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Monday, June 26, 2017

Yes, You CAN Go Home Again

Have any of you been lucky enough to revisit your childhood home 46 years later?



Well, you CAN go home again, if the people who own your childhood home are nice enough to let you come and visit!

Yesterday I had the emotionally charged opportunity to GO BACK HOME AGAIN!

Let me step back a little bit here. A couple years ago I had Googled my childhood home address in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Not only did the address pop up on the maps for Google Earth, but also a business Facebook listing came up.

Of course, I had to pop off a message to her saying "You don't know me but..."

Since then, we have become Facebook friends and have chatted back and forth. She gave me a standing invitation that if any time I come down into that area I will be more than welcome to stop by.

It just so happened that Sunday I needed to run down to Milwaukee and pick up some items from a friend of mine who is moving. So I contacted the owners of my childhood home and asked them if it would be possible to stop by and visit?

They emphatically said yes and that hopefully I could spend the afternoon.

I drove down to Milwaukee and met up with my friends Karen and Herb. They are moving items from their home in Milwaukee down to their home in Florida and she had a large amount of weaving and spinning materials to get to me. We met up at Trader Joe's where I could stock up on my favorite Two Buck Chuck wine (Charles Shaw) and cookie butter. Then we went out for a little lunch to Applebee's and enjoyed some time together.

After piling my car full of bags of wool roving and weaving supplies, it was time for hugs and goodbyes.... now I could head on out to the next step of my adventure!

I swung up on the exit to Cedarburg which was crammed full of traffic due to the Strawberry Fest going on downtown. I didn't go anywhere near the downtown and instead cut around through Hamilton to go up to the cemetery first. I added some flowers to Grandma and Grandpa and Great Grandma's graves, it looks like cousin Laura has already been there along with some of the other Staton cousins.



I talked to them for a little bit and told Grandma I'm trying to do the best I can to become a grandma just like her. She is my role model for being a grandma. Always unconditionally loving and making sure everything is fair and giving all she could to her grandchildren.



Then I got back in my car and cut back over on Pioneer Road to the other cemetery. This is the one that my little sister Su Su is buried in. I made my way to her familiar grave and cleared off all of the overgrown weeds. There's some beautiful little statues and figurines there that my mom and my cousin Laura also put into place during previous visits.



I added new flowers to her grave and talked to her a little bit too. I told her I was going back home to where we used to live when she was such a sweet little girl. Sadly at the age of 2 and a half years old,  she had been hit and killed by a car in front of the home.

Here I am with her at a birthday party... 
and one of her with our big old tom cat, Tabby. 



But I wanted to focus on the happy years that we lived in that home 
and not focus on the loss of my little sister.

As I turned my car north up Horns Corners Road and headed over towards the house,  my heart started pounding. I drove past all the familiar houses along the way. Along my old school bus route. Many houses have taller trees or are remodeled-- but mostly the countryside is still the same as I remembered it.

As I drew up closer to the house, I had to slow down a bit and snap the picture of the home from the car. My heart was leaping up into my throat. The house came into view with taller trees around it. I was joyously happy to see it again.



Parking my car in the driveway, I eased out and took a deep breath. I was shaking. I don't know why but I was shaking. I looked around and it felt good. I was HOME!

Here is a quick 30 second clip I put on Youtube:

Long ago, it had been a country school house,
on a rural crossroads.  
It had already been made into a home 
when my parents bought it when I was 2 years old. 


J and L (I will call the owners) came out to greet me. With hugs all around they told me they were happy to give me this opportunity to see my childhood home. L never had a chance to revisit her childhood home and said she was happy to give me this chance as it was something she couldn't do for herself. J said that he had driven past his childhood homes a couple times and wished he could go inside. So both were very happy to give me this opportunity and use up a couple hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon

We started walking around the yard, a lot of trees are new and different, but the old apple tree and the crabapple tree are still there as well as the big old white lilac bush and some of the purple lilacs. If you recall a few blogs back, for Mother's Day I just planted a white lilac bush in my own yard, remembering the one that I had as a child at this home.

