Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Friday, November 1, 2013

Houses / Home / Heartstrings

In the early morning hours when sleep wants to flee and I refuse to let it go; or sometimes while falling into sleep at night; or even occasionally when I'm in the car when my husband is driving and I drift into a nap -- sometimes an almost-dream will take me home.

In muddled half-sleep my mind confuses me and I go back to the home I knew as a child, the home where I grew up and lived my entire life until I moved away from home.  I may find Mom in the kitchen fixing dinner, or in the basement doing the laundry, or possibly sitting at her desk writing a letter.  Dad might be repairing a watch, napping in the recliner, or standing near his desk.  Or he may be in the garage working on some project.

I go up to my bedroom and find it exactly as it was when I was a child:  a narrow room, bed on one wall, chest of drawers on the other, window opposite the door.  Our home never changed.  Oh, yes, there were new curtains or carpet, the walls were painted, new pieces of furniture added or the furniture rearranged.  But our home never really changed.  The windows, the polished wooden bannister to the second floor, the swinging door between the kitchen and the room where Dad's desk was -- it was always the same.   Always neat, tidy, and perfectly clean.

They never see me:  I come and go quickly because, with a start, I realize I've returned to a home where I no longer live and where no one in my family lives. The call to come home seemed so strong, home so real, the homesickness so heart-breaking, that I had to return.   My wakeful mind is not aware of what my sleepy mind knows.

Other times my half-asleep-not-awake mind takes me home to our little story-and-a-half house where my own little family lived for a decade and a half, the home where my husband and I raised our daughters.  It sits at the top of a hill on a street with houses so close to each other that if two people with arms outstretched stand between them, each can touch a house.

An original farmhouse, it was shaped like an L with a porch that wrapped around the front and side.  There were two doors at right angles to each other in the L on the porch.  One led into the living room, the other into the kitchen.  We had a swing on the front porch and used to sit and watch the thunderstorms.

The house was cobbled together in the late 1800s by people we assume weren't carpenters.  As the house needed repairs we learned that no studs were at the standard 18" on-center anywhere in the house:  12", 15", 18", and any increment between, and sometimes different at the top of the wall than at the bottom.  The house had a full basement except for a small section under what was probably originally a porch but which had been converted to a bathroom by the time we lived there.  We found treasures in that crawlspace:   lovely old bottles, some hand-blown.

I open our red front door and walk in, put my things on the counter, and suddenly realize I'm home in the wrong house.  It is not my home but memory and dream make it feel like home.  Everything is just as it was when we lived there:  the baskets on open shelves above cherry cupboards in the kitchen.  The hard-as-nails yellow pine floors, the creaky steps at the top of which was a wall:  turn left into the big bedroom or right into the smaller back bedroom with low and angled ceilings.   It was a small, cozy home, really more a cottage than a house.   A place of comfort and joy, a place of challenges and hardship, a place of love.  Home.

Sometimes, when I'm half-awake and dream of home, it's to the house where we live now.  It's larger and sturdier than any other house I've lived in.  It too was an original farmhouse but built in the mid-1900s.  I walk into the breezeway, open the door, and walk into the kitchen.   I'm coming home to the rest of my family gathered there.  My Airedale Hannah comes around the corner to greet me, overjoyed to have me home again.  Then I waken enough to remember that there's only Hannah to greet me.  My husband and I have just left our daughters in their new homes and we're coming home without them.

The houses that I've called home, the buildings that were really homes and not just places I lived for a time, have strings tied to my heart that pull me back every so often, even if only in my memory and dreams.   Thank goodness for memory -- and a few photographs.

And my ancestors?  What of their memories of home?  Many moved from one place to another, some from one country to another.  Did they sometimes imagine or dream of going home to a home they could no longer return to?  Did a particular home tug at their heartstrings?

What about you?  Does your half-awake-half-asleep mind take you home to a home where you no longer live?

This post is a contribution to Sepia Saturday.  Click through to find other posts about home.

(This post was originally published in August, 2012, as a Sentimental Sunday post.)

--Nancy.

Copyright © 2013, NDM & My Ancestors and Me .

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35 comments:

  1. Nancy, this is such a nice post. I often think back to my house when I was a child. I lived in the same house for 22 years and then my parents stayed there for another 4 or 5. When I think of "home" I always think of that house. I haven't really felt home since then. I feel like home when I'm with my family, wherever we are, but no building has come close to my original house. Thank you for the reminder and for a wonderful post.

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  2. Thanks for your compliments, Heather. I think you're right -- family is always home, but not in the same way a house is a home. My parents lived in the same house the whole time they were married except for the first year or so and the very last year of my mother's life when she couldn't be alone. Like you, I never knew another home until I was in my 20s. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

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  3. Beautiful post, Nancy. I can almost feel the dreamy quality of your half-awake memories. Isn't it funny how our minds travel back in time while we sleep?

