The House That Helped Build Me

If any of you have ever heard the song The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert, then you know it is a poignant tribute…

 I never listen to that song without thinking of the house that  I grew up in, in Colorado. We moved there when  I was little, first grade maybe and my parents remained in that house until 1999 when they decided to move to where my brother was, and still is in a milder climate.  Unless you consider summer.  There is nothing mild about 120 degrees with lows of 90.  I don’t care if you are the devil.   It is also where I now am…

Murray Forbes Smith house at 201 Government St...
The house that doesn;t know I exist..NOTHING to do with me.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When they moved they gave to each my brother and me, a picture of the house and although it is not handy and I can;t get my hands on it quickly, it is safe and kept somewhere that  I will  always have it.

There is a maple tree in the front yard that my dad planted and I remember sitting on the porch watching him and asking him when it would be big enough to make shade.  He told me at least ten years.  about when I graduated from highschool, or college, but by the time I brought my own kids back there it would be a mighty strong tree, like the one in the back.

As so often happens with the passage of time and things that change slowly, yet are the real markers of the years going by, it grew silently and unnoticed for the most part.  Until one Spring it had enough leaves to make shade, the Spring of my senior year in highschool. The day I noticed it I was taken right back to that day sitting on the porch…like it was yesterday.   But it had been years.

By the time they moved, it wasn’t nearly as big as the one in the back yard that we had climbed in and played around..  but it was impressive compared to how it started and when I looked at the picture, it was one of the first things I thought about..  how I wouldn’t be bringing my kids home to my childhood house.   And it made me sad, because so much of me was in that house.

I loved going to my grandparents, on my dad’s side,  house because it was the same house he grew up in and we used to stay up in the attic where he and my uncle spent their childhood and young adult years.  I used to think about him being a little boy in that room and wonder what he thought and how he felt, and feel  like I knew him a little more each time we were there.  We would find the coolest stuff from his childhood.  I think I learned more about my Dad visiting that house than I did listening to my grandmother talk about him growing up.  Maybe not but that is how I feel.

Anyways, the first time I really listened to The House That Built Me, I immediately thought of my childhood home.  And every time I hear it,  I always do.  Except today.

Today, I only heard the song in my head, but it came to me while I was wondering why  I feel the way I feel right now.

You see, we are moving.

It is a good thing, a much-needed thing.  For so many reasons.  This place is a dump, I can;t really keep up on all the things that need to be done to keep it up.  It is horribly expensive in the summer, in one month last year we had a $495 electric bill.  And I keep the thermostat for the most part, at 80 to 82.  It’s a single story house, there is no reason it should ever be that much to cool it.  The landlord is a cheap and greedy man.  He has in all fairness made a lot of allowances for me but in the end, he just couldn’t help himself trying to get more than he deserved, than what was due him and ended our occupying this house in a miserable and not fair way.  That’s ok though, he got his…  lol…  and good 🙂  I still feel a little bad but I am the only one.

The neighborhood is going downhill fast.  It’s always been considered the “ghetto” I guess but really the houses are for the most part older but nice and it’s the run down low rent apartments 2 blocks north of us that give it it’s bad rep.

But just in the last two weeks the police have been out to two separate houses, one kitty corner and one three or four doors down.  A lot of police and crime scene tape and going door to door asking questions.  The other night, I heard gunshots.  Not close but if you can hear them through a closed window, it;s close enough.

Until recently I never felt unsafe or threatened here.  I sometimes forget to grab my keys out of the ignition because I have a car that was made before that little fail safe of having to shift to …no wait, that’s why I forget to put it in park sometimes.  I just sometimes leave my keys in the ignition.  My kids know that if I am hollering for my keys, to always look there first.  And my car doesn’t lock.   Nobody ever took it,  or anything out of it for that matter.

I guess the last, best reason is because this is the house that ..  he who I can’t name (but if you have been a reader here, know who, at least in theory, he is.  I will refer to him as FF, just to make it easier to follow) and I rented together.  Lived in together.  And moving might,  possibly, be the catalyst to me moving on.

The day we decided this was the house, was one of the last days we had to find a house before he had to be out of where he was staying.  I had scoured the internet, going to every rental I could find in the area.  We wanted to stay close so the kids could stay in the same schools.  I can’t give them a childhood home, but I can make sure they have that kind of continuity.

And it’s either feast or famine in the renting world.  It seems like right about this time of year for the next few weeks there are a large number of for rent signs out but then they disappear.  And you can’t hesitate.  One house that was so perfect, beautifully perfect, we waited too long and someone else scooped it up.

