Friday, February 28, 2014

Be It Ever So Humble

Sometimes when I read other people's posts or chat with friends or relatives, I feel very provincial and small. Growing up in my ethnic-rich steel town in the Midwest exposed me to many different cultures, but it didn't make me long to expand my horizons. Back then, everyone I knew was content to marry a local, get a good job close by, and stick around the family, living a life quite similar to what he or she grew up with. Things were fine in the seventies; if your dad worked at the steel mill, you could get a job there. Likewise with the Ford plant, Lake Terminal Railroad, Nelson Stud Welding,and, early on, AmShip. The days of the big labor strikes were gone, and everyone was doing fine. Travel, to me, meant packing up the Chevy, or later, the Buick, and driving to visit relatives in Pennsylvania or Florida or less than an hour away in another county. One year, we did go all the way across country exploring the West, but that trip is another whole post.

This exposition will become clear when you read today's question:

Where is the one place you have lived that you remember most fondly and why?

I have lived in two places my entire life, and they are eight miles/fifteen minutes apart. That is, unless you count college, then it is three. All of them would be in Ohio, however, which would then make it one. Now, if you want to specify "domiciles", then that helps me out considerably. I have lived in four, unless you still want to count college, then that would be seven. Again, all still in Ohio, though, so we are again back to ONE.

And I have fond memories of all of the places I've lived, pretty much. Growing up, our front yard had a tree right smack in the middle of it, a maple. It was a perfect tree, with a nice sturdy limb at just the right height always for sitting on or swinging a leg over to start climbing. There were perfect branches and crotches in the best places for lounging to read a book or just relax. If I wanted to bring up a transistor radio, there was always a place to wedge it in or hang it. If I didn't feel like climbing, its shade was cool and inviting, and my sister and I would spread a big blanket and lie there to color, play games, play dolls, or eat cherries or watermelon and spit seeds. It's old now, and covered with ivy. It looks tired and sort of misshapen. It hasn't been climbed in more than ten years. Maybe twenty.

At college one quarter I had the one and only chance I ever had in my life to live alone. It was satisfying and I loved it. I had always shared a room with both or one of my sisters. My first quarter at college I had three roommates, and it eventually levelled off at two. Finally, a single room happened to be available, and as a senior, I got it. It was like my tiny nest. I had everything I needed in there; I didn't have to worry about anyone bothering me with their bullshit, and anyone who came to the door was there for me. I didn't have to be a secretary part-time for anyone. It was quiet, small, and private. Alone, but not lonely.

After college, Rick and I got married and we moved into a one-bedroom apartment. When we planned to have a baby, we moved across the hall into a two-bedroom. Jared's room there was bright and airy and I was so happy with it. I liked a few things about apartment life, the tidiness of it, the compact smallness of things, the idea that it wasn't permanent. I remember how much I liked having flowers on our little balcony.

When Jared was just three months old, we moved into our house. It was a disaster when we bought it, the tenants having been forcibly evicted, and the landlord in Florida. Rick saw the potential immediately, but I didn't have that vision. I did, however, love the beautiful natural woodwork all throughout the house. I loved that it was small and neat; the rooms were defined with no big open spaces blending into one another. I laughed at the huge tree growing right in front of one of the garage doors. We got the house for a very low price and had the keys for a month before we moved in. We worked like crazy to get Jared's nursery and the bathroom and kitchen done first. Those memories...not so fond. It wasn't fun. And it was hard to be patient for the time that it took to get everything done and done right. I learned an awful lot. (Whether I wanted to or not.) It took forever for this house to feel like home to me. Of course, though, it does now although I can't recall when that happened.

If I began enumerating all the lovely memories we have of this house, it would sound like a list of cliches. And it might sound a great deal like a list so many of you could make as well. Jared and Sam knew no other home than this as children, and Sam has steadfastly refused to call any of his apartments "home." I'm glad that they both have moved out of this town and out to places that they can call their own. I want them to look past the boundaries of Ohio, too. That's my eventual plan, once the pieces all fall into place. I just hope they hurry. Patience--not my strongest trait.

I can't wait to hear of the wonderful and exotic locales where so many of you have lived. Sigh. So go ahead--tell me in comments. Or just chat about my wee life, quite a rarity in this day and age, I know.

note:  Blogger was acting oddly, so forgive the strange font appearance.


