Today I slept in my room for the very last time.
Truth is, it hasn’t been “my room” for a long time but your childhood bedroom is always “yours.” My parents have been talking about moving for years (I mean YEARS) and when they couldn’t find the unicorn they were looking for in the hip part of Fort Worth, they threw in the towel and decided to build their perfect house. But even that decision to years to pull the trigger on, so when I finally saw the house I grew up in listed online, it sunk in that my window to say goodbye was rapidly closing.
I come from a blended family. My mom remarried when I was in the third grade and the three of us moved into this house shortly after. He had two children from a previous marriage who lived with their mom (though my brother would move into our house in high school and my sister spent a good deal of time with us as well). I remember everything seeming so new. It literally was. The house had just been built and we were the first family to live there.
There was no landscaping – just squares of sod spread out over the yard that we’d picked out based on thickness and ability to walk barefoot comfortably. There was always a bald spot in the backyard that never seemed to grow in that was fixed with the addition of a large deck many years later. The trees we initially picked out were cottonwoods that grew fast and shed everywhere so those were eventually replaced for the more tidy variety you see in the photo.
The one thing the entire newly formed family agreed upon was the need for a pool. However, because I was the youngest and not yet a strong swimmer, the pool depth was kept to 5 1/2 feet, thus preventing us from having a diving board or slide (and causing my brother to forever blame me for being denied such things). I never understood this restriction. I could’ve just as easily drown in 5 1/2 feet of water as 10 feet. Every single summer day was spent in that pool. In fact, starting in May, my friends and I had our day mapped between 3 pools. We started the day at Meghan’s because hers got the morning sun and warmed up first (and she had a diving board), then we moved to mine (poolside speakers and lounge chairs), then to Annie’s because she had the most shade (and a slide).
The house was in a cul-de-sac and the next door neighbor had a basketball goal. We’d play H-O-R-S-E out there for hours every night. Then, some new people moved in and put a goal up on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac and boom, we had ourselves a full on basketball court. Only one goal remains now and it clearly hasn’t been used in years.
The driveway seems like an odd place to spark so many memories but for some reason that’s where many of mine stem. It was at a steep angle and the few times it snowed or iced, we would turn the recycling bin lids into sleds and have the time of our lives. As I entered my teens, many deep conversations were had on that driveway. Chalk drawings, first cars, 4th of July fireworks from the neighboring park; they all come back to the driveway. At Christmas, the garage would be lined with colored lights my dad would put up. At the time, it annoyed me that there was no consistent color pattern and that only a handful blinked because he replaced the bulb with a blinker instead of a solid. Now I would find it quaint and homey.
As I laid on the floor in the living room watching my son crawl around, I noticed the little drill holes on the underside of the mantle. The stockings. At Christmas, the house would come to life. Photos and decorations up all year would disappear and be replaced by antique trains, figurines and silly, squeaky baby Santas.
My mind wandered. There used to be a wall where I was laying that divided the living room and a small office when we moved in. That office was where I first dialed into AOL through our home phone line. When I was in junior high, we took the wall down to make a bigger living room and knocked out the two windows in the kitchen to create an office and a “nook” of sorts.
We’d been in the house for a while but when my parents made the decision to buy new furniture for the living room it was a big deal. Looking back on it, this may have been my mom’s first real furniture purchase which makes what I’m about to poke fun of her for less of a joke. I’m fairly certain we had at least four couches in that house before she landed on one that she liked enough for it to stay. That would be a theme throughout any change to the house in the coming years (paint, furniture, fixtures, etc.). Come to think of it, the same could be said for the house they’re building, too. (love you mom)
I’m not sure how this tradition got started, but every Christmas after all the presents had been opened, us kids would neatly align our presents on our designated section of the stairs. Our dad would then switch on the video camera and we would run through what we got and who it was from. My brother, in his usual sarcastic teenage tone, could always be counted on for some hilarious commentary. A version of this will remain alive in my house as my son grows older.
Despite all the changes and remodels the house had undergone over the years, there are still quite a few nods to the OG – like the brass doorknobs and fixtures. As we watched old home videos that night on the couch, you couldn’t help but notice all the iterations that have come and gone over 30 years of living. The busy wallpaper that’s been replaced with on-trend paint colors, the small slab patio that’s now the mudroom, the ugly chain link fence and barbed wire that you hardly even notice anymore because the vines and foliage are so thick, the tiny trees that now provide ample shade.
I laid in bed that night in my (old) room, my son sleeping in his crib next to me, looking up. There used to be glow-in-the-dark stars all over the ceiling and on the ends of the fan blades so that when it spun it created this glowing circle.
The 90s red paint phase hit me hard and I begged for my mom to let me paint my room red. She agreed to one wall. Many years later she would tell me what a pain in the ass that was to paint over (fair). I went to a friend’s cousin’s house once and he had an entire wall that his friends would paint on when they came over (think yearbook) and I thought that was the neatest thing I’d ever seen. Again, my mom agreed to one small wall behind the door and a mural followed. I wished I could see under the layers of paint just then.
There were glass bottles in the transom window many moons ago when those were cool. I remember going to Pier 1 and picking out what I thought were very unique bottles and putting them up there. No clue why that was ever a thing.
The God awful mums that were somehow a tradition and right of passage in Texas homecoming high school culture that hung on my wall. If you’ve never seen these things, think giant, chest sized flower(s) with mounds of streamers down to your ankles. Your name and the name of your homecoming date would be on some of the wider ribbon. Trinkets would hang down amid the streamers denoting the sports and hobbies you were into (lots of horseshoes, cowboy hats and soccer balls for me). You were then expected to wear this creation throughout the school day before the big homecoming game and then again to the actual game. Keep in mind that it was an unwritten rule that the bigger the mum, the more popular you were. Some of the cheerleaders had cross straps and back supports to keep these things (and themselves) upright.
It’s weird to think of another family in this house. That I might someday be that weird old lady that shows up to the front door and asks if she can poke around her childhood home and point out all the stuff that used to be. The house in general was nothing special, just your generic Texas suburban build; two story, brick face, two car garage. But for almost 30 years it was my home and, truth be told, this was the first “home” I’d ever had.