I was about eight years old when Dad started building The House. Mom was expecting their third child and she was tired of moving. In their married life of 9+ years, she’d moved almost that many times, for whatever reason. We’d lived in trailers, tiny houses, rentals. I can remember some of the places.
There was the tiny trailer where I encountered The Big Puddle.
There was the four room concrete block house where I know for a fact there is a suitcase key in the crawl space, because I’m the one who wanted to see if it would fit through the crack in the floor.
There was the larger house with a long lane and a creek down at the bottom of a steep hill. One summer a group of us decided we would “sled” down the hill on an old piece of tin roofing. I went down the hill, but the tin did not. I still have the scar. I had chicken pox in that house and started school from there.
But when Mom got pregnant with our third child, she wanted a real home so Dad, an accomplished carpenter, bought an acre from his Dad’s farm and determined to build a house for us.
First, he built a concrete block, flat roof, one car garage, and we moved into that until he could finish the house. There was barely room to walk around what furniture we had, but I spent most of my time outside, so I didn’t really mind. My brother was two, he didn’t know any better.
The house took shape in an orderly manner, and I took great interest in all the details of the construction. The first walls were just wooden stakes with string stretched between, then there were trenches dug along the strings. The trenches were filled with concrete and Dad told me those were footers. On the footers, he started laying the block foundation.
I loved every moment of watching that house grow. I thought I helped. We hammered nails into scraps of lumber, stacked broken concrete blocks and pieces of brick. Balancing on the floor joists, Dad showed me which room would be mine, and I thought it was huge. I loved the metal boxes in the walls that would become the electrical outlets because the round punchouts where the wire ran through became a fortune in play money.
Dad had always worked in construction, so building a house was second nature to him. As a carpenter, he could lay a couple of courses of concrete blocks for a foundation but he was not a bricklayer. When it came time to lay the outside brick walls of our house, he hired a professional for one day to come show him how. He and the bricklayer worked side by side all that day, spending considerable time on the corners which were a little tricky. After that, Dad did the rest.
I’ve always loved that about that house…that I watched it come to life in his hands.
The house was not quite completed when I came home one rainy day from my grandparents’ house to find all our furniture out in the yard between the garage and the house. Mom was on the warpath. You see, the flat tin roof of the garage was an engineering disaster. It leaked like a sieve and some days there weren’t enough pans to catch the water and have supper, too.
My sister was only a couple of weeks old and on this particular rainy day, her basket happened to be directly under one of the leaks. That was it. Mom declared we were moving into the house, finished or not. On that day, the house became home and a constant “work in progress.”
Two more sisters were born over the next few years and I guess you could say we lived happily ever after in that house…at least, we were as happy as any normal family I’ve ever known. My brother and I saw the house built from the ground up and my sisters never lived anywhere else until they left for their own grownup homes. We grew up in that house, we went out into the world from there.
We called it The House as in: “I’ll meet you at The House…I’ll leave the book for you at The House…I’m here, I’m at The House.”
We sold the house this year. We’ve all been away from it for longer than we lived there, but Mom and Dad lived in it for the rest of their lives. Dad died in 1998 and Mom lived there until she passed in 2016, always insisting she would “never move again.” She never did.
There are a lot of memories around that house. I hope the new owner appreciates that a family lived there, grew up there, that the house was built with loving hands. There are places the builder’s hammer may have slipped, where a door might sag or stick and Mom swore it never got finished once we moved into it, but if it wasn’t a perfect house, it was a perfect home.
I hope the new owner appreciates that and I hope that new family makes a happy home and many memories there.