I wonder if living in the same house your entire childhood is the norm anymore in our upwardly mobile and constantly changing American culture? My parents, two brothers, one sister and I (a sister) lived in the same house our entire childhood.
For a time, there were several cars parked out front. One belonging to my dad, one to a brother and one for me. Our family car was in the garage. Slowly, one by one, we left for college, to work and to marry. My dad retired and that left one car in the garage. A few years ago my mom left too, alone.
My parents were the original owners and bought the house before it was finished in 1950. We lived in a home outside of Los Angeles. This was a time when our hometown of Whittier was still considered out in the country (some 15 miles away from the heart of LA) and orange groves still grew in neighboring Orange County.
There was an original Adobe house on our block with a small grove of orange trees. I spent many days walking past that house on my way to the library across the street. Years later, new owners totally remodeled the exterior house so it is unrecognizable.
The stories within my first home are far too many to reflect on in a page or two. We celebrated many births and birthdays of children and grandchildren, Thanksgiving and Christmas days with growing families, slumber parties and much, much more.
Listed here are three of many memorable moments that I hope will inspire your own family and neighborhood conversations and stories.
The days before our backyard patio was poured, the yard was loose dirt. I was home, too young to be in school yet. I got the idea to turn on the water and play. I was fully clothed, covered with mud and playing happily. When my adventure was discovered, one sibling (was it a brother or a sister?) came out and washed me off with the hose, so I could come in the house.
The young tree
We planted an elm tree in our backyard. It was a thin sapling. We cherished our young tree and watched its growth and looked forward to the shade it would provide. One day a huge windstorm came and we heard a loud CRACK! Our tree had split in two down the center of the trunk. A man came with tar and bolts and attached the tree back together. For many years afterward, we could still see the split marked by tar and bolts. The trunk eventually grew over them.
The house addition
Our family grew and my parents decided we needed additional space in the living and dining rooms. The rooms were side by side and faced the street. During the summer between third and fourth grade, we lived with plywood as walls facing the street during the construction. The idea was to extend the front of the house six additional feet into the front yard and add a new fireplace. When the work was finally all done, men came to finish the hardwood floors using highly flammable fluids.
I don’t remember if anyone was hurt in the explosion that followed. The men working on the floors had not shut off the natural gas coming into the house before they started the job. We returned home to find soot in every room, every cabinet, every dish, everywhere. My parents had their bedroom door closed. It was the only clean room in the four bedroom house. Every room was filled with long, spidery cobwebs. My bedroom had the longest and scariest cobwebs and I could not sleep. We spent a weekend in a motel while the house was cleaned.