Home, Revisited

The house in which I grew up is for sale. I really don’t know how many times it’s been sold since my dad sold it in the mid-1970s, after we had lived there for about eighteen years. My parents moved out of this house into my mother’s dream home in 1973. They then rented the house for a few years before finally selling it.

For me, it was bittersweet to look at the photos in the online real estate listing. I was amazed at some of the changes but perhaps even more amazed at the things that had not been changed.

The house on Oak Street remains the home that figures in my dreams and has been the model for houses I’ve used in stories. My parents, Opal and Mac, bought the house not long after I was born. A portion of the den, at the back of the house, was partitioned off for my mother’s beauty shop. Two large, ancient oak trees – one in the front yard and one in the back – kept the house and the yard shady year round. I got used to the sound of acorns hitting the roof. The trees are both gone now.

I always felt safe in that house. My room was at the front of the house and was painted pink, I think at my request. It stayed pink and I grew to hate the color. At some point carpet was laid – but now the listing photos show the original hardwoods. I also remember the baseboard electric heat getting installed. I had a decent closet for clothes and toys, but my favorite thing about the room was the built–in bookcase. The bookcase included a built-in desk. I loved having my books carefully stowed on those shelves and one shelf was the home of my all-important radio.

My bookcase housed Nancy Drew books and some of the other mystery series books that I liked: Trixie Belden, a few Hardy Boys and a few Bobbsey Twins. I had a lot of paperbacks I bought through a program at school. One of my favorites was a bio of Houdini, which I still have. When I was in the sixth grade I acquired a book of Sherlock Holmes stories, and I was hooked. I read everything Holmes related in the public library and then re-read them.

I read a lot but I don’t remember reading under the covers with a flashlight. I do remember watching TV — after my parents bought me a black and white portable – late into the night. I’d turn the sound way, way down and turn the set so the light wouldn’t show under the door before I learned the trick of rolling up a towel to put across the bottom of the door. I’d stay up and watch Dick Cavett and on weekends, the late night rock shows. It was years before I knew the doors on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise were red.

I went to college about three weeks after the move from the Oak Street house, and over those years I lived in dorms, off campus housing, and one summer, I housesat for a professor. The only time I ever spent in the “dream house” was a few months the summer after my freshman year and a few holidays. Since college, I’ve always lived in apartments or condos. Unlike my mother, I don’t like yard work.

Home, I sometimes say to my husband, is where he is…and that’s true. But home for me will also always be that two bedroom cottage/ranch on Oak Street, still shaded by the biggest oak trees I’ve ever seen, and still guarded by my first dog, a collie named Dan.

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