I have spent a good portion of this past week removing my family’s personal items from my childhood home. Next week my childhood home will go on the market. My dad has been in a nursing home for the past 5 1/2 years. My mom is currently in rehab and will not be returning to this house. Over the past 5 years, my mom has insisted on staying in her home so she could be near my dad. My siblings and I honored her wishes. It wasn’t the best solution but it was what she wanted. One of the lessons I learned through this process is you can’t make someone want more for their life. You can show them the possibilities but you can’t force them. Growing up I remember hearing the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.”
The house that is being sold wasn’t my only childhood home but it was the one I lived in from third grade until I got married. I have a vague memory of sitting on the side steps of our house in Salt Lake City and crying because I didn’t want to grow up. Before that I had lived in England and Oklahoma. I was born in Oxford, England and came to the USA when I was a toddler. My mom would say “We gave you a good start and after that you were on your own.” My Oakie dad met my British mum when he was in England during the Korean War. I remember hearing the story of my dad arriving in England on a ship headed to Germany and my dad and some other airmen got off the ship. Oops!! so they were reassigned to the North of England. I am sure there is more to that story. Anyway that is how my dad met my mom. Yesterday, my sister and I found a box of “Old Letters” and some great old photos. I am looking forward to reminiscing with my mom. When my dad’s military time was completed, we moved to Oklahoma so my dad could finish college at the University of Oklahoma (OU). My earliest memory is being handed into a tornado shelter. Years later my mom would refer to Oklahoma as “that God forsaken place”. My mom was only 24 years old when she left her family and her country and traveled to the States alone with me. My dad had “gone ahead”. She tells the story of arriving in NY and the cab driver telling her she spoke good English for a foreigner.
After England, Oklahoma and Utah we moved to Phoenix, Arizona where we lived for about 2 years before moving to New Jersey. One of my strongest memories of Arizona was riding my bicycle home from school through the desert and my handle bars fell off. Yes that statement resembles “I walked to school everyday uphill both ways with only one shoe” but it is a true story. The housing developement we lived in wasn’t completely built so there was a road through the desert to the school. One day while riding home my handle bars and some other kids handle bars fell off. Luckily a neighbor drove by and helped us. Some “big kids” at school had loosened the bolts on our bikes.
The house being sold has many memories of “us 3 kids” – that is what my siblings and I called ourselves. There were Halloween costumes built my dad, fun fairs organized by my mom and summer shows put on by the kids in the neighborhood. There was music by Mario Lanza – mom’s favorite and Gilbert and Sullivan operas courtesy of my dad. There were times family from England would stay with us as my parents were sponsoring them so they could emigrant to America. There was the birth of my baby sister when I was 12 years old and “us 3 kids” became 4.
Many memories and lots to organize and pack up. There is adage “How do you eat an elephant?” and the answer is “one piece at a time”. I would add to that “you need to know when you are full.” So we took a lot of “stuff” and then we said “we are done” and it is okay. My sister and I laughed as we worked and we cried but it was good. There are memories we will always carry in our hearts, there are books, photos and trinkets we will share with other family members and there are sayings that only mean something to us. The buffet pictured above is called the Ho Chi Minh. My brother named it. I guess because it has an Asian flair to it. “Where is such and such?” and the answer many times would be “it is on the Ho Chi Minh”. My youngest daughter didn’t realize that wasn’t the real name for that type of furniture until she studied the Vietnam War in high school. As my sister was heading to the house today she heard a story on the radio that mentioned Ho Chi Minh and she thought of our deceased brother and that buffet. And that was a gift. My childhood wasn’t perfect and my childhood home has seen better days but my parents did the best they could with the resources they had. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”