February 01, 2007

Roots

Parents' house

Here is the house where I lived from birth until my marriage. My father, whose own father was a master carpenter, built the house. When I say built, I mean that literally. He poured the concrete, hammered the nails, put in the wiring, painted the walls. He and his father had built many houses together, but his father died before this house was finished. It was the last one they worked on together.

I like Cape Cod houses: the slanted ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms seem cosy, and the gables make wonderful little nooks. My father was always changing things around inside the house to accommodate a growing family: he would take a Saturday afternoon to rip out a wall, or put in a bookshelf, or build a new closet. Often I'd come down the stairs to see the familiar grey sawhorses in the living room, and we were always vacuuming up sawdust from the carpeting. Now that the kids are all grown up, he's removed some of the walls in the downstairs, so that the grandchildren can run around the center staircase. This is the house where we gather for holiday meals, the place where my out-of-town siblings stay when they come to town.

Those front steps are famous for a funny incident that occurred when I was about ten. Well, it's funny only because I didn't get hurt. My mother had moved the steps into the basement to paint them; apparently everyone in the house had been warned but somehow I didn't hear the warning. Well, that's not unusual, even then I was often reading or daydreaming or, as my kids would say, "in a daze." That morning after I gathered up my school things, my mother handed me my lunch, told me to have a nice day at school, and then watched me walk right out the door. She said she can remember my pigtails dramatically flying in the air as I fell to the ground.

On the side of the house, which has no windows because it faces the prevailing wind, which is cold in the winter, the lilac bushes used to grow tall. My brother and I spent many sunny hours playing with our trucks under those bushes, using our truckdriver nicknames, Jo and Joe. The big picture windows in the front of the house are the ones we used to paint sometimes for Christmas. Blonde-haired Sister was especially good at brushing colorful designs on the glass. Often, too, my mother would set up a cardtable in front of one of those windows, and we'd work on a jigsaw puzzle. I can remember those lazy winter afternoons, watching the snow fall onto the blue-tinted snowbanks outside while we worked on the puzzle inside the warm house, my mother pulling a lamp over as it grew dark. On winter afternoons, our house smelled of baking cookies or homemade bread, spaghetti sauce or meat loaf or pot roast.

The far gable window upstairs is the bedroom I shared in the early years with my sisters and my brother. A chest of drawers stood in front of that window, and we'd climb up to stare out the window, and then jump dramatically down onto one of the beds. We always got yelled at for jumping on the beds but we did it anyhow. The closer gable window is the room I shared later with my baby sister, after she was born. I remember how excited I was when my mother told me I would get to share a room with the baby. It's hard to believe that that baby is in her mid-thirties now, living off in the big city.

My parents celebrated their wedding anniversary today, 49 years together, and 48 of those years have been spent in this house, just a few miles away from where I live now. We had a quiet lunch together at a local restaurant, and tonight they are probably lighting a fire in the woodburning stove, and settling into their comfy chairs to read. There are no streetlights where they live, and at night the sky fills with stars.

Photo credit: my father took this photo yesterday.

30 comments:

JM said...

That is a great-looking home.

BerryBird said...

Beautiful post, Jo(e). Your parents sound like truly wonderful people. I love hearing about your extended family.

Linda (FM) said...

Are there two front doors, one without steps?

susan said...

Happy anniversary...what a cool family you have. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Ianqui said...

What a great house. It looks like a house I'd want to live in if I ever end up living in a house.

I always wondered why some houses don't have windows on some sides. I guess now I know.

jo(e) said...

Linda: Yeah, the original front door is in the middle of the house. There used to be a front porch there, but my father tore it down years and years ago, after he built the little addition and put a door over to the side, where the cold winter air won't blow into main part of the house. So the other door is just kept shut all the time, except on hot summer days when it gets used like a window.

Ianqui: Well, nowadays, walls and windows are insulated ....

ppb said...

I love capes. I grew up in one, too. h

Songbird said...

So sweet, the house and your family stories.

listmaker said...

What a cozy house and a lovely story.

Kyla said...

I loved the house as soon as I saw the photo, but the pictures you paint with your words make it even more appealing!

Yankee, Transferred said...

lovely post, lovely house, lovely family.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

What a wonderful house. But -- HOW many kids grew up in there? I have to show this to my husband, who thinks we need to enlarge our 1800 sq ft house just because our 2 kids are getting taller : )

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh and also happy anniversary to your parents!!

ArticulateDad said...

Oh, it would be so nice to build a house. I'm always inspired when I hear of people doing things by themselves. Then I awaken from my reverie, and wonder how many smashed thumbs and splinters I'd really survive. But I can still smile at the photo, eh?

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: Five kids in the family. And extras, of course.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

What a lovely piece, jo(e)!! It made me cry, as your pieces often do! So sweet. And reminiscent! Some shared and similar memories! Ahhhh . . .

Billie said...

This is so nice! I love it when you write about your family and your history . . .

Phantom Scribbler said...

Is there any sort of garage with the house? Or have your parents just shovelled their car out of Snowstorm City winters year after year?

It's so smart to make the cold, windy side of the house windowless. In the house in which I grew up, the cold north side of the house was speckled with windows, but the west side of the house, which got a long dose of sun everyday that weather allowed, had none. Stupid!

jo(e) said...

Phantom: No garage. The driveway is pretty long, and during years of heavy snow, my parents would just park at the end of the driveway so we wouldn't have to shovel the whole thing. After all the kids grew up and left, and they lost all their shovelling help, my parents bought a snowblower.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Puzzles on winter days and cookies baking...that was my childhood. And I miss it.

I love your post, it really sent me back!

Leslee said...

beautiful

YourFireAnt said...

Oh, Jo(e), your last line again! Jolted the tears into my eyes.

FA

Aliki2006 said...

So beautiful, Jo(e)--made me think of my own parents and my own childhood home. My parents are coming up on their 42nd anniversary and have lived in their home for about 38 years.

Beautiful writing...so powerful.

RageyOne said...

I love the imagery in your writing and such a beautiful photo.

Chip said...

Happy anniversary to your parents!

There's just something about jumping on beds! I'll have to blog sometime about when my brother and sister were jumping up and down on a bed and her tooth got lodged in his skull... My other brother was "babysitting" at the time, fortunately I wasn't at home.

kathy a said...

it's a lovely house, and your memories are beautiful.

BeachMama said...

Hope your parents had a Happy Anniversary. It looks like a wonderful house to grow up in. It amazes me all the time how houses can hold such memories for us all.

Anonymous said...

Love this, love the last line too.

Kris
http://wondermom.blogspot.com

Carrien said...

I'm homesick now. For no where in particular or perhaps a home of my own with stories like that.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I live right next door to where I grew up...to the house I mean. My Parents both still live there and will be celebrating 45 yrs together this OCtober.

ME...I will be celebrate 25 yrs this summer.

Hugs