Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Going Home

Tonight's post isn't about the farm... it's personal. Thanks for indulging me.

First, a little history. My dad was in the Army, so we moved a lot. I went to more schools before high school graduation than I can count on my fingers. I lived in seven states, including Alaska and Hawaii. The only thing that never changed in my life during all those years, was my grandmother's house in Lawton, Oklahoma.

Until a couple of years before her death in 1989, my grandmother lived in the same tidy, split-level house on Cherry Street for something like 50 years. She and my granddad built the house, added on and remodeled it a couple of times. We spent Christmases, Thanksgivings, and lots of summer vacations at that house. I knew every inch of it like the back of my hand. The kitchen, back porch, iris-lined back yard, the attic "playroom," were all as familiar to me as my own reflection.

When my grandmother had a stroke and had to move into nursing care, I helped my aunt clean the place out, and I tucked as many little mementos into my car as I could, and shared lots of those treasures with my sisters and cousins. Each picture, figurine, doorstop, Christmas ornament, and piece of jewelry grounds me to my history, my family. I can point to old family things in nearly every room of my house.

My younger sister and I on Grandma's front porch, headed for church, circa 1962.

I attended my uncle's funeral yesterday in Lawton. I hadn't been back to Lawton in over 20 years even though it's now only a half a day's drive from here. Partly that's because there's no one to visit there any more. Everyone has died or moved away. And partly, because I don't really think of my grandmother's house as existing in time and space - it's a place to be rather than a place to go. The house and all my childhood memories exist in an isolated bubble somewhere, and part of me believes I can still get there anytime I want.

My two sisters and I, ready for the Christmas program at school, circa 1968. We're posing in front of a picture that currently hangs in my kitchen.

Now, intellectually, I realize that this notion is crazy, but it persists. The reality is that very little of my family is left on either side. I may have three cousins on my father's side, but I haven't been able to locate them. I have my two sisters and their families, who all live far away. I have several cousins I rarely see, and a dear aunt, left on my mother's side and that's it. That's. It.

And that's the fact I found myself dashed against yesterday at the funeral. Not only is the family evaporating, but the house I loved, my only real "home," is gone. We drove by to see it. Oh, there's still a structure there, but the people who have lived in it since Grandmother left, have ruined it. They planted a horrid willow in the front yard. The woodwork needs painting. The roof is in disrepair. There's junk in the driveway. The shrubs are overgrown. And that's just what I could see from the street. Dear Lord, what must the inside and the back yard look like? What have they done to my roots - my history?

Drove up to the house yesterday to find this.
Oh, help me. The Bundy's moved in.


Apparently, I have held on to the old pictures in my mind a little too closely. It's time to let them go. But I really miss them. I miss my family who have gone to their reward: my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my parents. I miss the joys of my childhood.

It's all a part of growing up and growing older I guess. And I'm sure it won't be long before I move past the sadness and back to loving and appreciating the life I've been given here in the present. You are a part of that glorious present day, and I thank God for you and the rest of my incredible life.

But just for a bit, I'll be a little sad. See you tomorrow, on the other side of this funk.

11 comments:

  1. Oh, Cindy...your funk is contagious. I can still smell the basement! It's really not about the house, but the memories. They will last for as long as we need them. Love the pictures. I was invincible with that muff. Still trying to figure out how to work one in here in Hawaii... Sooner than later, we'll all be together again. Serious partying will ensue! I can't wait. Love you, big sis! *;)

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  2. I know just how you feel. It's only been 6 years since the last time I went back to the childhood home. I may never go back. I did have a blogger from my hometown drive by to take a picture of the place last year, and I was disappointed in what I saw too. I think Sanford and Son had moved in, and either Fred or Lamont had taken up drag racing. I would hate to think what those solid oak hard wood floors through out the house look like now with motor oil and grit ground into them, when the Saint Augustine carpet in the front yard has deep tire ruts running through it. It is sad that we have to let places like these go, but maybe that's why God gives us our own to make into our heaven on Earth.

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  3. Anonymous5:14 AM

    This is beautiful and so well written and I easily identify with the way you are feeling. This summer, I'll be going to Missouri for a final visit to my grandparents' house. It's the house that my dad and and his 3 siblings grew up in. The house that we went to every Christmas and every summer. The house that was permanently stuck in a 1950s time warp that allowed me to time travel each visit into a glimpse of my own father's childhood. My grandfather passed away 6 years ago and my grandmother is in a nursing home. They have finally decided to sell the tiny little house full of big memories.

    Thank you for sharing this. I love the photos of you and your sisters. :)

    -Jenn

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  4. This really hits home. I will go a step further on childhood homes. Mine was bulldozed recently for a megamansion. No more mimosa tree, nothing. I still have a brother close by but it's all changing

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  5. When my Granny's house was cleaned out, we cousins were asked what we wanted from the house.

    My reply included the sound of the screen door of the breezeway slamming, the smell of the chocolate chip cookies or southern ham in the kitchen, the feel of the soft grass in the croquet court when you walked on it barefoot.

    Happily, I still have these things, and a few other items. Like the croquet set. It's as close as my aunt could get to my requests.

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  6. Everyone has offered some wonderful and insightful comments. So I'll just toss in a great big <>

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  7. Anonymous1:05 PM

    My last living family membe died in Dec, 2001. She had been living in a nursing home. Her home and stuff had ben sold. I took the corning ware and mini food processor and I got a painting for my ex-husband. The family homestead was long gone and the furnishings also. I got my grandmother's painting of her at age 18. Take your time to grieve and for family memories. There will be plenty of time for life. Take care. Alpacamama

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  8. I am sad, too. The blues are a necessary and quite wonderful part of this earthly existence: thank you so much for sharing, Cindy! The precious little girl in the hat and gloves look JUST LIKE EM!!!!

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  9. Anonymous3:46 PM

    I felt a little like you when my Aunt and Uncle died a few weeks ago CIndy. We think we're doing ok and then someone departs this life, we revisit a childhood home, or smell something that triggers a memory.
    I remember visiting a home I lived in for 8 years (the longest I lived in one place with my parents, but for different reasons to you) and it was no longer there. However on a happier note, I took Dad back after 80 years to a place where he lived for a while in Bristol. It is no longer a private house and has been knocked together with the one next door. We were able to go inside and as we entered a bedroom upstairs, he remembered that it was once his bedroom! There is a beautiful end to this story; it is now used to give children who are terminally ill and their families short breaks and holidays. We met one such family while we were visiting. It is a joyful place!
    Caroline

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  10. What a great story, Caroline! I'm so glad that the house has such a noble purpose now.

    I'm feeling much better today. I knew the blues would only be temporary. What we do have as eternal treasures outweigh the temporal ones by a long shot. We never really lose the things that can't be taken away. ;-)

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  11. My favorite grandma died in 1989 also. I was thankful to take home some momentos from my aunt's apartment -- a few 33 1/3 LPs, rooster dishes that my mom gave her parents for their 25th wedding anniversary, a little jewelry, etc., but nothing can replace the memories of Grandma and being at her house. Thanks for sharing with us, Cindy.

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