From there we went to the garage. I reminisced as I looked at Dad's old work bench still in place. I saw the crazy cross boards pounded on to two of the wall studs leading up to the attic of the garage. We used this as a ladder to get up there.


I remember as a child crawling up this makeshift ladder and we would sit in a big aluminum flat cement mixing tub that Dad had stored up there. It was a hideaway or a clubhouse for us kids.

I saw the patched-up hole in the cement where the lightning bolt had hit on the floor....  Right at the entrance to the garage door on the right hand stall side. Dad had been in the garage as a storm was rolling in and a lightning bolt struck the floor and blasted a hole in the cement. Dad said the lightning bolt flashed around inside of the garage and all of the dust and dirt flew up into the air from the static electricity. He got the dirt in his eyes and came running into the house hollering and bellering and scared the bejesus out of us kids. I remember him bending over the kitchen sink with Mom at his side trying to rinse his eyes out with water --- and we were all terrified about lightning after that. What a memory.

We walked around the yard and admired J's wonderful work at arranging new flower beds and trees and bushes and shrubs. L showed me their special area where they buried their pets of the past years. It was right where we used to bury ours. She had a little Memorial Garden setup for all of her pets. I remember our pets well when we lived there: we had Duke the collie mix, Big Mike the big black lab, and Scooter a terrier mix... All who are buried in that yard.

Me n Duke at the door...
 and us kids with Scooter at the Doghouse



We also had Petunia the Beagle who moved up to Michigan with us in 1970. 

I remember all three cats that we used to have  over the years when we lived there. There was Tabby, Moonbeam, and Hasdroopal. Here I am with Hasdroopal... whatever Hasdroopal means, I don't know. It must be some German name we came up with?

In the background you can see the old apple tree (still there) 
and our big Cabin Crusier boat


Now it was time to go into the house. Oh my what a flood of memories! Right from the hallway as I entered the landing is a shelf to the right. This is where we lined up mason jars full of things we would collect like caterpillars and fireflies and bumblebees and whatever else we would catch in mason jars. The old door latch is still the same and  the door knocker is too.



I tried to take pics of the little things that sparked memories.. and not just sweeping pics of whole rooms. I wanted to protect the privacy of the new owners, but also the memories are seeing the house through my eyes, not their decor and possessions.

I had been telling L about some of our exploits in the basement so we turned to the right and went down to the basement first.

Oh my goodness what Memories. Underneath the wooden steps I remember all of us kids crouching on a old sleeping bag as tornadoes passed overhead and how scared we were hiding in the corner of the basement. Our house was not hit and we were very fortunate. But it became our go-to place to go whenever there was a storm.

I remember sitting on the old wooden steps in the basement with the neighbor kids. They taught me the song "Found a Peanut Found a Peanut Last Night" I have no idea where that memory came from but it comes back, clear as a bell.

On the wall to the right I could see where the old shelves had been at one time. The paint on the wall showed where the location was. My mother kept laundry supplies on that shelf including bluing. Do you remember bluing? For making white laundry even brighter? Well underneath that shelf she had a big old baby buggy. Mom would stick my little brother and sister in there while she was running clothing through the wringer washer (which can be very dangerous). She turned around to see my sister who was probably 4, squirting the bluing into my brother's light blonde white hair who was about the age of 3. My sister was playing hairdresser! This all happened while I was at school but I came home from school that afternoon to see my brother stretched across the kitchen counter, with his head in the sink, while my mother was scrubbing his hair under the faucet. She was trying to get the bluing out. His snow white blonde hair turned into green! It lasted for a couple weeks and I think this was around Easter time. So that meant that he had to go to church with green hair! Ahhhh the things we remember...

As I looked around the basement I remember things like riding around on our tricycles and our old pedal tractor. Or playing with roller skates clamped to our shoes... going around and around in figure eight fashion around the metal posts that supported the center of the house.