FF had just returned from a trip and being the weekend, the truck he brought in was parked outside where he stayed and we found an ad in the paper.  Also, finding a house affordable that could fit us all isn’t that easy either.  It greatly decreases the choices.   So we called and the gentleman who called back told us to come on over.  We hopped in the truck,  a semi, no trailer and came to take a look.

From the minute we walked in the door the two of us couldn’t stop laughing at the outdated wood paneling, the 70’s bathroom fixtures, the ..ridiculousness of it.  And the landlord showing us around like it was the Taj Mahal…  he very pointedly showed us the great feature he had added in the kitchen, a cupboard next to the dishwasher that could hold sheet pans.

But there was lots of room, lots of storage, a huge back yard that was fenced in for the kids to play in, an extra room to use as an office, and the laundry room was a separate room built off the house, that  the master bathroom window actually opens into.  Oh and let;s not forget the sheet pan cupboard, which almost made up for the first three months here only one burner on the stove worked.  Almost.

Deep down as we walked through and listened to all the features, I knew as weird as it was and as truly laughable and unappealing, that this would be our new home.

It was only for a year anyway, until we could get married and the business became solid and we could buy our own home.  We could do it for a year.  Funny though when he said that  I thought he meant we…as in him and me….   he only lived here a year and he owns a home with someone else.  So I guess he wasn’t lying….

The day we came and signed the lease, I told him I couldn’t believe we did it, that the place was a dump.  He took my hand and said

but it’s OUR dump and if we are together, it’s a castle.  

So it was.  It was more like it didn’t really matter.  We lived, loved, fought, caused scenes that the neighbors sat outside and watched, broke up, made up, and loved more.  We just.. we were together and castle or dump it didn’t really matter. It;s just the place that we lay our head at night, next to each other.   It never really revealed how dumpy it really was until he left ..and I looked around me and said how did I get here?  How do  I get out?  The charm of us was gone.

We were going to spruce it up a bit but that was quickly quashed by the landlord when we asked him if we could paint and he said no.  Not even maybe, just no.  Kind of ironic actually because one morning he was here fixing something or other and we gave him a cup of coffee and he really is, was, whatever a decent sort of guy on a personal level and in small doses.   I can imagine that his dark side got darker from dealing with renters (he has 3 or 4 properties) and getting screwed.  Every once in a while I saw a softer side, but he hid it well.

Anyhow, he decided to tell us the reason he didn’t allow painting was because he used to, but the last lady who lived here had some sort of mental affliction…  bi something he said..  FF said bipolar?  Oh yes that was it.. bipolar and had painted every wall a different color.  Dark color.  It had taken him 12 coats (he said  🙄  )  to completely cover the black wall in the master bedroom.    So he no longer allowed painting, until move out anyways because you just never knew who the crazies were and what they would do.  FF and I laughed about that a lot.

And you can clean this place til the cows come home, pigs fly and hell freezes over, and it will never look clean.

When FF left, I didn’t want to be here anymore.  But I really had no choice.  It hardly seemed fair to me either that he went somewhere I have never been, so maybe he wouldn’t think of me all the time while I had to stay in the house we had shared, and see him everywhere.  When he came to visit, it was like coming home for him.   And it was heart breaking for me.

I learned though that it makes no difference where we live, we are, were home to each other, not the house we lived in,,,  he for me and I for him.  He was more home than  I have felt since I left Colorado, and my parents moved here.

Just a note, now I have been where he is, and maybe every once in a while, he  feels me there.  I left my mark, my scent, my memory and maybe someday when he least expects it, flipping over his pillow, or opening a closet, or just the way the sun hits the room the same as the day I sat there in its warmth, laughing with him like we used to before,  I will be there again, and he will feel it, and know how hard it has been …  and now it is I that gets to go somewhere he has never been.   I wonder if I will be able to leave him here, if it will be easier.

This house  didn’t build me but I have grown more, become more self aware, self assured, self confident, learned more about myself in my 2 years living in it than in any other house or any other time in my entire life, besides my childhood.  So it helped.

It holds so many memories, and lessons learned and new experiences and closeness and companionship.  I feel safe here, though everyday like something is missing and I dont know what, but I do.  It holds loss, and grief and anger and hopelessness, and everything that could have been and nothing that will ever be, hopes and dreams of days gone by, and Love.   There has always been love.  Even when he left.

