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Friday, 20 January 2012

You Can Never Go Home Again - Or Can You?

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

When I was eight years old, my family and I moved to a beautiful new home. Having moved from the modest two-bedroom frame home of my childhood, this glorious four-bedroom home felt nothing less than grand.

One of the many attributes of the French provincial home was the parquet floor that went throughout.

I lived in this house with my family until I was 20 years old. Over time, the parquet floors started to show some wear and some of the wooden tiles had become loose and could be removed. There were loose tiles all over the house and I decided I would leave hand written notes under them.

I’d write my name and age on a small piece of paper along with the date and fold it flat and put them under the tiles. Sometimes I would jot down something about my family or who my boyfriend was at the time.

On my wedding day, I was in my room getting dressed when my shoe happened to kick up one of the loose tiles in my closet. I decided to leave one more message.

My parents sold their home in the summer of 1977. Since that time the house has had several owners. Last summer, 41 years after I left home, I was driving past the old neighborhood and noticed there was a garage sale taking place at my parent’s old house. I figured it was a great opportunity to talk to the current owners and tell them I once lived there as a child.

Two women were working the sale when I stopped and asked if one of them was the owner of the house. One lady answered saying that she and her husband and three children lived there.

I immediately told her my connection to the house and I was met with the warmest reception. She was so excited to hear about the house and its original owners and immediately invited me to go inside.

I followed her through the familiar entryway. The den was being used as a dining room and walls had been removed and an entire new family room added on to the back of the house.

Though things had definitely changed since I lived in the house there were many things that I recognized, from the brick fireplace to the parquet floors.

As we continued to tour the house the next room I was shown was my old bedroom. Though the wallpaper had long since been removed, the room was still pink in color and it was now the bedroom of their eight-year-old daughter.

I told the little girl that the room had been mine when I was just her age. I told her about how I used to line my stuffed animals up in the window box just as she had done. I then asked her if she had every found any loose tiles in the floor.

Her face lit up with a look of recognition and she replied she had. She then asked if I was the “girl” who had written the note.

Then the most amazing thing. She walked across her room and opened her jewelry box and pulled out a small, yellowed piece of paper and handed it to me.

I opened it and there were my words: “Today is my wedding day, I am leaving this house of my childhood for the last time. August 1, 1969."

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


How wonderful that you were able to go back and terrific that she kept the note!! Great story, Dani!

Love the story. I had a wonderful experience going back at age 65 to a house that I had lived in when I was 2-4. I was warmly welcomed at the door by the old lady who owned it and shown around. I had a few memories and had dreamed of it often.

That gives me the shivers! My old home is a real estate office. If I am looking for a house in my hometown I will go there.
Many memories.

That is so cool. We are leaving notes inside the walls of our renovated home for the next generation to find. The house may burn down long before then, but if it doesn't, it should be pretty cool for the new owners if they find the notes we leave behind.

Great story,Dani.

My daughter owns a lovely old home in suburban Chicago. Last year she answered the bell and found a man about 50 who was taking his Father to see the homes they had lived in over the years.

It was the Dad's 80th birthday present from the son.
They had rung the bell to tell the owner why they were walking around the grounds.

Carol immediately invited them in to see the changes in the house and they were delighted. The son went directly to his old room and was pleased to see that another young fellow now occupied that space and they were both Cubs fans...There was a pennant on the wall to prove it.

They toured the house and left in great spirits after seeing the wonderful changes that had been made and knowing "This Old House" was still in good and loving hands.

What a wonderful story!! How many children are aware of the future to leave notes that might be found? I live near my childhood homes, but have never gone back. It would be hard for me to see how the house has been modernized. I am happy for those living there now that are making their own memories. So glad the little girl found your notes.
Michigan Grandma

Thank you for a story that brings back good memories of leaving notes about our family behind the renovated kitchen cabinets in 1970!

What a rare and delightful thing to have happen.

Nice to hear these tales. Mine went the other way. For about 2 decades, I've tried to visit my childhood home from 7-13. I think the owners have a handicapped child because once (I get to Camas, WA about once every year now), they were eating outside but waved me away. When I drive the back street, I can just glimpse the old concrete birdbath my parents put in at the back of the two-tiered garden over 50 years ago.

What I'd give to be able to purchase it, or even to peek inside the home, which looks the same from the outside!

When I was nine the front, back and side streets where we lived were alleys. You're dirty a lot when you live in an alley. No grass, just gravel.

I decided to take my three children to see the old half double we lived in. The house and the four around it were gone. Only the curb remained. I told them a few stories then put them back in the Cadillac. I hollered out that I'd just come back for a visit.

When we got back home I realized that our house sits on a corner lot which is larger than the former whole block. My wife spends more on flowers than my father made in two months.

Am I bragging? Yes: But not on me.

I too enjoyed your story. Thank you!

I had to sit back and breath for awhile I was so taken by your story. What a wonderful world we live in filled with so many good memories.

Loved your piece and the comments near brought me to tears..loved Johna's best and ditto....

I also have been fortunate to revisit the log home my parents built paycheck to paycheck here in Alaska. When the first buyers sold it several decades later, I gave the new owners a CD full of house construction pictures one Christmas. They were thrilled.

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