Why We Miss Our Childhood Houses

Mom and Dad's house, where I grew up.

Mom and Dad’s house, where I grew up.

With a sizable percentage of people under 40 having moved here in the past three years from some other place, I am one of the increasingly smallish number of youngish people who can say I am from Nashville.

Of course, as real Nashvillians will tell me, I am NOT actually from here. I am FROM Mt. Juliet, which is 20 miles to the east of downtown, in Wilson County. Mt. Juliet – known now for rapidly growing mixed-use residential-commercial developments like Providence and Del Webb – is where my parents moved when I was 6 and my brother was 3.

In May, I will have had a 615 area code for 31 years.

My parents are about to trade theirs in. They are putting their house on the market, and they plan to move to Auburn, Ala., when it sells. My mom’s family is in Auburn, and she is going home.

The emotion I’ve felt about this has caught me by surprise.

I see Mom and Dad all the time, but I haven’t been to their house in maybe a year, even though it’s just a half hour from town. They long ago converted my old bedroom to a guest room, and they’ve been carting out my old stuff (and often hauling it to my house, where it gets stuffed into my garage) for years.

Nonetheless, their house is important to me.

It’s where I grew up and where I lived when I went to elementary school, got teased in junior high, and entertained young romances with boys my dad didn’t like.

When I lived there, I worked in a grocery store a half mile away, and practiced for track meets on hills in our subdivision. My brother and I buried a pet hamster in the yard behind the boat shed. My best friend, Jill, who lived next door, co-starred in the movies we staged in the treehouse my dad built between our back yards.

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I remember sitting in the boat shed, writing in my journal about what it was like to have a mom who worked all the time. I’ve re-read that journal as an adult, and wondered if my daughter has had similar feelings.

My parents were those parents who let all the other kids hang out at our house – on snow days, weekends, after school. We had countless sleepovers there, even co-Ed ones – which seems unbelievable looking back on it. My brother once caught me making out with a boyfriend I was supposed to be “watching a movie” with.

That house is where I stayed up late working on school projects I think I was more into that the teachers sometimes were, where my mom would bring me brownies to keep me going past bedtime on my type-A schoolwork binges.

That house is where my dad threw karaoke parties on our deck and cast fishing line in the living room, trying out new spinner bait while watching Bill Dance on television.

It’s where I stayed the night before my wedding, after running Mom’s car over a curb and puncturing her tire and calling in the groomsmen to fix it for me.

I lived in California when I was first married. When I got pregnant, I moved back to Tennessee and built a house in Spring Hill. While it was under construction I lived with my parents in that house and I remember feeling that I looked like a pregnant teenager when we went places together.

That house is where I folded 1,001 paper cranes for my wedding (origami cranes mean good luck), and it’s where I immediately drove 10 years later when my husband and I first began our divorce.

It feels self-indulgent to think this much about someone else’s house, especially when I haven’t lived there in 20 years. It also feels terribly unsophisticated to more or less be living in my hometown at the age of almost-37, behaving melodramatically because my mom and dad are moving to another state.

But I do have a history in that house, and I guess it isn’t surprising that I’m mourning it.

Sometimes we grow up before we fully move on.

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13 thoughts on “Why We Miss Our Childhood Houses

  1. My family moved to Phoenix in 1953 when I was five years old and the home my parents bought was the only home I really remember from my childhood. It is the home my father
    died in over fifty years later. A year after he passed away, the house was put up for sale
    and sold very quickly. I was not involved in the actual sales transactions, but my older brother
    told me it was sold to a couple who wanted to move into the neighborhood to be close
    to their grandchildren. This thought made me feel good about the sale, because a grandchild
    would have his or her grandparents nearby. Unfortunately, the buyer turned out to be
    a “flipper” from California looking to make some money.

    This home was built in the early 50′s. Prior to its construction, the land it was built on was an orange and grapefruit tree orchard, so I grew up picking oranges and grapefruit for meals and juice. As a child I climbed in the trees. Over the years many of the trees became diseased or died, but one grapefruit tree that stood in the front yard next to the driveway was tenderly cared for by my father during the entire time he lived there. Late in his life my Dad could not eat the grapefruit because its citric acid did not interact well with his blood thinner medication. So every year Dad would have a charity come pick the tree clean. The charity gave the food
    away and every year Dad would be told the recipients of the grapefruit would comment
    on how tasty and juicy it was.

    The very first thing the flipper did when he began the “remodel” was to cut down the
    grapefruit tree. When I learned this, I knew my last physical connection to the house was gone.
    Now, some ten years after my father’s passing away, anytime I am in Phoenix, I will
    go by the house which is totally changed.. I see the grapefruit tree still.

  2. Nice little trip down memory lane. I moved away from home town after college, but when I sometimes drive back, I still feel like it’s “my” high school, “my” town, “my” old home, even though I’m long gone and my parents have sold their house and moved. The memories still are there (and good future blogging material….lol…). I think at least in my case, some of the mourning / sadness has to do with the fact that you can never go back to experience your past again, you can’t interact with many of those people again, and part of your life is flat out over. It’s like being at a restaurant thinking you’ll get another helping of that fantastic main course, only to be told, “sorry, the kitchen is closed”. Can be a little depressing at times, and an unwelcome reminder that your time here is limited and gradually decreasing.

  3. I drove up to Nashville from S. Carolina some years ago and thought it was beautiful. Loved how many of the houses had nice amount of land each (not as cramped together as in LA).

  4. I already offered to sell it to her, Jim. She turned me down in no uncertain terms. However – I know the feeling, Knight. I haven’t seen the house in which I grew up (Columbia) in a long time and yet I can still picture it and remember lots of important, meaningful, trivial, etc happenings associated with that house. I can also still picture (old) Mt. Juliet Elementary where I taught until it was torn down. What great remembrances I have of that old falling-down dilapidated building.
    You have the “Knight” sign that hung on the tree house here and I think you still have a brick from old MJE – stick hem in your garden and take them with you if you ever move.

  5. I live in Mt. Juliet now. Grew up in Antioch, and spent the better part of 9 or so years in Bellevue/Pegram. About 10 years or so ago I drove past my childhood home. The yard had gone to pot, and someone had painted the door a hideous turquoise. We moved to Nashville from Russelville, KY the Christmas I turned 4, but seeing as my mom grew up in Green Hills we came to Nashville all the time anyway. I went around calling myself “Nashville Brad” and lived on “Mufreesboroford Road.”

  6. What a beautiful piece. I was a military brat and don’t really have a “home” that I can look back on in that way. Hopefully I can give that to my kids! Not that my transient adventures were bad… But as always, there are pros and cons to everything.

  7. Nice piece about what we all experience in life. But don’t worry, that house will live inside you forever. I am an old lady; I moved a lot, changed countries, changed lives, but certain memories of places are so sweet that they still feed my soul..

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