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A House That Was a Home

A House That  Was a Home
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
A House That  Was a Home
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

After Mom decided to sell the family home earlier this year, our family members joined forces to go through things, pack boxes, move furniture, store things, get rid of stuff and perform some much needed maintenance on the Spanish-style, ranch house in Bonaire. For months, we’ve worked. Last week, my sister, Audrey, and I made a final push, spending four days there to get it across the finish line.

Leaving on that last day wasn’t easy. I turned and took one last look at my dad’s game room — with its Gandy pool table and two large wall murals designed to look like the covers of vintage sportsman magazines — and I could hear the distant echoes of the life we had at 200 Lake Placid Drive for over 50 years.

The game room was where my father entertained friends and family. It’s where he hung his taxidermy animal trophies — a deer, a bobcat, a fox, a raccoon, fox squirrels and a largemouth bass he called, “Ol Moe.” That room is where we decorated real cedar Christmas trees every December, with mounds of gifts piled underneath its boughs. It’s where we played Scrabble and rummy around the game table. It’s where we had some private moments with boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s where my nieces and nephews played with Hot Wheels, put together puzzles, dressed up, and watched cartoons.

As I walked from room to room last week, the entire house was eerily hollow without the furniture, knick knacks, the people and the laughter and conversations that once bounced from wall to wall. The kitchen didn’t smell like biscuits or cornbread any more. The hall bathroom didn’t smell like strawberry shampoo and Irish Spring. There was no John Denver, Donnie Osmond or Lynn Anderson music coming from a back bedroom record player. My parents’ bathroom didn’t smell like Old Spice. There were no dogs or cats running around in the backyard, nor was there a bountiful garden stretching from one side of the yard to the other — with tomatoes the size of grapefruits clinging to vines. There were no laughing kids jumping up and down on a trampoline, playing games of HO- R-S-E or P-I-G on the backyard basketball goal, or jumping the ditch via bicycle ramps.

I walked through the rooms and was reminded of sitting in the floor in the laundry room and reading the same books over and over again while my mother cooked supper in the next room. I could see Mom hunched over her Sears Kenmore sewing machine making clothes for my sister and me — cussing at the machine that often made a tangle of threads underneath the fabric. In the family room, I was reminded of my dad sprawled out on the green linoleum flooring near the fireplace cleaning his guns and sharpening his knives — a glass of bourbon and coke beside him on the floor and a cigarette burning in a nearby ashtray. I remembered my brother practicing his trumpet in one of the bedrooms and my sister learning how to play the flute in the next room. I remembered sitting at the kitchen table, not just to eat, but to sand and paint ceramics, color Easter eggs, or do my homework.

I remembered the week we continued from page

moved into the new 2200-square-foot house in the early 1970s, and how I thought that we were living like the rich and famous. I remembered making friends with an army of neighborhood kids and walking to a nearby park to play tennis or softball. I saw Mom in the yard tending her plants and flowers, as chickens and ducks roamed the expanse of the large lot. The vacant parcel behind us was full of blackberries that we picked and converted to cobblers — mmmm, delicious!

I flashed back to turning cartwheels and walkovers in the stiff Centipede grass, learning to skate on the driveway, twirling my baton in a shady patch of the front yard and standing in the front yard at dusk when the mosquito truck drove by, showering me and friends with a fog of something that was probably cancerous. And in my mind’s eye, I saw the night my father died — how my husband and I had visited, and how he lay on the sofa in the family room, so weak and so frail, my mother sitting at his feet, and how seeing him that evening shook me to my core.

And as the good and the bad memories flooded in, I realized that they are all in the past. The house is empty now, after years of love, laughter and tears. It’s just a house now — a house that served us well.

But back then, it was a home — imbued with warmth, love, and a sense of belonging that only family can provide. It is the interactions, shared experiences, and emotional connections among family members that transform bricks and mortar into a sanctuary of comfort and happiness.

“I was doing okay until [the realtor] put the lock box on the front door,” my sister told me the day after we left. “That’s when it really got to me.”

I had my moments, too, but looking back at my father’s game room was probably the hardest for me.

I hope the next owners love and appreciate our house — our home — as much as we did for five decades. I hope they paint the walls and make some much needed improvements. I hope they fill the yard again with flowers, vegetable gardens and toys. Most of all, I hope they make their own memories there and miss it as much as we will when the time comes for them to close the door and move on.

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