Author: Ramos, Jean

The Old Home Place

At a recent barbecue/bluegrass jam, I was visiting with Marcos Alvira. We were discussing the joys of being a homeowner. I was telling him about all the work we need to do on our house; replace windows, remodel kitchen, refinish wood floors…and the list went on and on. He said, “Wouldn’t it be easier for you to just buy a new house?” My answer came quickly, “Yes, but…” His statement really got me to thinking about what we would gain by buying a new house and what we would lose by selling the old one.

A new house would have fresh paint, new windows, a modern kitchen, pristine floors, carpeting, perhaps lots of storage. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The house we presently live in was built by a contractor for his own family back around 1954. I know they had three kids; two girls and a boy. There is a “growth chart” on the door frame in our furnace room with lines by their names at various levels and various dates. When I began repainting the inside of the house, I didn’t have the heart to paint over that little bit of their family history left on the door jamb.

One summer day I was having a yard sale when two ladies came into the yard. The younger one told me she had grown up in this house. I said, “Well, is your name Marla or are you Jeanette?” At first she was startled that I may know her name and then a big smile came across her face and she said, “Is the growth chart still in the furnace room?” I took her and her mom into the house so they could reminisce as they walked through their old home. The younger brother, Eddie, didn’t move too far away, he lived down the end of our street for a number of years. Every time I dig in my yard to plant a garden or some flowers, it’s like a mini archaeological dig. I have found many little bits of their history in our yard. A Shinola Shoe Polish bottle, the lid to a small teapot, a Cutex Nail Polish bottle, an old lipstick case; the kind that had the little lever that slides up and down to raise and lower the lipstick. I have found lots of glass marbles that I’m sure were little Eddie’s. I now have a small jarful that I’ve collected since we moved in nearly 40 years ago.

This is the first and only house that we have ever bought. Our two daughters don’t know any other house but this as “home.” When they left for their first day of school, carrying their little “Barbie” or “Fat Albert” lunch box, it was from the front door of this house. All of their childhood birthdays were celebrated in this home. The tooth fairy visited their bedrooms here and left nickels under their pillows. Santa came here and left gifts under the tree.

When the weather was bad, we would roll back the rug in the living room and our daughters and their friends would roller skate throughout the house. There are marks on some of the inside doors that are left from the handlebars of their little tricycles. Needless to say, this house was well lived in. It was a chore to keep it clean as is any house where children are present; little nose prints and hand prints everywhere, crayon marks on the walls, Play-Doh in places it shouldn’t be, all the things that make a house a home.

When our girls got their driver’s licenses, they each had a Grandma’s hand-me-down car; there was the old Plymouth Duster and the Pontiac Phoenix parked out in front of this house. As they grew older, it was from the front door of this old house that they left on their first dates. We have their “first date pictures,” prom pictures and wedding pictures all taken within the walls of this house.

Like most every family, pets played a role in the home. Our first pet was a little black dog that the kids named Poncho. He wandered into our yard with a little red ribbon around his neck and made himself at home. There were also the turtles, goldfish and birds that came and went. Every good home has a small version of “Boot Hill,” ours is no exception.

Music has always been present in this old house. For our girls, the music ran the gamut from Romper Room and Sesame Street Songs to the Village People and The Stray Cats. For me it included everything from “The Bottle Let Me Down,” and “Cheating Heart,” to “Drinking From the Springs of Living Water,” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” The old house was a witness to all the changes in our lives, individually and as a family. I’m reminded of the lyrics to a Stuart Hamblen song; “This old house once knew my children, this old house once knew my wife, this old house was home and comfort as we fought the storms of life.”

Both of our daughters are now grown with families of their own. Now the home we live in is called “Grandma and Papa’s” house. When the grandchildren were very little and came for visits, they left the usual little slobbers and handprints on the glass doors and mirrors. I was not so quick to get out the Windex as I was with my own kids. Once again there were tricycles in the house, and Barbie dishes in the cupboard, but with a Grandson, we’ve added the Spiderman sleeping bag, army men and Star Wars toys. When our youngest granddaughter comes out from New York for a visit, she likes to play marbles in the dirt out in the backyard. The marble games have become a family tradition.

I have a rose bush planted in my backyard that was a birthday gift from my mom many years ago. My mother has been gone for 20 years now, but I’m still receiving fragrant red roses from her. I have a cactus plant that was a gift from a friend who also passed away a few years ago. It seems everything connected with this house has a history or story to it.

This past week I have felt like Wilma Flintstone living in a pile of rubble. We have had the old driveway, patio and sidewalks torn out. By the time this column is posted, it will all be replaced with new concrete and cobblestone pavers. The workers have moved a lot of dirt around in the process, and as I was walking around the backyard after they quit work one day, I came across yet another glass marble. Now I don’t know if this one belonged to little Eddie or if it is one of our own. It seems that little artifacts from our family are now mingled with his.

So there you have my answer Marcos, yes, it would be easier to start over with a new house, a lot less work, but it would just be a house, this old place is home. I know there is a bluegrass song lurking in this story somewhere. Right now, the construction noise is too much of a distraction, and not conducive to “song writing.” Perhaps after the dust settles…

I look forward to seeing you all at one of the camp-outs or fall festivals. Let’s get together and play some music. Or...I could challenge you to a game of marbles.

Posted:  7/25/2010

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