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  4. I have a childhood home that I remember well too Nancy! My current home has a few features that remind me of that old home and I really like it that way! When I see the dining chairs that my parents used to have in a second hand shop, I instantly want to buy a set to remind myself even more of those old days!

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    1. How fun that the home where you live now reminds you of the home where you grew up. I'm not sure that happens very often -- at least it hasn't yet happened to me. Oh, you should buy those chairs! Thanks for visiting, Bel.

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  5. This is beautifully written. Your memories are a joy to read. My family lived in the same home for most of my mother's life. She was so burrowed into the place we thought she'd never leave. When she had to go to assisted living with dementia coming on fast, we kept the house as it was so she could return if a miracle happened. One day, we took her back just for a quick visit. She looked around and said, "Why did I live in this dump for so long?" My sister and I were floored and then had a good laugh.

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    1. Thank you, Helen. I appreciate your kinds words. That's too funny about your mom. I'm surprised that even with dementia she had that reaction.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this. It is imaginative, dreamy, and well written.

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  7. A marvelous essay on the power of memory and idea of home. As my father was in the military my family lived in many homes, so it was my grandparent's house that will always remains the home of in my dreams.

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    1. Thank you, Mike. I was talking with a friend not long ago about growing up in a military family with lots of moves. I think there are advantages to staying put AND to moving around. I'm glad your grandparents' house became a home.

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  8. What a treat to read, I enjoyed it very much and your photos are a treasure to behold!

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  9. Not sure if my first comment went through! Nicely written, a very warm hearted accounting, and your photos are a treasure to behold.

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    1. Thanks so much, Karen. I appreciate your kind words.

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  10. This is a lovely post, Nancy. You have me trying to remember my childhood home now. I wish I had more pictures - it seems like we took pictures at Christmas, so I have pictures of the living room but not many of anything else.

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    1. Thank you, Wendy. Did you grow up in just one home? I think it would be easier to recollect if you did.

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  11. I have written many times about the jouse where I was born and last saw only a few years ago although I had left in the late 1950s. It hasn't changed that much. Interestingly like you mu concept of homes depends on where we lived at different times. You seem to have photos of them all to aid your memories. There is one missing for us - the first house we owned - we didn't have a camera then.

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    1. I think it's wonderful that your childhood home hasn't changed much, Bob. So often people buy a home then update it and "remuddle" it to become something it was never intended to be. They say that home is where one's loved ones are but I find that the building is also a part of home for me.

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  12. I did like the way you began your post in a dream like stance, looking back on your family home - very evocative. .

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    1. Thanks, Sue. As it happened, that's exactly how it happened. We really were driving home and I fell asleep in the car, dreaming of home....

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  13. I sometimes think (not dream though) of my paternal grandparents home. They had a 2 storey Victorian home. When I was 2 years old, we moved away and lived in a bungalow. Every time we went back to visit my grandparents, I always thought they were so rich to have such a grand house. I see it now from time to time when I go for a visit, there are different owners of course, but it doesn't look so rich, guess it was just in my childhood mind......

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    1. Hi, Rosie. It's interesting how our perspective changes as we grow older. I remember thinking my grandmother was large but when I look at the photos of her, she definitely wasn't.

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  14. This was like watching a memoir; makes one feel nostalgic. My fave is finding Mom in the kitchen fixing something to eat. A dream of home is one of the loveliest, warmest and sweetest dreams one can have. What a charming farmhouse that is!

    Hazel

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  15. Nice job of telling the story. I do believe that houses have a spirit or a sense of time, place and people about them --- or at least in my mind. Though at times I am at a loss to think of what my gggrandparents thought about living in the poor wynds around Dundee's flax mills. Nonetheless this was an excellent post.

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    1. Thanks, Joan. I agree but I don't know exactly how it happens or how to describe it. Does everyone who's ever lived in a house (that became a home to them) leave a little something behind and the house adopts it into itself? I wonder how many others feel the same way.

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  16. I truly enjoyed this post, Nancy. It was imaginative, evocative and emotional.

    I must say however, if my husband were reading this (and it occurred to me too) the first thing he would say is, "She has an Airedale?" (We are closet dog-lovers, since we own cats.)

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    1. Thanks, Kat. I appreciate your kinds words about this post. Yes, we have an Airedale! They are the best dogs! I'm sorry you don't have one....

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  17. A lovely piece of writing Nancy and so evocative. Sadly I don’t have those sorts of dreams and I envy those who do.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Little Nell.

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  18. A lovely piece, thank you. Very evocative story of your past life and memories connected with the houses you lived in.

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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