Yesterday I signed the lease for my new place.  It is beautiful and light and airy.  I have an east window and a door to the deck in my room, and a TUB!  My very own big oval tub.  I am officially in limbo sitting on my bed with my room packed around me, in this house for maybe the last night.  The last night  I will call it home.  And I am filled with hope, and thoughts of all the good things to come and glad to be rid of this dump,  yet sad beyond words.

It has been a bittersweet experience, knowing I am making the right step, yet falling back a little because I still miss him and think about how we would be doing this together.  There is no more together with him.  It needs to stay here.

No one really gets it.  I didnt get it.   But I do now.  This house holds part of me.  And for all that I am glad to be gone from it, I am forever indebted to it, for being a castle to a couple of kooks trying to have a good life and  for sheltering  me and giving me safe haven, asylum,  if you will, while I healed from one of the greatest heart aches I have ever felt, and found myself again…

And when I close the door on the very last day, when the last box and bit of furniture is moved, I wonder if  I will be able to let go…and leave what should remain here…  and move on.

Lizzie Cracked ~not broken although sometimes I feel like I am


31 thoughts on “The House That Helped Build Me

  1. There are two houses from my childhood/teenhood that are like that. I have moved around so much, but those two were long-term. One of them was my grandmother’s house that my dad bought and added on to, doubling the size. He moved to Florida, and someone else bought that house, and when I went to see it once, the old part of the house had burned down.

    The second house was out here in Ohio. It was nice, and now someone has added a little sun room in the back where the patio used to be. But the neighborhood there – I would never live in it now. I’ve been back by it, obviously, but the woods that used to be there are gone, and everything is different.

    The house I’m in now won’t change in terms of the neighborhood, and it’s the first house I’ve owned. It’s the nicest house I’ve lived in. My kids have grown up here, and it’s been great. But if I moved out tomorrow, somewhere else, I’d probably never come back to Ohio, much less see that house, unless I happened to be going through. I guess what I’m saying is that the memories are more important than the house itself. The house will never be the same, but the memories will.

    1. thank you. I am feeling wistful, nostalgic I guess… I am not very materialistic in fact, usually infuriatingly (to others) unaware of my surroundings, but I am fearful of change,,not so much as I was, but still…I think that I have a tendancy to attach myself to something solid and physical when I am feeling unsure…. and the weird thing is, this house, I am glad to be leaving but all day yesterday just every once in awhile… I would gt this awful, sad feeling.. painful.. maybe just the what ifs and the coulda beens I don’t know. I think my homesickness for Colorado, even still is because that is where I learned to be me…before I forgot who I was.. not necessarily the house.. and here I have never really felt right.. except in this house.. but whatever, I appreciate you sharing that .. and reminding me that its not really about the things we can touch.

  2. I hope you can leave the painful parts behind with the house and this move will be the start of a new happier time in your life. Its funny you should talk about this today (yesterday) because yesterday I drove past the “house that built me” and took a picture for the post I was going to write about it. It was my grandma’s house; my dad’s mom. She practically raised me until school age. I loved that house.

    The house I was raised in and my parents lived in until my dad ended the marriage 20+ yrs later. That was the house I lived in from age 9-19 and where as an adult I would walk in and help myaself to cookies in the cookie jar, look for leftovers in the fridge; it was “home”. Dad stayed in the house and within a year moved a new woman in and it never felt like home again. My mom eventually remarried and that place never felt like home either and I really missed being able to walk in and feel I was “home”. I always wanted to be able to give Kris a place he could come home to; that safe haven where you can go when your world crashes in and you know you’re safe, the house where the cookie jar has been in the same place for 30 years and your bedroom is the last one down the hall on the right. But when I had to sell my house 12 yrs ago was the last time Kris had a place he could come home to. JC never made him feel welcome. I probably will never own a home again and in the last 10 yrs I have lived in 14 places; I am so sick of moving and not having a place to call home.

    Anyway, there I go on a tangent again LoL i’m praying you find much Love, hugs, and happiness in your new home.

    1. you make a good point when your dad brought a new woman… it wasn;t homw.. it’s the people.. the love and connection.. thats what I meant when I said..we were home to each other…thanks Carrie you can tangent on here anytime you want to…

  3. I don’t have near the attachment to the places I’ve lived.
    Most of my memories are tied to a feeling, or (like yours above) a memory of someone. But I’m mostly good at moving on too.

