly, we lost Muffet one year earlier to the day that Gina was born. The house was small inside but the backyard was a little, tree-filled wonderland. I remember doing our first painting and wallpapering jobs there and the fun of shopping at all of the home stores every weekend. I particularly loved the glossy wallpaper and Hollywood lights we hung in the only full bathroom in the house. Gina’s nursery was painted white and the largest wall in her room was papered with cute little sheep in bright, primary colors. Pretty yellow Priscilla curtains hung at her window. I remember so much…

Our next house, in Pasadena, Maryland, holds five years of memories. Maggie died and another cat, Ralphie, joined our family; Gina finally started sleeping through the night at seventeen months in her big girl bed; I decorated a 14-foot tall Frazier fur Christmas tree that needed to be tied up because it was so large; we bought our first sunroom; I returned to work after a three year leave; we celebrated Gina’s first birthday and she entered kindergarten; and, I loved those cathedral ceilings and the pizzazz inside. That home was struck by lightning twice but I’ll never forget how special it was. I drove by that house last Spring while my Mom was in the hospital and winced at the site where we had planted a “Gina’s first birthday” pin oak tree in the front yard. It had been cut down.

Fourteen years of memories are cherished in our home in Bel Air, Maryland. There are too many memories to list but a lot of growing and loving took place there. Gina grew up from a little first grader to a sophomore in college in that lovely home. Michael and I aged! We celebrated a First Communion, forty-two birthdays, and fifteen Christmases. We lost two cats to old age, welcomed Casey, a Cocker Spaniel who died at the age of five, and welcomed Chloe who is still kicking at age eleven. I’ll never forget how lovely that home was, even during those few years we grimaced at the poor paint choice I made in the living room. It was Pepto-Bismol pink. We built our first pond there and I met my first Great Blue Heron beside it. We buried at least two dozen gerbils down the back and buried our beloved cat, Mini, back there, too. Very few days or evenings would pass when I wouldn’t say out loud, “I love you, Mini” while visiting her gravesite under a large weeping willow tree. We buried her on a warm day in April and it was the first time that year I heard tree frogs singing. Whenever I hear tree frogs in the spring, I think of her.

We had three short years in Delaware in a very lovely golf course home. It was situated at the ninth tee and we were able to wave and say hello to those we knew while they were teeing off. Since Michael and I customized the floor plan, it was probably the best home we’ve ever had. It was wide open with many windows and the Delaware flatland sunrises and sunsets were spectacular. Michael’s Dad died while we lived there and we welcomed Bella in that home.

My current home is very special to me, too, and it’s equally as lovely as the others. I’ve only been here for one and a half years but it has a few memories attached already – the death of my Mother and the brighter memory of Gina coming home to be nearby after six years of living so far apart.

Once in a while, I yearn to see, feel, and smell my homes again. I would also love to see the home where I grew up and the homes my parents had during the past twenty years. The comforting smell of each one still lingers in my mind and I can visualize where the rips in the linoleum were, the size of the linen closets and pantries, and the places where I stored the vacuum cleaner in each house. I can still vividly remember every nook and cranny of every home I loved and can remember myself walking through those homes with a basket of laundry on my hip and hoping I wouldn’t trip over a cat, dog, or toys. If I were able to walk from room to room again (with a box of tissues), it would bring back the fondest and most heartwarming memories and emotions, even if our successors gave those rooms complete makeovers. Perhaps my curiosity would disappoint me.

There are people who move on from home to home and never look back. I treasure all of those four walls that embraced us in laughter and sadness. Have you ever longed to visit a home from your past?


KGMom said...

Mary, I know just what you mean, driving by a previously owned house and seeing landscape changes. Our old house--as soon as the people bought it from us they cut down a silver maple in front. Now, it did have invasive roots, but it also provided afternoon shade in the summertime.
I planted a pin oak there, that is still there--and when I drive by, I say--YES!
It is amazing how much these houses that we make homes hold our memories.

