I cherish my childish loves...
the memory of that warm little nest where
my affections were fledged.
a little slice of Americana heaven...and a blessing to me.
Just the mention of the town...like when our family gets together and someone says "remember in Waseca"...and my heart floods with images, memories, stories...that make up the fabric of who I am....
the train that went by our house every morning and every night
hopscotch in the basement next to Dad's workbench...on the floor that had the coolest checkerboard tiles
holding molly by her feet as I dangled her happy body down the laundry chute...and getting in HUGE trouble for that.
going for walks to "The Little Store" for penny candy
picking dandelions and blowing them into the wind
4th of July picnics and fireworks at Clear Lake Park
searching for four-leaved clovers in the backyard...and finding some
having to wear a snowsuit under my Halloween costume
sitting next to Mom on her sewing bench...examining her busy hands stitch badges onto my Brownie sash
playing circus as I walked along the entire length of the top of the red fence that enclosed our backyard
jumping that fence to pick fresh raspberries and rhubarb from the neighbors' gardens...eating our treasures from under the stream of a garden hose...everyone had gardens and everyone shared.
dancing in mounds of fall leaves
walking down the basement stairs on my hands, head first
sneaking down those same steps on late nights, spying on babysitters....or even better, wild parties thrown by mom and dad. the sounds of loud music, shouting, and belly laughter were those I had never EVER heard from any grown up I knew. I still wonder about those parties...hmmmm
dad's keg of beer on tap behind the basement bar
dad stretched out on the yellow couch in the basement, wearing huge headphones, belting out George Jones songs so loud you could hear it from the kitchen upstairs.
(I think this may be keg related, can't be sure. I was only a kid.)
climbing to the very top of the front yard tree...clinging to the tallest branches as I stuck my head through the top....so I could see down the entire street.
what a sight this must have been. a thick, huge leafy tree... with a child's head stuck out of the top.
endless hours of Hide-and-Seek...in a house that was truly meant for playing Hide-and-Seek
bananas and cream
sitting inside my dad's car as he washed it...listening to the sounds of water and sudsy sponges splattered against the windows, as I played Olivia Newton John on his 8-track
Mom's garden...eating fresh green beans from our backyard
shucking corn with the family on the back porch...peeling the thick leaves back, releasing the wispy fibers to float across the yard
the first day of Kindergarten with my metal Scooby Doo lunch box.
badminton in the back yard.
sitting under our fragrant lilac tree and reading Nancy Drew.
the red and white striped swing set.
riding my bike so fast down the hill that my pedals couldn't keep up with the speedy wheels...so I just kicked my heels out and held on for dear life.
birthday parties...Mom went out of her way to make each one special, complete with a homemade bunny cake and always, ALWAYS a game of clothespin and musical chairs
countless trips the library...where I learned how to use the card catalog system, with tattered cards held in the small mahogany drawers I just loved to open and close. Finding a book was an adventure.
throwing Christmas paper into the fireplace to make cool colors
sitting with Mom at the kitchen table...learning a love for arts and crafts...she seemed to be able to make everything. still does.
walking to school every day...over the railroad tracks, down the hill, past the park, and down the street.
walking home from school in the winter and feeling the loud crunch of the snow under my boots with every step.
my yellow-gold, sparkly banana seat bike. emphasis on the sparkles.
family bike rides...Kelly on the back of Mom's bike, Molly on the back of Dad's, and me on said banana seat
biking to Dairy Queen, eating creamy cones with sprinkles, then heading off to the pastures to visit cows. Dad would "moo" at them...and they answered. Hysterical.
sledding down the hill at the end of the street for hours...until Moms called us in at dark
running all the way home from first grade to see my new baby sister Kelly...I still remember being amazed at how pink and squishy she looked
sharing a room with Molly, convincing her to stay up way too late to play "bicycle"...which eventually erupted into a fit of giggles, getting in trouble, spankings, and guilt that I made her break the rules. I always did it again.
long drives to Grandma and Grandpa O'Reilly's house in Minneapolis, dreaded only because that meant we had to wear seat belts, which seemed like forever...turns out it was only an hour
TV shows in the basement...only 4 channels.....Mary Tyler Moore, Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Sesame Street, The Bugs Bunny Show, and Zoom
South Side Elementary...Mrs. Klomp, Mr. Homer, Mrs. Brecke, and Mrs. Miller.
