Sunday, April 30, 2006

Home


I spent a couple weeks in northern Illinois where I grew up. My dad is selling the house I grew up in - a house that holds so many memories. It will probably take some time to sell; it is quite a unique property (old, historical, huge). I never imagined it would be sold; I pictured it in our family forever. Indeed; that is what my dad thought too.

But he fell in love with some wooded river-front land he purchased with his wife last year. So he has a new dream, a dream that includes bird-watching, wild turkeys, and midnight soaks in the steamy jacuzzi, watching the stars shine through the dark of night. Have you ever been out in the country, away from the bright city lights, looking up into a dark sky flecked with stars? Awe-inspiring, and it makes me yearn to be back in the country, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the peace that inevitably follows. So how can I begrudge a new dream?

When we first moved into that big old house, it wasn't in the best shape. Sidewalks were cracked, the yard was a mess. Porches were falling apart. But we all wanted that house. My mom and dad for the history - they loved antique-collecting, and were always re-finishing or re-upholstering some fabulous auction find. For me, simply because it was so big! I imagined the fun of running up the front staircase and down the back, and of the challenge of hide-and-seek. And I had my own room, a big room, with my own fireplace. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. After moving in, we refinished all the wood floors by hand. I loved working side by side with my mom and dad. We removed the "exit" signs from the upstairs staircases (the house was a boarding house at one point), and polished brass lighting fixtures on an antique electric polishing wheel that my dad picked up at some auction along the way. I remember working the leaking hot-water steamer next to my mom, holding the machine up long enough to soften the layers upon layers of wallpaper that she would then push away in what would soon become my little brother's bedroom. I remember using a sledgehammer to break through a front parlor wall that was hiding an original sliding door.

Work has never stopped on the house, although the house has been restored. The original porches have been re-created to match the original house photographs, gardens put in, sidewalks re-poured. It's such a beautiful house now. But I was always proud to live there, even when I would trip on the loose upstairs carpeting, or had to pull my door shut with a rag. Because my mom and dad were there with me. And because my house had personality and I admired it.

The house has come a long way to be certain. I'd like to think we grew up together.