I don't remember it so much, but my mom said I broke my collarbone down there. I do remember my brother pulling me around on my tricycle like crack the whip and Mom said I came around the furnace and smacked into the hot water heater and broke my collarbone. I do remember wearing a harness. Being that we were out in the country we played a lot in our house in the basement and the attic and in the yard. We played a lot with each other because we were rural kids. We were each others best friends. Sometimes we would play with the neighbors kitty-corner across the road too. But usually we were pretty much six brothers and sisters all together in that one small house

We laughed about the sewer pipe where I would crawl up as a kid and i would pad it with a piece of dirty laundry, usually a towel, stolen from the washing area. I would lay up there on the pipe like a cat, and it was my Hiding Place. It was one horizontal section that joined into the vertical section and I could crawl up there on the ribs of the old cast iron sewer pipe. We kids found lots of cool places to hide or play. Maybe with a family of 6 kids I like to find places to hide so I could read a book. I fondly remember sitting in a crook of the apple tree, reading up in the hidden greenness of the leaves in my own little sanctuary. I was a voracious reader and read everything I could get my hands on.

Next, it was time to go up the stairs and see more of the house on the main floor. Amazingly so much is kept original. All the original hardwood floors, the trim woodwork, the doors and knobs, the arch to the hallway, yes.... everything is still the same. New paint of course, but the cabinets were the same and the layout, even some of the light fixtures were the same.


Amazing after 50 years that this was still my childhood home... and it was intact.   Even the cutting board!!!!  Some of those cuts were made by my mom, canning vegetables, preparing meals, making our sandwich lunches....


I felt the familiar groove underneath with my fingers as I pulled it out. 

It was J's idea that I sit on the kitchen counter in the same spot where this original photo was taken. What a hoot. I said I did not need to sit up there, but he insisted. They moved over their canisters and coffee maker and toaster etc to clear a spot for my butt to plop on their counter. They brought over a little step stool and made me perch there for a couple pictures.



 And through the magic of Photoshop
here I am doing dishes with myself 50+ years later! 
 This picture makes me cry,
I could never imagine this fanciful imaginative emotional child in the picture
would someday be doing dishes with her own self 50+ years later?  



I got to look at my old bedroom and envision where all of our beds had been. The home has 2 bedrooms on the main floor and an unfinished upstairs/attic area.  As each kid came along, our parents just made more room for another bed. The room is small but soon there were two sets of bunk beds and a crib crossways on the north wall. We had five children in that one bedroom! The two girls had the bunks on the right and the two boys had the bunks on the left. Toddler SuSu was in the crib and when baby Umpee (Eugene) came along, he was in a bassinet in our mom and dad's room across the hall.

Dad started building the bedrooms in the upstairs. There was room to make three or four bedrooms up there. He studded in the wall and started a room for the boys with some walls studded in and low pieces of sheetrock and never got any further before becoming disabled.

But the boys moved their beds up there anyhow which gave more room to the bedroom for us girls. In the open area of the unfinished attic he had made us a little school room. We had three little school desks up there and he put a chalkboard on the wall of unfinished studs. Imagine my surprise when J and L pointed to the chimney. Even though they have the entire upstairs now finished, they left the chimney brick exposed. Look at this!


Yes, this is our artwork from one of us six kids. I have no idea what it says or who did it. All I know is it is for sure from one of us. How amazing that they did not cover it over or repaint the chimney in any way. It is preserved for us children, now grown, to know that we spent many happy hours in the upstairs of this house playing "School".


The other thing we did in this upstairs is very unusual. The wide plank floors had a lot of knot holes. The knots had fallen through and there were these big holes. It became a fun game for us to roll marbles across the floor and see if they could make it from one end of the attic to the other without falling in a hole. Of course many of our marbles did fall in the holes...

Can you imagine J and L crawling around on the floor with a flashlight looking in these holes and finding our Treasures? The holes are too small to reach in and grab anything... but it one hole L even spotted a little pink beaded bracelet that must have come from one of us girls. J mentioned as he was finishing off the attic area he did find some small toys crammed around the edges where he was doing the insulation in the eaves and blocking it off. He said he found little toys like old Fisher-Price people and marbles and whatever ----and said he saved them in a box somewhere. Maybe someday if he comes across them I will be able to see our old toys? What a treasure!



The job they did with finishing the upstairs off is absolutely wonderful they made such a nice area. L has a separate craft room, and a bedroom and some huge walk-in closets as well as a nice open seating area and lots of storage. That is what my parents had wanted to do, but circumstances changed and we moved away before dad ever had a chance to finish it.

