I was out back washing the house just now when Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House That Built Me” came on – and I got to thinkin’ about the house that built me… This is that house.
It was a neat house, a warm house, a ‘safe’ house. It sat just West of the bank in Whitehouse, OH until it was moved in 1973.
The house was built in 1937 by the folks in Whitehouse, and given to my grandparents. My grandfather, Fred, had fed the folks of Whitehouse during the Depression and this was their way of expressing their gratitude.
I first came to this house on 4 September 1946; three days after I was born. Until dear ole Dad was called back to active duty in 1950, we would visit Gram and Grampa almost daily. I became very acquainted with the sounds and smells of that house very early in life. The iron in the water, Gram’s fresh-baked pies, the musk of the basement – all of it.
After Dad went back on active duty, we would visit that house in between duty stations. I just loved it; it was essentially the only “permanent” home I ever had. Living in that house was great; but so was playing in it. There was a clothes chute that two boys could really have fun with. There were 3 attics just full of treasures to be discovered, as well as the coal bin and fruit cellar in the basement. And then there was that old ringer washer to watch! All kinds of neat ‘stuff’ to stimulate the imaginations of young boys.
As I was rinsing my house here a bit ago, and thinking about writing this piece, it also came to me that it was in that old house where I first had “values” instilled into me. Values like telling the truth, about work-ethic, about helping others (without complaint), about sharing and so forth. Values that have served me well over the years; and for those ‘values,’ I am so grateful…
Just after I got sober, in 1994, I was “lost.” It was if; “What the Hell happened?” For a few years I just wondered around aimlessly, complying with all the hoops I had to jump through to keep my job – but not really participating in Life. When ‘things’ began closing in on me one day, I found myself sitting out in front of this old house – just sitting there. It was tough to hold back the tears. I so wanted to “go back” to a simpler life… all the while, knowing I couldn’t. So I just sat there, choking back the tears.
One afternoon while I was sitting out front of that house, the current owner walked out. I certainly didn’t want to frighten her, so I got out of the car, and called out to her. After getting her attention, I explained who I was to her, and why I was sitting out front. She then invited me in to her house – to ‘my’ house – to see if it had changed. How gracious was that?! She didn’t have to ask me twice!
As soon as I walked in the back door, the scent of that house just overwhelmed me – and so many memories came flooding back. I just stood there with my eyes closed, and basked in the flood of emotion. What a “magic” time for me! Yes, there were changes; but the house still ‘felt’ the same to me. And it was so enveloping – enveloping with warmth, with a feeling of ‘home,’ of being ‘safe.’
I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I had to, so soon I was on my way. I don’t visit that house as much as I did in early sobriety, but I will ‘stop by’ upon occasion – just to perhaps catch a glimpse of a simpler time – of a time it was safe and fun to be a kid…