Childhood friends...I remember their faces now like it was yesterday...Michele Berg, Tammy Lykken, Amy Prescher, Ann Klugartz, Mike Muedeking, and Bobby Kubat
playing on the railroad tracks, hearing the train coming, and ducking for cover long before it arrived...because that train held bad guys, fairies, princes, monsters...or whatever character played a pivotal role in our games that day.
walking across the tracks to feed horses handfuls of grass and flowers...their large, graceful bodies would meander over to the fence when we approached.
coming home each night, filthy and exhausted from a full day of outside play, welcomed with a hot meal, sudsy bath and bedtime stories.
If it sounds idyllic......it's because Waseca, Minnesota really was.
and I am so grateful.
We lived there until I was nine. Nine years of that friendly, small town, simple life, everyone-knows-everyone.....goodness.
I still remember hearing the news that we would be moving...dad was getting a new job at some dreadful place called Motorola and that meant we would all be moving to some place called Florida...which further meant I would have to leave my friends, my school, my neighborhood...
and my home.
I didn't want to go. I fought the move. I cried. I begged. I didn't want to move away from everything I loved to everything I didn't know...and it didn't help matters that my nine-year-old brain was convinced for some reason that kids in Florida went to school under Chickee Huts on the beach and wore loin cloths...hoo boy. My poor parents.
Turns out that the tipping point to get Little Miss Resistant on board was just two little words:
Fast forward 33 years...
We went back home. Mom, Molly, Kelly and me.
Back home to 805 5th Avenue South East.
and not only did we visit our childhood home, but we were blessed enough to be welcomed inside by one of the nicest, sweetest souls I will ever meet. Neil and his family have lived in our house forever too...and love it just as much. He took the time to show us every room, tell us every story he could think of, and he listened intently to ours. Bless his heart.
As we walked slowly across the lawn, under the trees, through the backyard, through the front door, and inside every room...
I felt a flood of endless memories...over and over...ones that I had tucked away for years but had always kept close to my heart.
To most this is just another house...
for me..........it is HOME.
and remember the laundry chute??
enter exhibit A:
(how did we ever fit her body in there?)
view from my bedroom window was still the same, sans red fence...
mom and dad's bathroom...I knew they were going out on any given night if my mom had blotted her lipstick on a crumpled up tissue, located somewhere inside here...
and the basement...oh, that wonderful basement.
it was nearly identical to my memories...
and the familiar, comforting scent of knotty pine nearly knocked me over with memory overload.
the original barstools...there they stood...
and the magical checkerboard hopscotch floor next to Dad's workbench...
there it was, staring back at me, as if to say...do you remember me?
even the sauna Dad built was still standing...I remember him downstairs in the basement working for hours, days, months on his special project...until finally it was done.
Dad built a sauna in our basement.
Saying that aloud seems so bizarre (who builds saunas in their house??), but back then, it all seemed so normal. Ha.
He even displayed a sign, all official-sauna-like.
Use at your own risk, people.
back outside...I didn't want to leave.
to a view of our next door neighbors...The Shumachers house...where we spent endless hours...
and the tree....THE TREE.
the best climbing tree ever invented in the history of trees.
(well...it will always be my favorite anyway)
This is a tree I could hug.
with the best view of Waseca from here:
Thank you to Neil, and the entire Dickie family, for allowing us to visit "our" home one more time. There are no words to describe the magical day you gave to 3 Waseca girls and their Mom. We will never, EVER forget it.
One of the most comforting things about going back home was meeting Neil...such a good soul, who lives in the house that was so good to us....and he loves and takes care of that sacred house just like we would.
I feel so blessed for that day. Somehow, strangers who grew up in the same house, loved it the same, and met in the most random arrangement of events have been bonded together in a very special way.
A sign inside 805 5th Avenue SE says it all:
it really is where your heart is.