To those of us who can rattle off the phone number of the first home they lived in, (Willow2-1604) the pull of memory can be powerful and bittersweet. It can shape all our future place wishes, and rarely fades with time.
Childhood homes are more than our first stop on this earth. They are where we learn our names, and also who we are. That we are more than just ourselves; we are first part of our family, then our neighborhood, then the community, and hopefully eventually a larger world.
My first home was a sturdy ranch in a now aging post-war subdivision. Although it seemed huge and completely familiar to me then, when I drive by it slowly now, it looks like all the other tidy tracts of its era, indistinguishable on its block.
Since my first house I have lived in two other homes of my parents, a number of dorm rooms and the sorority house in my college town; six different apartments around the city, and two houses of my own. But nothing has the pull of that first home.
In the memory box of that house live the thudding of my brothers roughhousing in the hallway, the smell of my mother’s fresh baked bread, and the taste of the strawberries that escaped under the chain length fence of the sweet elderly neighbors to the rear of us. I can hear my dad whistling his way home in the garage, and the dog’s toenails scratching let me in from the backyard. Although I spent less than 10 years in that house, they were important ones, and they linger long in who I am.
My husband and I moved into our current house three months before our daughter was born. (By the way, visibly pregnant is a great time to move – no one expects you to do anything remotely strenuous.) Although the current plan is to plant the for sale sign as the U-Haul pulls away for college, by then she will have spent her entire childhood in this house.
Before I am ready, she will leave this room she made hers at three days old. Its walls have made the paint progression from baby girl pink through tween green to young lady lavender. Here is the hallway where she took her first steps, the bedroom door she slammed with all her thirteen-year-old fury, and the kitchen counters she no longer needs a stool to reach when we make Christmas cookies.
Outside is the rainy sidewalk where she broke her arm on a treacherous two-wheeler since corralled in the shed. The trees she climbed, the playhouse now overgrown with weeds, the block she took long thoughtful walks around. And here the front porch light, under which she may eventually kiss a boy.
Wherever we are, she will always have a home, of course. I know my independent girl will make her own lovely world around her. But I am glad we will have given her what my parents gave me. Wherever she lives, she will take with her the memory of home, to be opened over and over again like a gift which never fails to surprise and cheer. Ribbons of memory will wrap her with us, sometimes triggered by nothing more than a never to be forgotten phone number.