Ruth said...

You make me think of the poem that starts with,
"It takes a heap of living
to make a house a home"
Nice to have these good memories.

Anonymous said...

Lots of cliches around heart and home. This post certainly resonates for me, as you might guess. I'm still feeling unsettled inside myself and I hae this growing fear- sometimes terror- that making a home is only a small part of the answer, a small part of the process involved in figuring out where your heart resides. Interesting that this post made me think about our various "pet cemeteries" and how those bound me to certain homes.
I went back to look at a childhood home a few years ago and it looked so small I wasn't even sure it was the right one but it was. :-)

Cathy said...

Mary. This is one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever read. Submit it somewhere - everywhere. I'm going to re-read it. I'm going to read it aloud to my girlfriends at lunch tomorrow. We're going to cry, because it will make us homesick and we will be glad for it.

LauraHinNJ said...

I agree with Cathy - wonderful, touching post.

I've only lived in two houses - the one I grew up in and this one.

Driving by my dad's now is strange - strange to see little kids toys flung all around the place. Glad we didn't spend much on landscaping before we sold the place because they've torn out everything and have terrible taste in plant material. One day I should go by and take a pic of the horrendous Italianate fountain that they put in front of the place. Yucko! I can just guess what the inside looks like!

Even before we sold it, having taken everything out and redone it all with fresh paint it seemed like some other place, not home. It couldn't be home anyway without my dad there.


You got me thinking Mary - thanks!

dmmgmfm said...

Every time I drive by the house I owned near my dad's, it makes me sad. I spent 14 years working on the house and yard and now it's all laid to ruin. The trees I planted are all diseased or dying and the house looks to be a mess.
It makes me sad...

But, your post made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. What a lovely story. Thank you!

Mary said...

Donna, I remember the trees we planted in 1988 - not more than saplings. If I drove by today, after 5 years, I'm sure I'd be shocked!

Ruth, we sure lived a heap.

Vicki, I'm sure you know exactly what I feel. After I read this post a few hours later, I was a little surprised that I had mentioned "dead animals" so often, but they were an important part of our lives!

Cathy, didn't intend to make ya homesick... ;O)

Laura, I would need to go out of my way to avoid seeing the mess. Sad, huh? If I went to see the home I grew up in on the outskirts of Baltimore City, I'd probably get shot or mugged and then see the house in shambles. I'd rather remember it the way it was.

Mary said...

Laurie, just like I said to Laura, I'd rather not see it. Hope you aren't lost again... ;O)

dmmgmfm said...

I haven't been lost yet today! Of course, I've not left the apartment. I'm trying to get some work caught up. I'll leave for the hospital later on.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Love so much this post, Mary! I agree with Cathy and Laura, it's wonderful and touching post. And so well written! This post bring back to me lovely memories of my past homes. Thank you!

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonia a. mascaro said...

Me again, Mary. Love the photo, the view is magic and wonderful. Is it one of your houses?

Mary said...

Sonia, I'm glad you liked my "Big Reveal, Comedic Style" as I had a lot of fun that day - woo hoo! That is not one of my homes, although wouldn't it be nice to live there? I was really on a sentimental roll last night!

Larry, I am glad you stopped by. I've been blogging for just 5 months and I only have one regular male who comments! Perhaps I should branch out a bit more?

Annie in Austin said...

You're getting me all sentimental, too, Mary, with this exceptional post. We've also owned 5 homes, with several rentals before that - and each one had its own set of special events.

But a Pink Living Room? Had you watched Steel Magnolias too many times? Blush and Bashful!!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, what a nice post. I love the photo at the top. It reminds me of New England. We are some of those people who have moved so much that we have a long list of homes, some more memorable than others. I get more attatched to "places" and the way they feel. I fell in love with Idaho the first time I stepped on the soil. What surprises me now is that I realy like Tucson. I never thought I would want to live in AZ! As for your post? What evocative writng!