  1. The place I remember most fondly was a place where we didn't really live but spent two years there as temporary residents.

    The place was Milan, Ohio. My husband was working for NASA at the Plumbrook Station of Lewis Research Center.

    Roy was there all the time and I went to Milan every other week for 3 or 4 days to be with him.

    They were the best days ever! We went to Cedar Point and Put-In-Bay
    and the Mon Ami Champagne House and Kelley's Island.

    In Winter we watched the people ice fishing on Lake Erie and in Summer we visited all the little islands and wineries.

    During the days when Roy was at work I visited the library in Milan and became friends with the librarian who introduced me to the curator of the Thomas Edison Birthplace. He took me through the homestead several times telling me all the stories he knew about the Edison family.

    It was the most wonderful two years on our lives and we talked about that experience often in the years that followed.

  2. First of all, I just love that you turned that question into a whole post! What you describe - living pretty much in the same place your whole life, roots and all - is something that I have never experienced. I would say that 50% of me has always yearned for what I imagine is the wonderful security of knowing you really belong to a place and that you and your family are part of the fabric of a community. We started to get that after we'd lived in Kentucky for 8 years (and the house we owned, built in 1908, is a novel in itself)but we didn't make it much past that. In fact, 8 years was the longest either of us had ever lived anywhere (both of us had never lived anywhere longer than 4 years before that.) I really did start out with every intention of putting down roots and staying put, thinking it would provide everything that I felt I had missed out on as a kid - but who knows- we never found out. I suppose it's true that the grass is always greener, and I suppose our boys have turned out OK despite our wandering lives. I'm sure you're familiar with Judith Kerr's "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" - I read it in grade school a thousand years ago, and this quote was something I carried with me during my nomadic childhood (and my present expat posting:) "Papa," asked Anna, " Do you think we’ll ever really belong anywhere?”
    “I suppose not,” said Papa. “Not the way people belong who have lived in one place all their lives. But we’ll belong a little in lots of places, and I think that may be just as good.”

  3. Anonymous3:00 AM

    It took a spreadsheet to list everything out, but counting every place in which I've habitated for at least a month, I've lived in a total of 26 different places (houses, dorms, apartments, and a mobile home) in 13 different cities, spread across 8 states (and one in Italy).

    Part of that is based on the fact that my parents were divorced when I was young and had joint custody, so as a child I lived in nine different places (all in the same city). And another part is the nature of switching locations every year during college and grad school, and going away to camps and research programs for summers.

    I have fondness for many of the places for different reasons, but a few stick out. One of my dorm rooms in college was on the 21st floor of an apartment building with waist to ceiling windows and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge; I'll never be able to afford a view like that again. Also, the co-op where I lived in Berkeley was quite a crazy experience (some of which you heard about on your recent visit), and I think it helped me come out of my shell in interesting and unforeseen ways. And I really enjoyed my last semester of grad school, where the house wasn't anything special but one of my then housemates is still a very close friend.

    On a side note, the idea of being an adult and still living in one's childhood home is so foreign to me. We left it when I was four and never looked back. And living in San Francisco, where houses rarely go for half a million dollars, I don't know if I'll ever truly have my own place.

    Different strokes.

  4. 28 places: apartments, dorms, condos & houses in Honolulu, Boston, Rochester, Annapolis, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Manama (Bahrain), Madrid, Dallas.

    Fondest memories: Really, lots of those places, for very different reasons, but the ones that stand out:

    1. I loved our house on the outskirts of Annapolis, literally a few blocks from the Chesapeake Bay. What a wonderful place to grow up for several years (in spite of the fact that it was where my father built a bomb shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis)--- lots of wooded areas, the beach, and where I met one of my best friends in the whole world, with whom I am still in contact, and had a reunion with a few years back on the 50th anniversary of meeting each other.

    2. Madrid, my little studio apartment, as well as the other abodes I had there in earlier years. That is where I "grew up" as an adult in my early twenties, and where for the following 24 years, I made most of the rest of my life-long friends. There isn't room to talk about all of that, and I am fearful of yet again writing another "post" in the comments section.

