Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I cherish my childish loves...
the memory of that warm little nest where
my affections were fledged. 
                                                                       ~George Elliot

Waseca, Minnesota.

Population 9,611.


a little slice of Americana heaven...and a blessing to me.

Just the mention of the 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

Red Rover

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 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 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 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.


Mrs. Monty

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'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 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:

Disney World.

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 is HOME.







and remember the laundry chute??
enter exhibit A:


exhibit B:
(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 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.

( 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.



Anonymous said...

The basement is exactly how I remember it too! Eating English muffins at the "breakfast bar"...playing Sorry and hide'n go seek in the basement. I hid in the sauna! The slumber parties in your basement...all the sleeping bags lined up on the family room floor - no where to walk. Girl Scout meetings at your house - your Mom was our leader. In your bedroom you had a cork board to hang pictures and letters and things - I'd not seen one and thought it was soooo cool! I remember when you told me you were leaving and how VERY sad I was. I'm glad to get little snipitts of your life now. Fast forward 30 some years later, you with a family of your own - you are an amazing person! Thanks for being my facebook friend! :)

Sending Love and Hugs to Florida from Minnesota! Michele

Anonymous said...

Jen - Please - this is so incredibly meaningful. You captured every essence of what going back home meant - in such specific ways, that anyone reading this felt all your emotions on so many levels.
I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that we did this. I got as much out of it as you girls. I never DREAMED that I would walk thru that house again.
And having Neil show us the way was the cherry on the top.
Of course, running into Millie was one of the high points for me. It was all such an experience to share this all with you girls.
Thanks for capturing all of this for us. You did an amazing job.

DGMommy said...

Absolutely Amazing!!!! Such great memories (very impressed with how much you remember), what a trip back home it was, and Waseca is still the town I remember! Your pictures capture the true essence of that beautiful place that will always remain in my heart. The grass. . . can we talk about the grass! Absolutely splendid:)))

Love you! Thank you!!


Grandpa said...

Oh Jennifer. . . I so enjoyed reading your memories of our family home . . . seeing it through your eyes . . . seeing how it was such a special time of your life . . . it brings back so memories that I realize it was such a special time in mine . . . Thank you so much!

. . . I believe our 7 years living at 805 5th Avenue Southeast forged the loving bond you have with your sisters Molly and Kelly . . . that has never wavered . . . and never will.

. . . now about those parties in the basement . . . with the country music blaring . . . with voices loud . . . I can only imagine what in the world you must have been thinking . . . I guess that will go down as one of those mysteries of life.

Thank you again . . . now where are those Tissues when you need one?

Love Ya!

Dad & Grandpa

Kelly said...

Holy memory batman! Did you go to a hypnotist to remember all that? Surely, you went to one in town after the trip? It was so cool to relive all those memories with everyone remembering something different. Then to surprise everyone was the icing on the cake! Being with you and crew was the cherry! xoxo to infinite :)