Life comes at you fast… yep, Nationwide insurance… your marketing team sure got that right!! Here I sit… turning 40 in mid-August; whenever I reminisce about my life, my childhood is one of my favorite moments closely followed by my college years. Have you ever taken the time to consider how you got to where you are today?
Remembering the people, places, and things that guided you along the way can be both eye-opening and therapeutic. Well, recently I carved out a moment to do just that… and I discovered a surprising place in my history, more specifically my childhood, that provided me the security I needed while learning to ride this bike called life.
July 2011, I attended a four-day intensive seminar called “Life Success” and it changed me. During that weekend, 40 people of varying ages, genders, and races were pulled together from across the globe to share their fears, goals, struggles, hopes, and dreams.
Complete strangers shared their most intimate and personal stories of struggle and triumph. What wonderful people I was blessed to get to know in such a short period of time. We were broken into small groups to make our crowd a bit more manageable. Throughout the four days, we participated in mediations, individual exercises, one-on-one activities, small group as well as large group interactions, and feedback sessions.
During one of the meditations, the instructor guided us back to our childhood home. He said, “Perhaps you haven’t been there in awhile, or you moved and no longer live there, or you moved multiple times, but none of that matters because when we say home, there will be one place that stands out to you… go there!”
In my mind, I went to 5457 North 250 West; my childhood home in Indiana which sat smack-dab in the middle of farmland. During the guided imagery exercise, the instructor asked us to “open the door, walk inside… Who is there? What do you feel? What or who do you see? Are there any smells that hit you? Explore each memory as it appears.”
As soon as I opened the “imaginary” door to my home, I wanted to cry. Why? I had the most carefree, blissful, and loving childhood. I fought back my tears because I really couldn’t rationalize why I would be so emotional. Crying is for sadness and misery, right? At the end of the exercise, my small group discussed what we experienced.
Looking around at my group, I could see swollen eyes from crying and even a few were still crying. We sat there listening intently as several shared very difficult memories which surfaced for them as soon as they envisioned walking into their childhood home. I felt a little guilty that my childhood was damn near perfect; no painful memories surfaced for me. I sat in silence while in my head I was busy thanking God for my wonderful parents who were dedicated and determined to give us a stable home full of love and encouragement.
In 1989, my parents sold our family home and we moved to another Indiana town 217 miles away from my birthplace. I was excited because as a teenager I longed to live in a city or subdivision rather than in the middle of cornfields.
I had just turned sixteen, a junior starting a brand new high school, and I was ecstatic… not fearful at all. We left and I never looked back. I knew phenomenal opportunities were in store for me. I was right… my life has turned out pretty damn good. I was thankful for the opportunity to “start over” in a new location.
The guided meditation had me thinking about my youth and where I grew up. Memories flooded my mind. I had such a desire to walk back through that house, but my family no longer owned the place.
Two years ago, a friend from back home let me know my family home was for sale. Oh, how I wanted to drive the three hours to Indiana just for the opportunity to walk inside… just one more time. Life got in the way and I never made the drive before the house was sold again.
Each time I go home to visit extended family, I always take a nostalgic tour down country road 250 West through cornfields to see the old “neighborhood” then I drive past my old school, Northwestern, that I attended from kindergarten through the end of my sophomore year. **here are the cornfields surrounding my country home**
With each visit I try to capture through pictures just how much has changed over time. It dawned on me that I tend to get home for some family get together or event about once every five years.
This last visit was due to a family funeral. Yes, you know it… I took my drive down memory lane. As I made my way past my house slowly, I saw a 60-ish year old man doing yard work in the front lawn. I felt compelled to stop. It was as if my car knew she had to pull into the driveway. I took a deep breath and slowly exited my vehicle. **here is my house, 2013**
This man’s face light up with the largest smile and he said hello! Through my nervousness I muttered, Hi… you don’t know me. I’m sorry to bother you, but I grew up here and just had to stop. We moved in 1989.