    The way you express this – the sadness, the memories, the hope and resolution, definitely says you aren’t broken.
    And maybe even a little less cracked than before…

      1. wowwwwww… i am all choked up.. i mean that.. that;s like way cool.. what color is it… ?? I don;t have money and I think if you are willing to bet the shirt, I ;ll believe you. thanks Dude.. I am is it my ass crack that is …no wait.. the crack in my nose.. or.. am I still glowy and shiny? not blocking the light..kinda slow though me.. i am …not you, you rock… I have never been to hawaii either – well on a layover to……

  4. Beautiful Lizzie…tragic, but beautiful post. i think we all have some houses like that. Sometimes I want to go to the house that I loved the most, but I’m a little scared that seeing it now might change the memories of what was. It was a beautiful farm house that I grew up in. It is weird, but I can almost smell the naure that absorbed so much of my childhood. Since we lived in the country, me and my sisters would spend all day in the fields, trees, buildings, dirt roads, etc. I fell in love with nature there…

    Anyway, I love this post Lizzie. Thank you.

    1. you are wekcome – thank you…you know it was weird when i left home my memories of the house were from a child perspective… when I came home on leave after 8 months away…it was tiny.. I remembered the sinks being chest high – how silly huh? so wverything seemed smaller like it shrunk..but is was still home…oh cept the maple tree it was bigger… i had the best room in the house… west and south windows…

  5. Beautiful post, Lizzie…. I can only say that I admire your strength and hard-earned wisdom; and all without becoming bitter. Nostalgic, yes, sad, yes, but with the strength to move beyond it… and this post is proof of that…. stay well, and know that you have a lot of folks out there among your readers who, like me, are sending you all our best vibrations…things will work out for you in the fullness of time…. take care, and Blessed Be…. and enjoy your new TUB!….

      1. When you say that, I get a picture of you standing in front of the tub, tears in your eyes, muttering, “bubbles”, “shiny”, with a big smile, and a vacuous, obsessive look in your eyes….over and over and over…….. cute…. 🙂

  6. I don’t know you very well at all, and the other comments pretty well have it covered. You are on the right track here with the moving. With healing the rest of the way. It does take time. Think I need to go through the archives now to get the scoop.
    Beautiful piece of writing. It seems to me that women get more attached to places and things than guys do, generally speaking. Being able to bring the good memories with you, and leave the bad stuff in an old place is a skill. And a choice.
    Change is tricky, even when we know it’s for the best it can still be stressful. A bathtub will really, really help with the stress though. Ahhhhh, bubbles.
    Moving and moving on sounds like a smart thing to do. Remember, you being happy and successful is the best revenge for any wrong they did to you.

    1. that is a good way to look at it..all of it. Why do women seem to get attached more? It’s so weird though sometimes the things you do and don’t remember. The house before this one.. I could not for the life remember the way I did my bathroom.. the colors or anything although I know we sometimes bickered (we liked to make up stuff to fight about so we could make up I guess) about who had which color towells and it just finally occurred to me the other day… so I guess we can pick and choose what we take and even if we don;t choose it, its usually not the worst things we are left with…. thanks for your very kind words.

  7. Well, you made me cry! And the song, and the talk about the houses that built us and so many feelings and memories come flooding in that maybe we try not to think about because it makes us sad — but in a good way too — bitter sweet are the words that hit the nail on the head, I guess. My parents, my grandparents — the houses that they lived in that were such an important part of who we were and how we lived and what memories we made. . .

    Anyway, not very many writer’s words can pull that out of me. But yours did. —– and now you just go forward. You say to yourself, every moment is a new beginning — it’s gonna be bright and shining. And you keep your eyes focused on the horizon of all good things. And you’re going to be taking bubble baths and laughing and enjoying the heck out of your kids. And so many wonderful memories yet to be made . . .so many furry ball questions to be answered! And I, as your cyber mom, I will love reading about every single one! Hugs Lizzie!

  8. Miss Lizzie ,
    I am very happy for you maybe you will indeed move on
    Also I hope you enjoy the new place
    In fact with a tub maybe you will soak your feet ! Ewwwwww!!!
    Very scary !!!!! Please continue to remain in good health !!!
    Congrats on the new home !!!!! I wish you the best !!! And just for the record
    I don’t want to know where you live .we are very happy with both of our homes
    Just last week we too got another home in FLA. now I can be closer to my children
    And having the gulf of Mexico in our back yard sure is a plus !! I have missed the ocean and the smell of salt in the air so….. Good luck to you and your Family . Just knowing that you have a good support group is a blessing !!!! So long miss Beth . And remember play nice .

    1. Lol. Thanks for the good laugh!! what a complete load of CRAP!! You always did, tell good stories though … Thanks I needed a laugh. and don’t worry I wasn’t offering my address. Have a nice day.

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