I drove by my childhood home yesterday. With content kids and a rarely sleeping baby packed in the back, it just seemed like the logical thing to do…To let the old country roads where I spent 11 years of my life, take me home.
When I arrived, all I kept thinking about was how crazy something that seems so small and rundown could house so many big moments — from my first steps to my first sleepover. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the happiness I experienced living there.
The woods in the back made me a nature seeker. I made many mud pies on the beach of our man-made pond and swam in the cool water until my toes couldn’t touch and the fish nibbled them.
I climbed the giant maples and oaks lining the road, playing for hours in our homemade tree fort. I named the stones lining the hill of our rock garden adjacent to our house.
I listened to bullfrogs bellow through a cracked window during hot summer nights and learned how to whistle just like the Northern Bobwhites. I climbed out my bedroom window onto our covered deck and looked at the stars, making a wish with every falling one I could spot.
I shrieked at the sight of snakes and mice, but tried my best not to step on a Daddy-Longlegs or caterpillar. We often took in stray cats, dropped off by city dwellers.
My feet were hard and calloused from being barefoot all the time. I walked on rocks and hot pavement like a champ during summer.
I crouched low to pick strawberries from our tilled garden and wild blackberries from our secret spot, carefully peeling away the vines from the fruit so my fingers wouldn’t get pricked by thorns. I cut lilacs from our bush, and craved the sweet scent filling our kitchen each May.
I remember the way our basement always smelled damp and the piles of laundry that would collect on the floor, waiting to be washed and hung outside on the line; the sheets smelling like heaven after a day in the sun.
The smell of Christmas pine during the holidays and a blazing hot fire in our fieldstone fireplace is another scent that comes to my mind. I can even almost taste piping hot pancakes with fresh blueberries on Saturday mornings, complete with a side of Garfield and Friends.
I can feel the tangled line of our mustard yellow rotary phone in my finger tips and can re-enact my young voice’s cadence as I said my phone number aloud.
I recall the way the air hung warm inside my room with its butterfly wallpaper and brown shag carpet; how I had taken a blue crayon and rebelliously drew a face on the wall, only to be discovered years later.
I played outside by myself often; my mom peering on me from our garden window. She didn’t have to worry about the cops being called on her; it’s the way it was in the country. I would sled alone for hours, stopping to just lay in the snow, stare at the clouds, and listen to the silence.
The long winding driveway is where I learned to ride a bike without training wheels. I still have the scar from one epic crash into a tree, which my brother will never let me live down. Bike helmets simply didn’t exist, and even if they did, we wouldn’t have worn them.
Most of the time, I thought it was lonely being so deep in the country and far from friends and civilization. Now, I see how it was such an incredible blessing to grow-up free from distraction.
When I left home after high school, it was liberating to say the least. I never wanted to come back after tasting the cultures and conveniences of city life. Eventually though, I missed it. I went summers without seeing stars and had to drive miles for an open field and to see a chippy red barn.
I don’t know who lives in my childhood home now, but I hope if they have children, they grow-up to have as intoxicating memories as I do. Despite a completely different upbringing and an entirely different world, I only hope I can give my own kids similar memories to reflect upon.
Do you miss your childhood home? Did you grow-up in the city or in the country?