Sadly, the circumstances were that my sister had died, plus my dad had been disabled from some accidents and surgeries on his stomach. Mom just couldn't bear to live there anymore.

Dad had some friends whose father had been fixing up a house up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (his hometown area). Their father had died and the family still owned the house and wanted to get rid of it. So we had an opportunity to buy that house. Dad went up ahead of time and started fixing it up for us to move there. They put our little Cedarburg home on the market it sold very, very fast. We had to rush to pack everything up and leave.

I was almost 10 years old and I did not want to leave. We were so close to our Grandma and all of our cousins and this was the only life we had known. This quaint little pioneer theme town of Cedarburg, full of culture and art and wonderful things, was going to be left behind. I remember that day of October 10th, 1970. I looked out my window for one more time from my bedroom and said I will remember this view forever. Then I picked a little rock out of the driveway and I still have that rock to this day and it has been in my jewelry for box 46 years.


Yes, good things come to an end. But through the kindness and compassion of J and L, I was able to go back home again and relive it one more time.

Excuse me now while I go and cry.


12 comments:

  1. What a fantastic visit! Not many people get to do that unless family still lives in the home. My brother still lives in the house where we lived as kids. Also, talk about parallel lives....you and I had the same hairdo as kids, the picture of that kitchen could have been my mother-in-law's except her countertop was red, I currently live in a small house that used to be an old country schoolhouse, the lock on the door in that picture is exactly like the one on the front door of the first house we lived in after we got married. Oddly enough, I have a jewelry box I've had for years that looks an awful lot like yours.

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  2. Thanks for the memories. I wonder what my childhood homes look like now? And how long it will take me to get the song Found a Peanut out of my head? :)

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  3. I also wore the same haircut. It must have been popular back then. I can understand the emotions of the visit, a few years ago I was able to go through my grandmother's house. So many memories. Thank you for taking us along on your trip.

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  4. We all have our time machines.
    Some take us back.
    They're called Memories.
    Some take us forward.
    They're called Dreams.

    Jeremy Irons British Actor 1948

    Welcome Home!
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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  5. So glad you are feeling better! What a wonderful opportunity to visit your childhood home. I always enjoy your blog.

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  6. So happy you visited your old home. I also grew up in Cedarburg. We had a chance to go back and visit with our kids and grandkids a few weeks ago. I lived at 303 S. Washington Avenue until middle school. A lovely two story red brick house just across the street from St. Francis Borgia. I ended up moving to the Town of Cedarburg and then the Town of Jackson. I graduated in 1976 from the high school in Germantown. I do remember when your little sister died. It was tragic. I vaguely remember a Steve Bichigo. I guess he was your brother? I now live in Texas, but we were so lucky to grow up in Cedarburg! Best wishes! Renee Hilgendorf Townsend

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    1. Yup.. you are the same age at my older brother, Steve Bicigo (nicknamed Butch) ...he was pals with Tim Greniere (sp?) and he also chummed with one of the Fox boys (I knew the twins my age). I think he also liked a girl named Toni Bell? We moved away when he was in 7th grade.

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  7. What a wonderful visit and lots of memories of a long ago time

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  8. Yes you can go home again,you just have to bring your memories into the present.We didn't realize we were making memories,we just knew we were having fun....thanks for the memories!

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  9. I so enjoyed this post..... what special memories you have and how sweet this couple was to allow you to relive them during your visit. Wonderfully written and thoroughly enjoyed your journey through your old home.

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  10. What a special journey back. I am so behind on my blog reading. Loved your story. How nice that the new owners had you over and you were able to relive those special memories. I've thought of you a few times as our travels across the mid-states have brought us up in the mountains and other places where there were some very old looms and spinning wheels. Many quilt squares on old barns too. Hang on to that special rock. I've got a stone from my Nonna's home in Italy where 500 years of our family came from. The tiny town is abandoned now, she was the last one to live there before coming to the US. I brought back a stone for all of our family members to have a little piece of Nonna. I treause that too.

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