Next thing you know he yells, “Honey, there is a cute young red head here who wants to see the house.” He continues, “C’mon in, my wife will show you around.” WOW. I was speechless. Without even asking, complete strangers welcomed me into their home?!
How surreal. As soon as you walk in the front door, the first door on your right was my bedroom. This couple had turned it into an office. What a tiny space. When I was a kid this room was huge!! It never seemed small to me. It was MY space to do with what I wanted. It was big enough for a dresser, desk, and twin bed. **here I am… at my Holly Hobby desk**
Upon entering I was shocked the room was so tiny. Did it shrink over the years? Ha! Then, I looked at my bedroom windows and saw the baby blue venetian blinds my mom hung in 1984 when we redecorated my room for the umpteenth time. WOW. It felt like a piece of me was still THERE!!!!
With each room we walked through, I shared what was the same and or different now. The couple moved in just two years ago and they were so interested in everything I had to share. It was neat to walk through the house that provided me such safety growing up. **here I am… in 1978 wearing my yellow dress on my first day of kindergarten**
When we entered my parent’s room the wife said, “I dunno if this walk-in closet was here or if it was added after you left?” Smiling, I responded, Yes, it was here. I remember playing in there while my mom would get ready. Oh, Wow, I feel like I’m going to cry. And then it started… the water works erupted. The man immediately left the room. Oops, I think I startled him. Ha!
All throughout the house, I cried… happy tears of course. Those feelings I fought back during the guided meditation came rushing through me now. There was no holding anything back. My first bike was given to me at this house, my first day of kindergarten, my first ride on the school bus, happy times playing with my baby brother… so many memories!! **here I am… in 1979 standing in our original driveway waiting for my first bus ride**
This generous woman took me out to the back yard and shared how they lived in town for years, but now that they are retired they always wanted to live in the country. Her husband sat on the back deck, “The place where you were raised is very important… I completely understand. It is very special. There are a few houses I wished I had a chance to visit again too.”
I asked if I could walk through again; thankfully, she obliged. It was amazing to know the original built-in hutch was STILL in the kitchen and to see for myself all that had been changed over the years. I was so emotional that I cannot, for the life of me, remember their names… even though I asked several times. **here I am… with my first “big girl” bike in 1977; complete with training wheels, ha! – notice the tree in the background… look how huge it is in comparison to the picture I took of the house (above) in 2013… WOW!!**
As I walked to my car, still sobbing, I was so moved. I was so happy. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that this kind couple shared with me. They said, “Tell your parents we love this place… your house is being taken care of and not to worry.” This was a very comforting thing to hear.
When growing up you don’t even notice that your home is the invisible family member who is ever present. This acknowledgement made me want to burst at the seams with pure joy. Before I drove away, I snapped one last picture of my house; and continued to cry as I drove away. Of course. Ha!
When I drove a bit out of view, I pulled my car over so I could post this wonderful experience and pictures on Facebook. I had to share with all of my friends and family immediately. **here I am… attempting to “workout” with my brother while our Daddy looks on in amusement**
One of my college pals said my story reminded her of a song by Miranda Lambert. I’m not a huge country music fan, so I had never heard of the song… which led me to Google it. Take a quick watch/listen to her music video: http://youtu.be/DQYNM6SjD_o.
My friend was so right… this song says it all; the lyrics share exactly what it felt like to walk through my childhood home. Who says you can’t go home? You can do anything… all you need to do is show up!!
It never dawned on me how much this little house meant to me and means to me still. Even while typing this post, tears stream down my face. This home provided me the training wheels I needed to feel safe as I grew and learned to navigate through life. Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” says it so poignantly. I hope everyone has a chance to walk through the house that built them. It is definitely an unimaginable feeling and a treasured experience.
I’m beyond thankful to the sweet couple who so instantly welcomed me into their home… but no matter who lives there… it will always be MY home. I pray I give this feeling to my kids one day… everyone deserves such joy and comfort as a child!!! Thanks, Mom and Dad!! I love you both, xo!!
© Renae Rossman and Candy Coated Reality™