Looking Back and Moving On

cold window

I touched the cold window, leaving behind an imprint of my hand. From the window of the van the snow-covered Kansas countryside looked like a long white blanket. We pulled into a long gravel driveway and silence fell as we all seemed to be thinking the same thing.

Kansas farmhouse

This was the first time my siblings and I had been on this property in the 24 years since our family moved to Texas. I looked over at my husband and two small children and smiled. What a joy to share this with them. My brother Jack, sister Debra and our families piled out of the van and stared at the brick house that was the setting for so many of my childhood memories. Since it was vacant we had a rare chance to see it one more time up close before the current owners sold it.

riding lawn mower

I adjusted my three-year-old daughter’s hood to keep the cold from her ears and took her gloved hand in mine. The steps in front of the house followed an incline in front of the large picture window. That was the living room window Debra and I had stood in front of watching the neighbor boy Dad hired to mow the lawn. A pebble had gotten caught in the mower and flew up and hit the window.

steps of old house

I held my daughter‘s hand as we walked up the steps, my husband and son following right behind us. It didn’t seem so long ago that I jumped up and down these steps. Funny how the most simple memories bring so much joy. I couldn’t appreciate these things then. I was much to busy making memories to stop and realize I was making memories.

black lab puppy

We approached the door, the familiar screen still in place, and I remembered the night our dog Buffy gave birth to a litter of puppies behind a bush right next to the door. There was a bad storm that night and Buffy had used her body to bang against the door and wake us up. I remembered my Mother reaching behind the bush and pulling three tiny puppies to safety. We kept them and named them Ozzie, Harriett and Nelson.

kitchen window

Above that bush was the kitchen window, with a direct view of my old friend Julie-Ann‘s house. She, like everyone else, had long ago moved on. In front of our house was a large hill which didn’t seem so large anymore. It was a perfect hill for sledding down in the winter or racing my bike down in the summer or just running with my arms stretched out beside me, not a care in the world.

rainbow colored blanket

Walking back around to the other side of the house I looked up at the window of the bedroom my sister Debra and I shared. We had beds on opposite sides of the room, each covered in rainbow patterned bedspreads that matched the rainbow patterned curtains. Shelves of teddy bears lined her side of the room, cabbage patch kid wall decorations lined mine. It couldn’t have been easy for her being a teenage girl sharing a room with her kid sister.

vegetable garden

I had stood staring out that same window with tears streaming down my face after my cat died. I was six years old and it was the first time someone I loved had died. Julie-Ann stood nearby trying to comfort me with tales of cat heaven. That same window looked out over the garden Mom loved. There is a picture of me in that garden holding up a huge tomato and smiling from ear to ear. I enjoyed picking them but I didn’t enjoy eating them.

clothesline pins

I walked over to the bare patch of grass where the clothesline had once stood. Hanging clothes on the line was the chore I hated the most. I couldn’t play until I did it and oh how I wanted to play. As I pinned each item, I would look out towards the field, the barn, the trees and the wide open spaces that called to me. As soon as I was free, I was halfway across the yard before the screen door finished slamming behind me. I’m sure the voice of my mother yelling “don’t slam the door” quickly followed, but I was too far away to hear her. There were adventures waiting, neighbor kids to play with and memories I didn‘t realize I was making. There was always something to do.

girl running with balloons

The sound of my son‘s voice brought me back to reality as I walked back around to the front of the house.

“Mommy, watch this!” he said, jumping down each step.

Just like I used to do. I thought.

I smiled at him in his joyful innocence and ability to find fun in the mundane. Why does growing up mean having to lose that sense of wonder? Why does the process have to hurt? I had a happy childhood and a family that loved me but it wasn’t enough to spare me from the pain of rejection, fear and loneliness that would come.

country road in winter

As we all piled back into the van Jack made a comment about moving on. He was right of course. To stay in the past means not being able to move on. And we need to move on to grow as human beings. There are new memories to make and new stories to write. At the same time the past can teach us so much about who we are and where we came from. There is nothing wrong with looking back as long as we don’t build a house and stay there permanently.

dinner party

I thought of this as we drove away, past the beautiful countryside I had always loved, into town, past the old shopping center where I first got my ears pierced, past the hospital where I was born, past the street where my Grandma had lived and past the funeral home where we had said our last goodbye to her.

So many memories.

Soon we would head back to our regular day to day lives in Texas. But for now we were heading towards my Aunt‘s house, full of the loved ones waiting for us in the here and now.

Do you have special memories of an old home? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

Barbra Jones

One Comment

  1. Growing up we lived in a small town in the MidWest where a kid could walk all over town or ride a bike and no one worried about you. Saturday afternoon matinees, the corner drug store, the neighbor kids, roller skating and in the summer a baseball game in someone’s yard almost every day after chores were done. Going to Grandma’s 10 miles away for Sunday dinner and playing with cousins. Thanks for the reminder!

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