Thursday, August 18, 2016

Homesick for My Childhood Home


I never thought as an adult I would be homesick when I already own a home, but lately I've been craving that familiar feeling of the old house I grew up in. The house is in a bad neighborhood of a big city and it has a good amount of wear and tear, but my father has lived in the house since 1950 and never left it. And now I want to return to it somehow too.

When I get very homesick I look up the house address on the photo view of Google Maps and just stare at it. I then click down through the old streets I used to walk to school to and some old hangouts. I sometimes wonder if other people get these kinds of longings for where they're from.

I was a product of a neighborhood where people weren't really supposed to "make it." When my grandparents bought the house in 1950 it was a very healthy family community, but urban blight took it over in the 1970s. Still, when my dad inherited it he decided to stay there. With the love of my family in that house I did well. And no matter how dangerous it was on the outside the inside made me feel secure, happy, and accepted. Of course I am whitewashing over the bad times, but I tend to wipe those scenes from my rose-colored glasses.

When I got into my early 20s as a commuter college student, however, I couldn't wait for the day I could move away for my last two years as a university boarding student. But ever since I graduated from college (many years ago) I got attached to that old place again. I haven't seen my parents in 2 1/2 years because the travel aspect is difficult for both them and us, but I should really make a trip soon. I miss them so much. Of course, this homesickness has much to do with them. I just want to give them a big hug. People don't get any younger, and I don't want them to slip away from my life either.

My childhood home has been lived in so long it seems as if the belongings are part of the architecture. There is so much stuff in that house ... clothing, books, art class drawings I made for my parents back in 1987, nick-knacks, old furniture, shelves to the ceiling full of mementos and a few cats that like to climb them.

... just well-lived in. There are cracks in the ceilings, windows that lost their ability to stay lifted up, multiple layers of wall paint colors you can see when you try to strip a section, wood floor boards that are rotted and need to be replaced. But it's perfect to me because that's where I lived for most of my life. And even though I live in a well-kept neighborhood with a wonderful husband I don't have that long history of my life here.

It seems hard to leave it behind at times. But they say that you are supposed to move away and make your own life as an adult ...

I thought perhaps one day I could move my husband and I back into the house if I inherit it, but it seems it is going to be passed to my older brother, who also still lives there.

A few months ago I dug deeply into old census data to find out who lived in that home before my grandparents bought the house. It turns out that house dates back to at least 1870. All the census data from that period forward shows that it was lived in as a separate house, and apartment on the third floor -- and always rented, until my grandparents turned it into a home with a shop downstairs. The previous residents were often European immigrants who no doubt arrived for the jobs made plentiful by the industrial revolution.

When the neighborhood declined in the 1970s and became inconvenient and sometimes dangerous it was still a home to be loved on the inside. And for me now, loved from afar.

Do any of you ever miss your childhood home? Do you have a piece of personal history you'd like to share about it? I'd love to hear.

2 comments:

Kathy Thurman said...

We moved and mostly only rented many times in my childhood, so I never really had a home I grew up in. The house I own now, I have lived in for 17 years, and my kids pretty much grew up here. I always wanted a place my kids would remember as their childhood home, and I don't plan on moving. I have friends whose parents still live in their childhood homes and always felt a little envious of that - such a good thing to have those roots!

The Quaint Housewife said...

Kathy, you've got those roots now. Home Sweet Home :) Your kids will have great memories too. I bet your home is cozy!