Memories of Family Homes

We are 38 days away from taking our last kid off to college.  Now that we are past the craziness of senior year, graduation, and vacation, we are starting to work seriously on downsizing.

The girls have gone through their closets and clothes.  We donated several bags of clothes, shoes, purses, and assorted other items to our local Goodwill store.

We went through all of the children’s videos and books and have donated several dozen VHS tapes and books to our local Children’s Hospital.  We only kept the most special movies, in current format, and books.  Berenstain Bears – outta here!  I swear that I will never read another Berenstain Bears book.  Now Good Night Moon – I could read that one a million times and never get tired of it.

But the largest issue we are facing is what to do with the house.  I am ready to downsize into something smaller and more manageable.  I’m tired of spending countless hours cleaning, and I’m tired of hubby spending so much time on the large yard.  I think about what we could do with the extra time and tax dollars!  My selling point to hubby – if we cut our tax bill in half, that’s an extra trip every year!

While it is not a good time to sell, it is a good time to buy, so we have come up with a plan to maximize our investment while the market corrects itself.  We’ve established our criteria so that we can find a home where we can “age in place.”  And we have started looking at homes.

In the meantime, we’ve talked about our plans with our kids.  The only concern we heard from the youngest ones was whether or not they would be losing their rooms.  Hey, we’re not kicking them out.  Yet.

But, it caused us to think about what memories of family homes.  When I talked to my sister-in-law, I asked about her about whether or not she would ever consider returning to her family home.  It is a dream of my mother-in-law that one of her kids will buy it and keep it in the family.  I was surprised by her answer.  She mentioned that while there were a lot of good memories of her childhood in their family home, there were also some bad ones, and she would never want to go back to it.

I know some kids are really distraught when their parents go to sell the home that they grew up in, but I think that the bottom line is that it is the memories that are the most important thing and not the physical space.  Of course, sometimes the memories are tied up with the physical space.  Anyway, it caused me to think about my own memories of the homes from my childhood.

My mother on her wedding day in 1956 in front of their first home in Colona, Illinois, on the Rock River.

I remember my first home.  I remember two cribs, a roll-away bed, and my parents’ bed were all in the same room.  I remember the river flooding and water creeping into our yard.  I remember my mother shoveling snow off the sidewalk and my sister and I making seats in the snowbank along the edge. 

My sister and I shared a birthday celebration.  Our birthdays were 2 days apart.

My memories are different than the pictures that I have from that time.  I do not remember holiday and birthday celebrations in my first home, for instance.  I don’t know if it’s weird or not that my memories seem to be of really mundane, everday things.

Our second home in Moline House (picture taken in 2007).

I have more memories from living in our second home in Moline, Illinois.  I walked to Kindergarten at William Carr Elementary School with the boy who lived next door, Tom Grunewald.  The Grunewald’s remain family friends to this day.  The elementary school was torn down in 1984.  I think someone told me that there was a Walgreen’s on that corner now.  Imagine that.

Christmas 1962 in the Moline House.

I remember that my parents had a huge fight over the fact that my mother cut my long, beautiful hair into a “pixie” cut.  I’m sure that cutting my hair was a way for her to help herself manage so many kids, but I was traumatized by both the hair cut and the terrible fight that ensued between my parents over it.

I remember that there was a climbing tree in the Grunewald’s yard, and we spent hours in it.  There was also a Concord grapevine in between our yard and the neighbors on the other side of us.  My mother would get grapes and make homemade grape jelly.  The cheesecloth would hang and drip from the cabinet for days, and the jelly was so sweet and good.

We had a television that the previous owners left behind because the picture tube was burned out.  We would lay in front of it, watching the blank screen, and listening to the Mickey Mouse Club.  We did finally get a working television, and we watched The Wizard of Oz, and I had nightmares.  I don’t like that movie to this day.  I think it’s creepy.

The only holiday that I remember from this era is the Thanksgiving that my sister choked on a turkey bone.  And got sick all over the table.  My poor mother had prepared this gigantic meal, was taking care of a baby along with multiple children, and then had to clean up vomit.  My father, in the meantime, captured the momentous occasion on film.

Thanksgiving 1962, my exhausted mother with my brother.

Not long after this, my father would get transferred, and we would move to St. Louis, Missouri.

Flair Court House, 1963.

This is our third and final home as a family.  My parents would have their youngest two children while living in this house – 8 children in 9 years.  This house had 5 bedrooms, and the neigbhorhood was being built when we moved in.  I remember the sounds of bulldozers and hammers and workers.

We walked to school through the neighborhood, along a path in the woods that is now a Kohl’s parking lot, and across a busy street that is now 6 lanes across and barely safe to drive on much less walk across.

My mother would serve divorce papers on my father in this house while our relatives from Illinois were visiting.  In 1972, my parents’ divorce was finalized, and our lives were changed forever.

This house became the neighborhood party house.  You know, the one with the neighbors with out of control kids that you wish didn’t live near you.

One of 8 First Communions celebrated in the Flair Court house (May 1966).

So, I can relate to having good and bad memories of family homes.  We have worked hard with our kids to try and ensure that we have created good memories for them.  I think we have mostly succeeded.

My friend, Lynn, went looking at homes with us yesterday, and she mentioned, while looking at one of them, that the space in and around the kitchen would be perfect for our family gatherings.  Downsizing, aging in place, family gatherings, and memories – all factors to consider as we move to the next stage of our lives.

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