The House That Built Me

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We went home again, my brother, my mother, and me.

And it was weird.

We moved from that little house, full of joy, when I was 9 in 1973. The house remained ours for almost 2 more years as we tried to sell it.

The house is in a time warp.

Not just in my mind but in real life. I am not sure if the people who bought it ever lived there. I know they rented it out for many of the intervening years. Now it doesn’t seem anyone has lived there for awhile.

Which would I have wanted?

People who changed things or to walk in and see it stuck in 1973? I am not sure. I remember going to my grandmother’s house when I was pregnant in 97 for an open house, and it was nice to visit. There had been changes but it was nicely kept up.

And it wasn’t my home.

It made me sad, but Beau was ok with it. He is working on a biography of Dad so it was cool to see the house unchanged. I thought so too but what made me sad was the state of disrepair.

My dreams in that house were not huge dreams yet.

I lived up there…

I lived there 0-9 so they were little girl dreams of my own ice skates, a bike, a dog, a new book. Sleepovers with my best friend, Mariska, play dates with Wynonna back when we were all little girls and fame, both ours and our parents, was unimportant and unexpected. We were just kids playing with dolls, harassing my brother, playing hide and go seek and trying to catch a glimpse of the reclusive neighbor in the huge house next door.

There was a treehouse on a stand in the backyard, dad’s heavy bag hung from it’s rafters along with a swing or two. I remember Dad covering the bag with a hefty lawn and leaf bag to keep the rain off. His other work out stuff, equally covered from the elements was closer to the house, some weights, a barbell and a bench.

Our dog ran a figure 8 in the back yard as it was small and she was fast, skidding across the wooden porch to slam into the screen door and launch off again. At one point she went through it and across the kitchen floor so we had to reinforce it. The reinforcement meant she now had bigger screen to grab onto and pull open while on her hind legs. Smart dog.

I learned to whistle while hanging upside down from the pull-up bar in my brother’s bathroom doorway. Actually we shared that bathroom it was just a hike from my room. I learned to cook in that kitchen and made my first batch of brownies by myself when I was 6 I think, while mom was out. Dad loved them.

His office in that house is where he wrote 50- 60 of his novels.

It is where he would let me type on his typewriter while sitting in his lap. It is where he took me into his time machine and we would travel through time and place together. Elizabethan England, down the road to the Rose Theatre to see a play. Sights, sounds, clothing, smells, all senses covered and explored, we travelled together in his office. I was a little girl and he was my hero. I am a bigger girl now and he is still my hero.

Mom taught me to knit and do needle point and cook and read in that house. She taught me to wash my hands, brush my teeth and suffered through brushing my hair with my tender head. Something I had come into my life with my youngest daughter, tender headed, with curly hair that loves to tangle.

At times she would give up and I would sit on the floor at my father’s feet while watched the 5 0’clock news and he would patiently untangle my hair strand by strand.

We travelled the world from that house.

Taking two cabs to the airport when we would go to Colorado for the month of August every year. Heading with regularity to the middle of nowhere, or England or Canada or Ireland.

Nothing sad happened as a result of moving.

In fact things were better. Dad was selling more and more. My brother and I went to better schools both public and private. And we lived 7 blocks from my mother’s best friend and five from mine. Summers were spent bike riding and rollerskating from one house to the other depending on what was in the fridge or how warm the pools were.

Sometimes it feels like that house was when Dad still was our secret. He was selling like hot cakes, but hadn’t hit the venerable NY TImes bestseller list despite outselling most of the books on it. The year after we moved, his publisher gave a party for him in honor of his selling 55 million copies, The result of 25 years of consistent sales. By the time he passed away 14 years later he was at 200 million and present numbers are above 300 million, I believe.

But when we lived at that house he was rarely recognized in LA. So dad was dad. Later he was still dad but he was also, as they referred to him at Bantam Books in the 80’s, “The Legend.” He was invited to The White House several times, and also honored by both Congress and the President. After we moved he still wasn’t typically recognized in LA. Once my driver’s license was used to guarantee his check and another time we used a copy of one of his books. He didn’t drive. Stories of his being recognized are for another day. Truthfully, those moments were really fun.

I am writing this just down the street from that house. I am waiting on an appointment in a nearby restaurant and my old school is across the street.

It is my neighborhood and much is the same and much has changed.

Some for the better, some, maybe not. We grow, we change, we move on, but all in all my family has been blessed and I have been able to carry that into my own family.

I wonder what it will be like for our girls. Will we still live here when they are in their 50’s? The mere thought of moving sometimes breaks my heart. I love our home and the time is not right…maybe someday.

I know the importance of moving to something instead of running from something.

“If I could just come in I swear i’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory from the house that built me.”

Music and lyrics for this perfect song are by Allan Shamblin and Tom Douglas “The House That Built Me” recorded by Miranda Lambert here’s the video but have the hankies ready.

The lack of pictures is on purpose this week -the post is very close to my heart and no embellishment is necessary.

Remember to sign up for my exercises and news at the orange button or the “for writers” tab above…

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