Life Stories

When “Home” Is No Longer Home

It’s been more than 12 years since we let our childhood home go.  Mom was ill with cancer and we knew that hanging onto it was a logistical and financial challenge for us at that time.  So as a family, and with mom’s reluctant blessing, we emptied that overstuffed house out and sold it to the hospital.  Our home was one block from the hospital in Marshall and the plan was that they were going to expand toward our home, with the idea that they would remove it in the future.

At the time, it was difficult but I can say that I didn’t feel sad.  It was more of a sense of relief because we all had so much going on in our own lives, and with mom being ill at the time, it was one less thing to worry about.

But still, the house was there and somehow even though it wasn’t ours any longer, it still signified “home”.  When I would travel back to Marshall, I would drive by (many times while I would be there) and it would tug at my heart each time.  It was still “mom and dad” and “home”. 
I would envision the times that we ran around the house, hiding in our favorite spots as kids.  The times that we would fill the dysfunctional (fitting for our family) pool with just a couple feet of water and float in it.  When it was built (before we bought the home) they put the concrete pool in and the floor was flat but the sides alternated in height with the lowest being just under 2 feet.  Weirdest “pool” ever.  When we would drain it, the water would run down the alley and flood the yards in the back.  I’m sure the neighbors loved us 😉 The times that we would go sledding on the big snow hills that the hospital (which was right across the street) would pile up from clearing off the parking lots.  The tons of snow that would blow up in our yard and the “snow forts” we would build.

I remember the times that we painted that beast of a home.  Even though it was always a job, I loved it.  The family came together and we all worked on it.  I remember being only about 8 or so the first time we painted it and dad let me help paint, I felt like such a big girl.  That would be the first of many paint jobs.  I also remember the time that the roof needed new shingles so badly that the shingles were starting to fall off.  Dad always meant to get it, (the shingles were stacked in the garage) but never found the time.  Well, one day my siblings and I figured that it was time to re-shingle the home (before mom got the unplanned skylight window she always wanted in her kitchen) and so Dawn, Chad and I tore off the shingles.  I will never forget the look of both irritation and amusement as my dad pulled up.  I am certain that was not in his weekend plans.  None the less, we called in my brother Randy to help us get the job ready and then we all once again worked together to get the roof shingled.

Or the time that 2 bushes that flanked the front door had gotten so out of control that you could barely get through them to get to the door.  I tried my best to trim them but it was obvious that they needed to be cut all the way back.  My dad was getting ready to leave on a trucking trip and mom and I kept at him to do it before he left.  If you know my dad, he loved everything natural.  He was a farm boy at heart.  That philosophy is great on the farm but for the house in town, that didn’t work so well.  So, he wasn’t happy (in fact he was downright mad) but he took the chainsaw and hacked that bush down to shut us up.  He was so irritated as he flailed that chainsaw around, that I thought he was gonna accidently hack his leg off.  If you also know my dad, he was the gentlest, most kind man I ever knew.  He had the patience of a saint.  However, when he got mad, he was mad.  He left in a huff and I felt somewhat guilty.  But being Anderson, what did Ally and I do?  As we were bringing the brush out to the dump we drove right by where dad worked.  In those days, dad never locked his door and so we got the brilliant idea to take a rather large branch and seat belt it into his front seat behind the steering wheel.  He was leaving on just a short trucking run so he was going to be back the next day, and so we waited for him to return.  When he pulled up, Ally and I stared out the window to see what he would do.  He saw, grabbed the branch out and trying hard not to laugh, he shoved it in the middle of the yard standing up.  We all laughed.  My dad had the best humor, hands down, ever!

I remember mom’s beautiful flower gardens.  I remember that people would SLOWLY drive by our home and look at the overflowing flowers that my mom nurtured.  She had a green thumb for sure.

I remember mom throwing some pretty great birthday parties for us when we were young.  I remember the Easter’s and Christmas’s.

I remember that even though we had some hard times, we also had many good times.  I know that even though as a family we had our problems, we were still a family, and it was still “home”.  As always, memories can be bittersweet, as mine are looking back.

Going “home” in recent years, meant returning to the town we grew up in and visiting our family and friends that still live in that area.  But somehow, it was still home.  Even though our childhood home was no longer what we returned to when we went back to Marshall, it was there and it was still “ours”.

I never realized how much my childhood home meant to me, until the day it was demolished.  

My niece Emily sent us this picture on June 5th.  It stopped me in my tracks and my heart sort of sunk.  It was reduced to a pile of rubble, as they cleared the way for the hospital’s expansion project.  Why would a house, that I haven’t stepped a foot in for more than a decade, hold that much power over me?

I guess all this time I have always had 2 “homes”.  The one I’ve lived at now for nearly 3 decades, here in Rochester and the other in Marshall.  One that holds the place I love to live, and the other that will always hold my heart.  Returning home to Marshall became more difficult after losing mom and dad, and selling our home.  Going “home” to Marshall in recent years, meant admitting that life had changed significantly.  There was always a sense of loss and the consciousness of the exorable passage of time.  Yet, as long as the house was there, it was still home.
Our childhood home filled us with conflicting memories but none the less, they are what made up our life.  Seeing our home reduced to a pile of garbage was heartbreaking.  I believe for many reasons.  There was a sudden and deep sense of homesickness for a home that I now knew, I could never return to.  There was also the yearning for what was, and what could’ve been.  And finally grief, for what would be the lost places of my past and for wrongs that can never be made right.
But mostly, it was my last connection to my parents.  Their home, our home was now officially gone and that chapter of our lives, officially closed.  That is saddening and sobering.  Time has a way of marching on and all things change, albeit gradually.  Maybe in some way, first selling it and having that distance was somehow easier than losing it suddenly to a pile of rubble.

Nostalgia for our lost home is heavy on our hearts.  It is not the memory alone but rather, it’s a feeling of a place where we ache to go again, but cannot.



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