Jancsi and Laughter have been making leaf soup these days. We have a big mineral tub out back and they have loved filling it with leaves and stirring them into the rain water that has collected there. They have a blast and take it very seriously. As I watched them today, my thoughts went back to when I did the same thing with my brothers and sisters. Great memories.
Today my parents moved out of my childhood home of 20 years. The movers came yesterday, the truck was filled, the boxes packed, the floors vacuumed and bathrooms scrubbed.
I remember when we moved in. My siblings and I ran from room to room doing cartwheels and getting lost in the size of it. It poured down rain the entire day and I remember eating dinner on cardboard boxes in the kitchen that night.
My brothers, sisters and I roamed the woods that surrounded us as we played cowboys, Indians and lost orphan children of the frontier. We’d make leaf and grass soup down by the creek, grateful we had something to eat as we battled enemies and cold winters. We built tunnels in the creek bed and literally cut roads into the steep embankment behind the house for our bikes and spent hours racing through the trees. Later when we were older our forts were turned into paintball barriers for the epic battles that went down.
Mom and Dad took us to our first circus and for months we’d put on our own show on our playground in the side yard. I split open my knee going down the slide one summer when we decided to make it into a water slide with the hose.
After the Winter Olympics one year we spent the rest of the Winter and Spring racing down our driveway on roller blades as we ‘speed skated’ through traffic cones.
We would sneak out the boys bedroom window and sit on the roof- something my Mom was always terrified of us doing. We girls would go out while she was gone on errands and tan up there. We’d run for the window or duck behind the chimney when we heard her car coming down the gravel road.
I got my first goats in that house and Mom never said a word about me keeping the bottle fed babies in our playroom in an old pack and play. We’d have 6 little kid goats at a time running around our playroom.
One year, three days before Mother’s Day, all us kids decided we were going to paint and remodel the kitchen for Mom. I still have no idea how she stepped back and let us do the whole project ourselves. My oldest brother brought in the chain saw and cut the counter clean through. We put a back on it and turned it into an island. We took down all the cabinets and painted everything. We did it all in three days. There is still a section of floor that was never put in from where we moved the counter. We hid the spot with a rug.
We enjoyed blueberry pancakes from Dad’s blueberry bushes. I can still hear him shooing us all away from the oven until he had a huge stack piled up. When I’d complain if the pancakes were whole wheat he’d say “they sit like a brick on your stomach and they’re good for you!”
We’d build huge water slides down the hill in the front yard with big tarps and we’d slide all day. By dinner time we’d be covered in bruises from going over roots and pine cones.
I ran our well dry when I left the hose on in the side yard. We had this old little kiddy pool and I noticed there were tadpoles in what little water there was at the bottom. We were leaving for our big family vacation the next morning so I didn’t want their little pool to dry up in the heat and all of them die. I turned on the hose to fill the pool up and forgot to turn it off. We woke up the next day to no water and the yard flooded. I got in trouble for it but remember being most upset that the tadpoles had all floated over the edge of the pool and were now dead in the yard.
We built forts and swam in the pond down the road. We caught turtles and built a barn. We got a pony and attempted flying with handmade gliders.
I remember raking our yard of pine needles, putting them in trash bags and walking around our gravel road asking if anyone wanted to buy some. We sold three bags and made $9. When we dropped them off the guy had a driveway full of pine bales stacked up. I knew he had just bought our little bags to be nice.
During one of our many ‘all hands on deck’ cleaning episodes, a nest of baby mice was unearthed from some deep dark corner. We were able to save one and I fed it with a eye dropper. It lived and grew and was completely wild and terrifying. I was keeping it in a box in my bedroom and Mom finally told me I had to get rid of it. I put the box out in the shed that night. (I was going to let it go the next morning.) It got cold that night and by the next day my little mouse had died. What a horrible way to go, I felt terrible.
My brother had a gocart and we’d tear up and down the road and on the trails through the woods. One Sunday he added a seat belt of his own invention. Just because. That same day, just moments later, we taught my younger sister Joy how to drive. She froze up at the wheel and floored the gas. She went flying across the yard and plowed straight into a large pine tree. I remember everyone screaming and Mom and Dad jumping off the porch and racing down to her. The seat belt kept her from flying out when she hit the tree. There was a big chunk cut out of the tree and the frame of the gocart was pushed in from the impact.
So many memories. The big Christmas trees, the egg hunts in the front yard on Easter, the summer our pool went in, family dinners with everyone squished around the kitchen table, friends coming over and playing capture the flag in the dark, family sing a-longs with Dad on the guitar and Mom on the piano, Mom’s flower gardens, our giant sandbox Dad built.
And now as I get ready to go home for Christmas, we are going to a new house. There’ll be a new stairway that all the kids will race down Christmas morning. A new yard to explore and neighbors to meet. It hasn’t fully hit me yet but I know it will when we pull into the driveway and there are no bumps where tree roots have pushed up through the pavement. But as I was sitting here thinking about it, yes we’ll miss the old house. It’s special and holds a lot of memories for our family. But it’s not the house where most of my fond memories come from, yes they happened there, but it’s the people that make the memories stand out. And all those people will be with me this Christmas. That’s what matters and that’s what I’m most thankful for.
So here is goodbye to a great old house that put up with 8 kids doing a lot of living and life across its floors. Here’s to the old house and all the memories.
And here’s to the new, and I bet the leaf soup will taste just as good over there.