Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Old House

My mother and step-dad are in the process of selling their house, my childhood home.  I lived there for 22 years from when I was 6 months old.  I wonder how I'm going to feel when it's actually sold.  Right now I'm not feeling overly sentimental.  The home I remember from my early childhood has long since slipped away.

The first seven years, before my mother remarried, were the best.  The house was a cute little 3-bedroom, built just after WWII.  We had a sheltered front porch with an overhang; a big, open back deck; a big backyard; and a bay window in the dining room. 

When my step-dad moved in, the first thing he did was renovate the house.  He chopped off the back wall and put on a two-story addition (basement and first floor).  The renovation took months and for some time we had to live with my grandparents.  Everything ran late and over budget.  The contractor (a "friend" of the family) hired incompetent workers and used cheap materials.  Later on we had a bug problem in the basement.  Eventually when the walls were opened up to deal with a plumbing leak, we found that the construction workers had shoved their lunch garbage into the walls to rot, which is what attracted all the bugs.

Everything familiar and pretty about the house was ripped up and changed.  The wood-framed bay window was replaced by a flat modern window whose metal frame rusted.  The sofa set, which had been upholstered in a sweet floral pattern, was replaced with a sofa set upholstered in a ghastly poopy-brown.  The new back deck was ugly, and the backyard was cut down to half its former size.  It was all horrible, cheap-looking, dark, and unpleasant.

The atmosphere in the house also changed after my step-dad moved in.  My mom, step-dad and I fought almost constantly.  If we weren't fighting, we were sulking and avoiding each other.  All my memories of the house in that incarnation are bad ones. 

Just after I moved out at age 23, my folks re-decorated, so it looked a little more cheerful.  When that happened, I lost the feeling that it was "my" house.  None of my memories matched up with the new decor.

The neighbourhood has also vastly changed since 1973.  Back in the day it was a suburb, or at least a mid-urb.  Now uptown is the new downtown.  There is a mall, lots of office buildings, high rise condos and rental appartments, and most of the family-owned businesses have been replaced by chain stores.  Traffic is terrible.  It's grimy and crowded. There are more and more monster homes on the side streets.  I feel the area has lost much of its former charm.

I may get teary and nostalgic once the house is sold, but right now I feel that this move is happening at the right time, perhaps even a little later than it should have.  I can't wait to see how the house looks when the staging makeover is complete.  That will be wild!


Lynn said...

I hear you and know just how you are feeling. The house I grew up in is for sale (for a year now) - mom lives in assisted living in another town now and dad has passed away.

After they moved out in September 2009 (dad died that December) - I sat at the kitchen table in the silence of the empty house. So strange after so much activity of children and grandchildren running about. Lots of love and laughter and some hard times, too - so tears added into that. It feels a little sad and empty when I walk into it now - I wish someone would buy it and love it again.

DarcsFalcon said...

It sounds like in many respects, the house you loved ceased to exist when you were 7, and has really been more of a shell than anything else since then. Sometimes it's hard to get upset over something that happened a long time ago.

But I do think it would be neat to have been able to stay in one place for over 2 decades! I envy that. :) That's 3 times longer than I've ever managed to stay put! LOL

LL Cool Joe said...

I never lived in one house long enough as a child to get attached to it. My mother was always pushing my dad to move up the property ladder. I don't have good memories of any of the houses we lived in.

I'm glad you feel ok about the sale of your childhood home. :) Make sure you have some photos of the place!

Jenski said...

My parents were in transition for about 18 months after they sold our house and built their new one. I have never lived in the new one, so I know the feeling of it not being your home. Sounds like the house has changed enough that to you it is a new house anyway. May their new digs bring good grown-up memories to book-end the not-so-wonderful years!

Sparkling Red said...

Lynn: I also hope that someone good buys your childhood home and loves it properly.

DarcsFalcon: Well, moving sure does suck! I'm glad I haven't had to do it very often. After my childhood home I've lived in 5 different homes, the first 3 not for long, and the last 2 for 5 years each and counting.

LL Cool Joe: One thing I didn't know until I was grown - my step-dad would have preferred to move than to renovate, but my mom stood up for my best interests and said that she wanted to keep me near my friends and my school. Good thing too, because all my happy memories took place with my friends and at school!

Jenski: I wonder how long it'll take my folks to settle into their new house. My mom is already talking about expanding the kitchen, so obviously it's not going to be effortless.

DarcKnyt said...

It's always interesting to me to see how people respond to the sale of homes they grew up in. For some it's a happy departure to see it pass into someone else's hand. For others it's a happy unburdening. For a large chunk of others, it's meh.

It's unusual to see those things now. People don't seem to put down roots in houses the way they used to.