    Your "wee" life is really large and full of memories that would make a lot of people envious, believe me. I am one of those people who can't lay claim to a home town, and was insanely jealous of friends who always talked about going over to see their cousins on the weekend, or had 3 generations of family born in the same house.

    In the end, I think the places that are dearest to me are dear to me for the same reasons that you and others have pointed out: they tug at your heartstrings. They have indelible memories attached to them that make you remember them with fondness, whether it was the day you finally had enough money for some decent furniture or the fact that you put up with the stove that poured out smoke from time to time, but occasionally produced a really good meal.

  5. Let's see, counting various dorm rooms, I've lived in 15 different abodes in NC (10 places in 5 different cities), Zambia (3 different places in Lusaka) & Ohio (2 places in 2 different cities). I'm counting the time we had to move across the courtyard to a different townhouse because our roof blew off in a storm as two places.

    I love the house I grew up in (that my parents built when I was four). My dad still lives there & I stay in "my" room when we go visit. It still has pink walls :)

    I also loved the one place where I ever lived alone, just for a few months. It was a small house on the seminary campus in Lusaka Zambia. I LOVED living alone there! It was so nice not to have to coordinate food & schedules.

    But I think my favorite place is where we live now - our first house together.

    You know, I never really expected that I would go so far afield. Or, I thought maybe I would move to a big city somewhere. But Ohio feels like home now.

    On the other hand, it was 80 degrees in Zambia today :)

  6. Boy, I used to think I had moved a lot, but your other commenters are a nomadic bunch, to be sure.

    I think my favorite place to live was San Francisco, though perhaps that was my age as well...I moved there at 21 and left at 28. It was a great 7 years.

  7. Bug--Zambia! Now that was an adventure. I take it you were on mission there, and had a lot to do. Do you think you'll go back and take The Professor? What a wonderful trip that would be.

    Ortizzle--My goodness, what a lot of homes! Bahrain, Spain,'re a well-travelled woman. I know how much you loved Madrid and all you soaked in culturally. Travel broadens a person's experiences exponentially, I think, and actually living in different places/cultures, even "domestically", really creates a multi-faceted person. It's unimaginable to me. I know that "the grass is always greener" is a common mentality, as someone already said, but rather than me wishing for curly hair and a curly-haired person wishing for straight hair, I feel like this is different in its depth. Probably, had I sought them, the opportunities for travel/living elsewhere were there for me as a student, but I was single-minded in my focus on my goals: graduate before my money ran out and marry Rick. I guess it's also a priority issue at that point. I met him my first year in college, though, and that was it.

    mikey--You were born with the wanderlust, and you've made the most of it. Travel and moving around are natural to you, and your temperament is suited to it. I'm getting there a tiny bit. Baby steps.

    MsCaroline--Thanks. I'm glad you are ok with how I chose to answer your meme. I think you bring up a good point: some people are just nomadic by nature. They don't like to stay in one place; it's against their nature. They can't stay put; they have to wander and discover, like the explorers did. I'm home-and-hearth.

    Nancy--My dad took us on a day trip to Milan when I was probably seven years old. Maybe eight. We toured the Edison House and grounds and a general store. I remember looking at someone's dress on a dress form, some ancient jars containing canned goods, and some of Edison's inventions. In that order. Mon Ami is still a winery, but not a champagne house. The last time I went to Cedar Point I was pregnant with Jared! It is bigger and more expensive and showcases roller coasters now. Come visit me in NEO, and we can take a drive to the ferry landing. I'll take you back to the Islands and we can make a day of it--or two!

  8. I have only lived in five different abodes, and I would have to say that my favorite was the apartment I shared with a roommate in Northern California for a year.

    It wasn't a great apartment, but it was mine and for the first time I had no parents asking me questions about where I was going or what I was doing, and it was a heady feeling to know that I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. No boyfriend up there, either.

    I was 21.

    The experience of living with that roommate was awful because she was kind of an awful person, but I still associate that time with this wonderful sense of independence that I have never had in quite the same way again.

  9. Gina--All on your own, of legal age, and in California. I'll say it was a heady time!

    The whole roommate thing is almost always difficult, I think, even if you live with someone you know well and are friends with. Living with a person is far different than being friends with him/her. I learned that lesson when I got married, and I learned it abruptly. That's why I often wonder if it is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing for couples to live together before marriage, you know?


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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