The house that built me

Over at Half-Pint House Megan linked to a Miranda Lambert music video that looked nostalgically back at her childhood home.  It got me thinking of memories from my own childhood home.

Through the magic of googlemaps, I was able to find a recent picture of my home, which looks almost exactly as I remember it from  childhood. I was a preacher’s kid, so we lived next to the church.  It was a sweet split-level house, with three bedrooms upstairs and a family room, office and another bedroom in the basement.  When we lived there, the garage was converted to living space which was used first as a church.  After the church was built next door, the garage space was used as a bedroom and an office.

When I think about that house, the very first thing that comes to my mind is sitting by the big front window that must have been single paned glass.  It got very cold in the winter.  I remember sticking my tongue against the window once, and for a few panic-stricken seconds freezing my tongue to the glass.  In one corner of the window, there was a tiny circular hole, I think from a neighbor boy’s BB gun.

I set up a doll hospital on the staircase that led from the front door up to the living room, and called it the Poke-Eye Hospital in honor of one of my dolls who had sustained an eye injury in my care. I remember the black wrought-iron railing that separated the staircase from the living room, and the green rocking chair that we used to spin each other in circles until we were sick to our stomachs.

Also high in my memory: my mother playing March From Aida loudly on the piano while we little kids marched from living room to dining room through kitchen with its orange-patterned 70’s carpet and back to the living room.

Behind our house was a public school.  On the road leading to that school, I learned to ride a bike with my dad running behind, had a major bike crash with a friend (there’s still a scar on my chin) and learned to drive stick shift on my dad’s green 1959 Chevy pickup truck.

Next to the house was our church.  I attended school there through the 8th grade, taught mostly by my dad, almost one-room schoolhouse style.  We played wiffleball at recess time in good weather– bases were painted on the church parking lot. (I preferred to sit in the outfield with a book.) In the winter we passed our recesses playing checkers and chess, doing gymnastics, and riding a balance board.  Most years the whole school consisted of fewer than 2 dozen kids, and I never had anyone in my grade until I started public school in the 9th grade.

In the little church on Sundays, my siblings and I sat in the back row, just in front of the organ, so that my momma could hiss ‘Be good’ warnings without missing a note on the organ.  My dad stood up front, singing with all his voice and soul, leaving no doubt Who had his heart.  When he made an especially impassioned point in a sermon, he’d rise up on his toes.  I was confirmed in that church, watched siblings being baptized in that church.  One unfortunate morning I also dropped my baby sister on her head in the cry-room.  She did indeed cry.  And I think my mother missed a few notes on the organ too.

In the back yard of our house grew the best oak tree ever.  I spent hours there, reading books, talking with siblings and friends, and occasionally having grand acorn fights with hapless victims down below.  A few times we climbed from the tree onto the roof of our house, peeking over the peak to watch cars drive by below, until a neighbor spotted kids on the roof, and pulled over to knock on our front door and tell our parents we were risking our necks.

Across the street lived my best friend Nicole.  We went swimming in her pool, took in our bell-bottom jeans on my mom’s sewing machine, walked together to the store 6 blocks away to buy Snickers bars, and sat on the church steps playing AC/DC and Van Halen music on our boom boxes.  One winter day we also fell into the frozen creek in the park behind our house, and had to walk back home dripping, wet pant legs freezing around our ankles.

When our family moved to Idaho when I was 16, my heart stayed for awhile back in Missouri in that little white house.  I didn’t believe that anyplace could be better than that one.  I found out later that there were other good homes, homes that would hold more of my memories close for me.  But the memories of my childhood home remain incredibly sweet.


Would you like to blog about the house that built you?  If you do, I hope you will leave a link to your post in comments, below.




  1. But did your sister forgive you?!

  2. AC/DC!! Van Halen! Mary, I am shocked, shocked I tell ya! ;o)

    Lovely recollections…I enjoyed reading this immensely.

  3. *tears* – And I spill them out every time I hear that song play because THIS is what I want for my kids. I know they will have different memories of all the different places we lived and all the processes of getting to said places, but I want them to have some roots in a place.

    Thanks for posting this today!

    • Megan,
      Don’t worry! Your family will have roots, memories of the culture that is your family. Habits, foods, activities, things you say in a repetitive way, what you do to celebrate birthdays, crazy things you experienced together, vacations you took, etc…
      Your kids WILL have roots and memories, just by virtue of being in your family!

  4. what a sweet post – love it and I will have to listen to that song!

    My mom still lives in our childhood home, at least the home that I spent most of my childhood in. We did live elsewhere when I was pre-k age, but I have very fuzzy memories of that house. Most of my memories are from the home I spent most of my formative years in. That house was safety to me. I spent hours in the yard pretending I was a horse and jumping over our swings, hours in the driveway playing basketball, rollerskating and playing tennis in the basement (it wasn’t that big but somehow it worked!), and tons of time in the vacant lot with neighborhood kids, skateboarded and rollerskated down the street, and played kick the can and hockey and tennis in the circle/cul de sac. We trick or treated together as a group, we walked to elementary school (without parents, even in kindergarten), and rode our bikes everywhere. I even used to walk my horse to my house from the barn miles away to give him a bath and let him eat our rich green grass as a special treat! That home gave me my absolute best friend – we are best friends to this day, even though we live in separate states and don’t talk enough. I will never forget that home and I only wish I could give my kids those same memories!! I had a blessed and charmed childhood and I do realize how lucky I am!

  5. I loved reading your post. It got me thinking of the home where I lived for the first 25 years of my life. There are so many memories.


    Here’s a post about my great grandparents home that used to nestle on a piece of land that is now under Lake Arcadia…we used to watch the fireflies at night and lay on the hood of the car and watch shooting stars…

    We’d walk down the old country roads singing “The Ants Go Marching”….good times…

  7. I blogged about this not that long ago…because I love that song. Here’s what I wrote:

    Loved reading about your memories. I wish life were that simple for my kids.

  8. How sweet. : )
    Not sure how I’d go about such an assignment. I’d moved 7 times before my 12th birthday. I did then stay put for 5.5 years, until I left for college at 17… 20 hours from home, of course! (And then between my junior and senior years my parents moved from WI to PA while I was out of the country. At least they told me and gave me the address!)

  9. Such wonderful memories Mary

  10. Mary, I really appreciated this post and even read the last paragraph to my 16 year old. We are about to move and he is really struggling. Thanks!

  11. I can really identify with this post. My dad was a minister too, and we lived for 9 years in a house very similar to yours, except the space for the extra bedroom in the basement was my dad’s office. It was a brand new church, without its own building for several years, so our house was several miles away from the buildings we rented for services and from where the new church was eventually built. Even though I lived in other states and houses before and after that house, that’s the house I consider to be my childhood home. Thanks for bringing back the memories.