a place to call home

I grew up, from age nine, in an old, rambling house. Actually it was only about 30 years old when we moved into it – the same age as my current house is now – but it seemed older then. Originally the house was built away from town as a river retreat.  It was situated on a high bank along the Cumberland River in Nashville, and it faced the river, not the road. The first time I saw it (from the back side) I thought it was quite ugly.

It was covered in white cypress shingles, with a green roof and green shutters, built in the Cape Cod style, sort of. There had been at least three additions when we bought it, changing the original size and shape. The earliest part of the house consisted of a large great room, a kitchen, and a bedroom and bath downstairs. Upstairs was another bedroom and half bath. The basement under the original part of the house had walls of large blocks of stone, a cement floor, and a low ceiling.

The main room was large, with a wood-beamed ceiling and a stone fireplace. By the time my parents bought it, another bedroom and bath, and a separate garage connected by a breezeway, plus a dining room had all been added. The people who owned it had a few pieces of furniture they didn’t want, so we got those as part of the deal. I still have one of those bookcases in our home today.

The owner had been injured during “the war” (probably WWII) and had a limp arm. The couple didn’t have any children, but they had an older black man that lived with them in a separate apartment who did a lot of the physical work on the one acre property. He was deaf and mute, and I think they each took care of the other.

Before we moved into this house my parents and I had lived in an upstairs apartment over my father’s parents’ house. It was tiny. Moving into this house was a little intimidating because it was so big. My bedroom was upstairs and at first I was frightened to sleep up there by myself. My mother’s mother had moved in with us, and my bedroom was right above hers. That didn’t make me feel any safer, but I did learn to walk softly and avoid any squeaking floor boards.

My parents lived in this house for 37 years. Along the way they added a small breakfast room and remodeled the kitchen. About fifteen years in they also added a big room upstairs, which we called the “new room” for the remainder of the time they lived there. One of my favorite spots was called the “sewing room” and was little more than a large closet. It did have a window (for good sewing light) and a dormer, and room enough for two sewing machines so both my mother and grandmother could create things there. And there was also space in another corner for an ironing board,which stayed up all the time.

The driveway was U-shaped so you could come in one end and go out the other, and there was another hook that went all the way around the house and ended up at the back door. My mother planted azaleas outside the dining room addition and my grandfather (who also came to live with us after his wife died) planted iris all along the river bank. There was a small patio out there with a brick barbeque grill/oven, and a swing that looked out across the river and the bottom land on the other side. (This land eventually became the campground near Opryland, which was right up the river.) I can remember several luaus we decorated lavishly for out along that bank.

As a teenager my friends loved coming to parties at our home. My parents were wonderful hosts, and they loved to have guests. The house was always lit with candles in every nook and cranny. The hill on the road out front was the beginning of a long slope that was perfect for sledding, and I can remember days when a fire was built in the ditch for warmth and friends tramped in and out all day between rides. Our children loved going to visit Meemom and Granddaddy at this home. By then the fireplace had been bricked and clutter was starting to take over, but the colored bottle collection still lined the den windows and my parents gave them (our children) a lot of love.

Eventually my parents suffered from various illnesses and in the end had to leave this house. By that time it was way too much for them and we were all happy when they were gone from there. But since then, as memories do, the good times have replaced the unhappy remembrances, and in many ways we long to see that house again. A couple of years ago my daughter and I drove by, saw that it was for sale, and drove right up to the house like that was an OK thing to do.

We found it empty, so we looked in every window we could reach. It was the same, yet different, remodeled and repainted, but still “our house.” The empty rooms didn’t hold anyone else’s furniture yet, and the outside porches and walkways hadn’t even been touched. We made a few pictures of the outside. I said I would call the realtor and we would come back and take a tour. I looked online and saw what nice work had been done to the rooms inside. But we never did get back.

Someday I am going to call the current owners and just see…. Maybe they will offer to let me come in. I know my family will be anxious to walk though it again as well – we all have a special connection to this old place. In the meantime I treated myself to a canvas picture of the house as a gift to myself this Christmas. For now, it will have to do. That, and our memories, of a place we can all call home.

 

a place we can all call home

a place we can all call home

11 thoughts on “a place to call home

  1. Leigh Anne says:

    I love your story! Some of my family lives in Murfreesboro and I have been to Opryland and Opry Mills Mall! I ran into the owners of our former house before Christmas and she told me to call her any time we want to come and see the house. I hope some day you get to do just that!

  2. Jaana says:

    I remember driving by my childhood home about 10 years ago. It was bitter sweet. I live over 4000 miles away so I don’t get to see it very often. Sometimes I think memories are better.

  3. blkdrama says:

    The history of a house! Wonderful. I feel very lucky that my dad still lives in our family house. I’m inspired to follow your lead and write about it.
    Thanks and Happy New Year,
    Bonnie

  4. Tara Smith says:

    Like Bonnie, your post has me thinking about just such a home I once lived inn – full of memories that are just as specific and fresh as the ones you shared. What a lot of love and life that house saw, and it’s lovely, too.

  5. tjkfirst says:

    LOVE this. It reminds me of Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me.” It makes me cry every time. It’s funny how a house can “tell” so much about a person, for me it was my grandparents farm…

  6. Kate Schwarz says:

    I moved around a lot (my father was in the Army) so I don’t have that One Home that you had–I loved your story and appreciated the childhood wantings that I felt as I read it. Now, looking back, there’s no childhood that would have fit me more. But I also have gone back to visit many of my childhood homes, and all the owners have been gracious enough to let me look around. I encourage you to knock! Hopefully doors will open for you.

  7. Linda Baie says:

    I love hearing about your home and all the stories you shared. It looks like a wonderful place, & I understand how special it must be. There are several houses important to me in my life-two are grandparents’ homes & I am fortunate enough to see at least the outside of them once in a while. Terrific idea to create your picture, & thanks for sharing too!

  8. I’ve had a few opportunities to visit homes I’ve lived in and it is a treat. I wonder if my children wish they could visit their childhood home – we drive by it sometimes but it has quite a menagerie living there now I’ve heard.

  9. Carol says:

    What memories a place can hold! This would be a great piece to share in a mini-lesson on setting!

  10. What a beautiful tribute to your home. It brought back memories of my grandparents’ cabin, which they no longer own. But I drive up the driveway and peek into windows, like it’s still in the family. 🙂 My parents built a house when I was in first grade and we lived there until I was a senior in high school. I remember my dad planting trees that lined the driveway. We moved across the state and I haven’t been bak since then. I often wonder what the house and those trees look like now. I may just need to take a road trip this spring and check it out.

  11. […] drove past my parents’ former house, where I grew up, and along some neigboring streets. The houses looked more well kept than they had […]

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