Posted by: ME | December 27, 2011

A Memorable Christmas Gift

Climbing Tree

Climbing tree looks pretty bad

I received an impromptu and wonderful gift this year. It wasn’t any bright and shiny, or soft and fluffy, or big and surround soundy gift. The gift had no financial value to me, but it has GREAT personal and sentimental value. It’s actually something a perfect stranger allowed for me and part of my family to experience. I don’t know if it had the same sentimental value to them, but it was a BIG deal to me. It still brings me to tears that we were able to experience something so small and possibly silly that could muster up so many feelings in me. I think my mom, dad and sister had some good memories well back up too.

We were able to see the home I grew up in.

There are four of us that were brought home new, warm, soft and screaming to that home. I was the first. I was born in 1970, my sibs in 1973, 1975 and 1979.  The home was built in 1969 and we lived there as a family until 1988. Life happens and my parents divorced and we sold our childhood home. I may have mentioned before that I am not good with the change that seems to always come around now and then. I am much more comfy with the small change that happens over time and grow into. (I wasn’t the type to PLAN to leave for college- are you nuts)!  This was my real first big change. I didn’t handle it well at all.

Many wonderful memories span over the course of those 20 years. My family was not wealthy and we lived in this average sized home that would now be considered small. Web had 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths. Yup, a family of 6 fit in here nicely. We even had a playroom that we liked to call the Toy Room. The Toy Room had a cement floor and we had the biggest toy box ever. I guess with 4 kids, we had a lot of stuff! Now the Toy room is considered an extra room, or big utility space that has the laundry room and a utility closet.  The laundry room entrance is new. The walled up the original entrance and opened up this one off of the old Toy Room.

laundry room

laundry room changes

I actually like this change, but back when we lived there, it wouldn’t have worked for us, as my mom liked to keep an eye out when she was getting laundry done, plus, we had our huge toy box on that wall, where the louvered doors are now.
Back then, this is where we did most of our indoor playing. After Sesame Street was over, this place became an office, battlegrounds, the woods for our Lincoln Log cabins, a city, a race track, a castle, and a place to ride a horse. It was also a dance room, and later on, after we were past that, it became my brother’s room for a while, and he painted it black. It was the mid 80’s, and he did this along with wear parachute pants and some cool hair.
This room also had the side door entrance that we used every day of the year except for Easter and Christmas.
We used the front door for those days.
The front room now has the same beautiful tile as the rest of the house(minus the bedrooms and bathrooms). Back in our days there, the carpet was red in there and this room was totally off limits except at Christmas. It had a white sofa and some really 60/70’s looking light fixtures. Like grapes or something funky like that. This room is where the silver Christmas tree was erected and the expansive Christmas village laid out under the tree. Dad also added those color wheels to each side to make a gorgeous display for our big picture window. I used to lay under that tree before the village was put in and look up into the shininess that was a silver Christmas tree decorated with glass red ball ornaments. My mom’s grown up adult tree.
Front room reno

Front room reno, used ot be RED

The door you see is the special front room door that we used only now and then. That’s the storm door you see though, the real door is the same wooden and beveled glass that my mom always wanted and finally got some time in the early 80’s.
The curtains used to be a heavy red fabric that were pulled back for our extravagant Christmas display. The color wheels went on each side of the window, facing the tree.
I LOVED this room at Christmas. Santa came HERE. This is where he laid out all of our gifts. In between this room and the adjoining dining room, there used to be louvered doors. Santa was smart. We could see through the louvered doors and he knew we were up at 5 or 6am all anxious to see our loot. A huge sheet was put over the louvered doors on the inside so we couldn’t peek. Over the years, we got smart and used a yard stick to stick under the doors to lift the sheet. Yup, we are smart! But Santa is smarter. He then started pulling the sheet out a bit to we couldn’t reach the sheet to lift it. Bummer. Ironically, it worked out that my parents would grab us first to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and have McKenzie’s Lemon Meringue pie and Chocolate cream pie for breakfast. We had that twice a year-Christmas and Easter morning. Then we ran into that front room after the LONG agonizing moments of my dad getting the tape recorder and the old motion picture camera ready. That light was HOT. I am glad that we have those tapes and reels of film and ONE day, I will get them transferred to DVD for each of us.  I recall vividly taping myself singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with Gene Autry.
our driveway and the main door we used

Our driveway and door we used mostly

This window and side of the house is the Toy Room area. That window housed a beautiful display of the Nativity during Christmas. Dad had a platform he used and he got hay or something every year and mad ea beautiful scene. I think we used a lot of cotton, so it may have been snowy. That overhang was not there.
The trim was white, not black/brown.
How about that orange brick, huh???
The ferns were not there, we had a raised bricked garden of lilies that bloomed red at Easter time, and we made nests from. Amaryllis, I believe. We just called them Easter lilies. I wanted to rip them out when we moved out. Those were our lilies and no one else should have them. I remember my family planting those bulbs. And no, I did not take them, but one night, in spring, I did drive by and pick some bloomed lilies.
And I cannot tell you how many chalk drawings and hopscotch we did on that driveway. The neighbors driveway was not that close back then.

