The House That Built Me

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I currently live with my husband in the house I grew up in. We bought it from my mother, re-painted a few rooms, and switched up the positions of the furniture in my parents’ old bedroom, which is now my bedroom. Since moving in a few years ago, we’ve also taken out the pool, bought two new cars that don’t at all resemble my dad’s old pickup and my mother’s sturdy Subaru, and I’ve stopped imagining my father eating peanuts on the floor watching football in his sweatpants, or my sister as a child coming down the stairs in the morning. This is a good thing – the first few months of moving back here, it felt like ghosts of my family were watching, and I half-expected my father to come around the corner and make sure N and I weren’t making out on the couch.

Those feelings, while sentimental, didn’t make it any easier to re-create a new family life in the same house, so I am fortunate they only lasted a few months. Now, a few years later, this does feel like my husband’s home, too. He has been around for so long, visiting me when I was 15, staying for dinner and playing wiffle ball in the driveway with my eight-year old sister while I did the dishes, completely in teenage love. It’s only natural, in a sense, that this became his home, too. And with the addition of two dogs, a fence, his new vegetable garden – it’s okay. I like my house, actually. Miranda Lambert’s song is pretty fitting, in this case.

However, we left the upstairs as it was. There’s been no need for those two bedrooms and a small bath (it’s a cape) because it’s just the two of us. Someday, before we move, which we will eventually do, those will be children’s rooms, and they can fight over who gets the bathroom first in the morning, like my sister and I probably did. But for now, my sister’s room remains fit for a young teenager, with turquoise walls and a border going around the room covered with horses. She’s got three bags full of stuffed animals in the closet, still (hey, come and get those…). And my room – oh, it’s no better. Probably worse. She cleaned her room out, mostly, but I did not. It remains lavender purple, of course. My collection of chimes still hang all over the ceiling, including the one N made for me himself, cutting up different lengths of metal to create the sounds. My CD player/radio system, which my father meticulously wired with excellent speakers for a thirteen year old’s use, actually turned on and worked the other day, when I tried it.

But the best part of my old, untouched bedroom is my memory box. It’s more of a tub. Over the years, I kept almost everything that touched upon my life from elementary school through to the first few years of college. Pictures weren’t in it – those are already in albums. But my 6th grade presidential award was in there. The program to the chorus show in which I sang the finale, “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The softball all my friends signed back in junior high, when we won the championship. Best of all, though, are the pieces of written proof of my life. I’m talking diaries – at least six of them. They date back to age 9, and go through to college. That’s not all. The notes.  A few years back, apparently, I organized my notes. You know, the ones your friends slip into your hands in junior high when you’re passing between classes. They are all folded up in only the coolest teenager way (that tight little square). My friends and I got sick of wasting individual pieces of paper, and we started passing notebooks instead. Entire notebooks. I have those, too. Anyway, I organized my notes by year, and I have, in huge ziplock bags, notes from 5th grade to 11th.

A few days ago, I spent hours going through that tub. That’s going to be a child’s room someday, and I still have college memorabilia all over the walls, and they deserve a spot in the tub as well. So I cleaned a bit, getting rid of the majority of the awards, programs and things like that. But I kept the notes, the notebooks, the diaries.

Now I don’t know what to do with them. They will be saved, of course, especially the diaries. But I’d love to do something more with them – I have no idea what. They are fascinating – a peek into my life. I mean, of course many entries are dull, full of normal teenage angst, but they cover my life from age 9-19. There’s so much in there that explains – everything. Explains me, explains my family, my husband (lord knows how many entries, and notes, and notebooks, are filled with endless nothingness about him). But not just that – they explain children, teenage girls, teenage boys. They explain my 5th graders and my old 6th graders. I just feel like all of this evidence is a window into a world that I’d like to analyze further, and do something with. I just don’t know what. Here are two examples:

(5th grade diary entry): Dear Diary, today is the 27th, and I got an A- on my report, and Todd gave me a necklace. I was happy, until at band Joe told me Todd wanted to break up with me. I don’t know what to believe! Oh well. It’s almost 7:30, and at that time I am going to call Jenn. Today in art, Miss D. said that we can start working on this contest where we have to draw a holiday scene. We don’t have to enter, but I tried anyway, and it came out great! My mom also bought me new pajamas. Gotta go!

(11th grade diary entry): Yesterday I only saw N for like 45 minutes, but it was worth it. He just left for his little snowboarding trip in Vermont for the weekend. I already miss him. I’m also frustrated cuz work called me, said my job’s not over – I’ll work when someone calls in sick. But I don’t want to be led on. Plus I think I’ll be getting a job being a waitress with Jen. So I’m mad. And N’s calling me sometime tomorrow. I’m not gonna miss his call while I’m at work so I’m not going to go.

And here’s a telling one: Remember AIM? I saved a conversation I had with N over AIM, probably around the same time period. I was expressing my frustration that my parents wouldn’t let me go on vacation with N’s family, and I said: I love you so much. They will realize it eventually…when I tell them that I’m marrying you. And I did.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies – those dating years in high school had more fighting than they didn’t, I think, and my diaries in those years are drama filled. But I still find them so interesting, explaining what really goes on in the mind of a preteen, or teen. There’s also a journal written to me, by my parents when I was born. Letters from my husband. There’s a lot of written evidence of my life, and I’m glad to have re- discovered them the other day.

The fact of the matter is, this post was inspired by another one. This one, from Stirrup Queens, about her elementary school. I have to admit, she’s right. I teach in the town I grew up in, and though I’m not teaching in my elementary school, I am teaching in my husband’s. It’s odd to imagine him walking my halls, going to my nurse’s office, as a child before I knew him. But when I am in both my current school and my childhood school, the memories definitely come back. They have a smell – a mix of years’ worth of crayon shavings and school lunches.

I guess I’m sentimental. I enjoy looking back on my life, and the parts I loved most. Lucky for me, I have them in writing, tucked away under my yearbooks and trophies, in that lavender bedroom.

 

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6 thoughts on “The House That Built Me

  1. JustHeather says:

    I too have a memory box (in my dad’s attic) that has all sort of stuff in it from diaries, notes, concert posters (from our local bands) that I just love to look through every once in a while. (Someday I’ll have to actually bring them to my home.) Sounds like a fun trip down memory lane for you. I love the two different diary entries, sounds typical and like my own at those ages. 🙂

  2. Sunny says:

    I love this post! I have kept a diary from the age of 6 through the present (31!) and also perform my diary entries in front of complete strangers in a show called Mortified. I was thinking about doing some diary entry posts, or trying to figure something out about what to do with my childhood diaries. This post has inspired me!

    • futuresoccermom says:

      Thanks! You are one cool person. You need to write about this whole Mortified thing. I’m intrigued! I also don’t know what to do with my diaries. We’ve got to think of something!

  3. Emily @ablanket2keep says:

    I never kept a journal, but I do have a memory/hope chest with all kinds of memories and things I wanted to save for my own children. My hope chest is now mixed with my Hubby’s things too. We have talked about possibly buying my MIL’s house some day and making it our own. I think it would be cool. So cool how you live in your old house. Makes me giggle how you were expecting you Dad to come around the corner when you were making out on the couch. I would probably feel the same way if we lived in her house thinking she or his little brother would walk in.

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