I just returned from four days in Boise helping my brothers sort through our family home to prepare for selling it after my mother died. My father had the house built in 1951 after he married my mother and it has stood for 61-years with various add-on's and remodels. But it has only been lived in by our family. And now that is about to end.
The house is only about 1700 square feet now. When it was first built, it was even smaller. There are only two bedrooms, one bathroom and a partial basement. But it housed five people for almost the first half of its existence. My current home has four bathrooms, four bedrooms and only houses four people.
In 61-years the house has been heated with coal, oil and now natural gas. It originally had its own well, but now taps into the city water supply. My parents added on a family room and garage in the late 60's and a utility room in the 70's. The living room became the dining room and my mother added a bay window that her dog always slept in. Some time in the 80's my father turned the garage into his reading room.
The apple and cherry trees of my youth are long gone, replaced by matured oak and pine trees. A huge maple still grows in front of the house. The original chain link fence still surround the house, but the privacy screen of lilacs that used to surround the back yard are gone.
The house sits on property that used to be part of my father's parents chicken farm. They gave him the property as a wedding present. Their house still sits on a small lot next door. My parents sold it after my grandmother died in the mid-70's. They sold it for $5000 to some "friends." My mother had sold it to them because she wanted a say in who her neighbors were. The friends fixed the house up and flipped it for $40,000 in a year. My mother had crappy neighbors from then on.
Some time in the early 90's, the neighbor on the south of the house sold to developers who put in a row of godawful townhouses that further brought the neighborhood down with a sea of renters. The townhouses were built right up to our property line.
Originally, I shared the front bedroom with my two brothers. They slept in bunkbeds and I slept in a twin bed (after I escaped from my crib). Later, when I was about 10, my brothers moved downstairs into the basement (which at the time had an outside entrance). I moved into the back bedroom and my parents moved into the front bedroom. After both of my brothers finally moved out, I moved downstairs into the basement. That's when my mother had the utility room built and the outside entrance to the basement became the inside entrance.
I moved out of the house when I was 19, but moved back briefly for a few months when I was 23 to save a bit of money before moving to Seattle to complete college. For years, I'd come home at least once a year and stay in the basement during my visit. After my father died in the early 90s, I started staying in hotels. I haven't slept in the house for at least 20 years.
My father used to have a workshop in an old shed in the backyard. It had once been a chick coop. It started to fall down after my father died and my mother finally tore it down. You can still see the foundation.
Several pets are buried in the backyard, but the markers for their graves are long gone. The names of my brothers and I were scratched into wet concrete when my father poured our patio years ago.
When I was a boy, I used to wonder what it would be like to live in another house. I remember sitting in my father's workshop and writing my name in the sawdust behind a cabinet, wondering if someday someone would find it. I also buried some of my school papers from grade school in a can in the backyard, thinking my signature would be worth something one day.
It isn't (except on a check).
I used to pitch a pup tent in the backyard on warm summer nights and camp out in the back yard. I remember hating how big the yard was because I had to mow it. I also remember climbing the largest apple tree in the back yard and staring at the clouds wondering what my life would be life when I was grown.
I remember my dad building a dog house for our dog Shep. I drew pictures of a dog family and glued it on the inside walls of the dog house so Shep wouldn't feel so alone. I would also sometimes crawl into the house and curl up with him. He was hit by a car when he got out to go carousing because my parents didn't want to spend the money to get him neutered. Shep is one of the pets buried in the backyard.
There are many memories stored in the walls of that house. I would have almost rather that it been torn down than sold and occupied by strangers. Then the memories could scatter and be free and pure without confusing them with the lives of strangers.
But life doesn't really have time for nostalgia.