backyard

backyard

For my first decade in this home, this back patio did not exist. You would look straight out into yard and a swing set from the sliding glass doors complete with those rubber sticker flowers that helped you not run into them. My mom would line up her dining rooms chairs along the window when it was raining, make it mushy with pillows, and let us nap there during rainy days. I have done this with my own kids. It was mesmerizing to watch rain fall and be all warm and comfy in a mound of pillows.
My dad laid the cement and built the patio covering. It expanded our area of play. Our there we had army men wars and once even broke the sliding glass door when a pebble went flying from a “cannon”. That was Michael’s fault. Just saying.
The couple who owned the home after us added the screened in portion. Under the window (Mike and Rick’s room) was a garden that we used to play with doodlebugs in.
 In a tween year, our parents asked us an important question, “Would you all like a vacation or a pool?” We were super excited to go for the pool! So in my teen years, we had a pool in the spot that camera is aimed at. It was an above the ground, and we had many fun summers using it!
Again, like that orange brick?
Oh and see that tree in the first pic?? That was our climbing tree. It USED to be full and have many thick branches. We had a tire swing hanging from a branch and I used to get up there with a pillow and blanket and read!
bathroom

Main bathroom is the SAME

Imagine our surprise when we walked into the bathroom! It is 99% the same. The newer things are the cabinet hardware and the faucet. The tub is the same. Not sure about the toilet, so I’ll have to look at old pics. Even the contact paper inside the cabinets is the same blue flowers. That tub is where I had my first traumatic experience with a roach underneath a pile of bubbles. I think that’s where my phobia began. 🙂
I have no pics of my moms little half bath. It was all updated and everything was in its same spot. My biggest memory there was of my mom sitting on the toilet (dressed) backwards and doing up her makeup in the makeup mirror that sat on the back of the toilet. That room had makeup everywhere.
my room

My room that I shared with Mike and then Julie

Boys roomfan in parents roomis the SAME

same tub

Here is the kitchen. It used to be gold appliances and gold wallpaper. GLAD they updated. Ha! Window where we once had a peeping tom(freaky). It really surprised me that the kitchen cabinets and those handles are the SAME. Those higher cabinets on the right and these here in the pic on the right, were where mom kept the snacks. Could never sneak any  😦

Here is a great view of kitchen and den…..

kitchen and den from dining room

The electric fireplace was not there. We originally had an orange vinyl or plastic (or something) sofa on that wall. (What in the world did my mom see in ORANGE?). The fan is the same and the counter tops are debatable if they are the same or not. That bar is where we had lunch most days and that Christmas lemon meringue pie. Most years, there was a high chair at the end of the counter. The door on the left goes to the laundry room and Toy Room. The area in the picture is where friends and family would hang out. It’s where the first half (a little less, but we’re not going there) my life happened. That counter is where I drew quite often. The kitchen floor on the right is where I sat to talk to friends and Paul on the corded landline. It’s where I found out I was going to Dominican on the phone with my friend, Lisa. The den is where we took our pictures dressed up for Halloween and Mardi Gras and even some dances with Paul(even though those were mostly taken in the red carpeted front room).

I want you to know that I had the BEST childhood here. We rarely, if ever, went on a vacation that wasn’t in our pop up camper. We didn’t do Disney until I was 16-and it was in that pop up! We camped and spent time together. The only time we stayed in a hotel room was in Biloxi now and then for a family trip to the coast.

When playing, we used large boxes to make our “office” and cut windows in it for our “mail”. We used garbage bags as slip and slides and “went swinging” every day on the swing set in the backyard. We would spin in circles with the wind in our yard during hurricanes and play hit the deck when it thundered or a car passed by. We played kick the can in the street with our neighbors in the dark. We shot BB guns and learned to use sling shots and archery behind the levee. We hiked for “treasures” in the woods next to the Mississippi. We made up stories in our heads and “lived” them out. We snuck across Jefferson Highway to go to Time Saver for Icee’s. We played chicken in the floods of the Mississippi (our parents didn’t know till a few years ago) with the neighborhood kids. We bike rode ON THE SIDEWALK, like people do not do today. We purposely hit those breaks in the sidewalks for fun. We were barefoot all of the time. We played in the flood waters on our street with our mom.

This gift of seeing our childhood home makes me think about my own priorities, and how screwed up they can be.

It makes me see value in keeping my marriage strong. It helps me allow my kids to draw on the sidewalk, on the bathroom walls with bath crayon), climb a tree, and enjoy nature (If ony I married a camper!LOL).

When we moved from that home, during my parents divorce, I felt like everything SAFE was gone. Our lives, our magical wonderful imaginative camping lives, had come to an end.  Still, ouch. I had imagined my wedding pics being taken in the horrid red carpeted room with my dad and mom. I imagined grandparent visits and holidays there. All gone and wasn’t gonna happen.

I know that God doesn’t want us connected to material things, including an ugly orange house. In the end, it means nothing. In the end, it’s JUST me. Or you. Our souls bare before the Lord, showing every scar, sin, and horrible thing done. Leaving this house was my first BIG lesson in letting go, and that change is inevitable, and that nothing ever stays the same, even if it LOOKS like it. Sometimes it still hurts like yesterday- but that is just me. I am a live in the past, glass half empty gal sometimes! Yet, we need these things to grow spiritually.

I thank God for everything He has given me on a daily basis. My home, my old home(s), our old cars, but NOTHING compares to that thankfulness I feel for my children, my husband and my family(friends too!). I pray for the here and now that we have to create memories and traditions like I experienced in that old River Ridge home.

I gotta go and be a more proactive mom and wife.

God bless you all this CHRISTmas season!

Lori

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