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.