The House That Built Me…

Have you seen the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it but be prepared to ache.  There’s many profound quotes in this movie but the one that touched me the most was the young boy talking about how if the sun were to burn out it would take 8 minutes for us to realize it.  It takes 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. For 8 minutes we would still feel warmth.

and he felt like his 8 minutes with his dad were running out.  So he sets out trying to fill in blanks to things he doesn’t know about his dad or reliving moments he had with him.  I can relate.  Every time I come across a picture I’ve never seen or a card I had forgotten about I seem to buy myself a few more seconds.  I will read all of the fortunes he collected or listen to his music we have recently been able to find all in hopes that I can delay the moment my 8 minutes are up. I still need to feel his warmth.

Memorial Day, Steve asked the boys and I if we wanted to go with him to ride go-carts and since the little guys and I were house sitting for mom we went to a place near her house.  We had a great time. Hudson and I won – shout out! 😉  and we even had time to ride the bumper boats.  I delighted in hearing the boys scream with laughter as we all tried to out drench the other.

After we left we were close to where daddy works so he drove the boys by to show them. A few blocks down I recognize a McDonald’s that was a huge visual trigger for me that we were in the neighborhood I grew up in until I was 8.  Since I could pretty much get lost in a circle, it took some convincing that I could actually find my way to the old house, so I was exceptionally pleased when I did!

As we’re driving past and I’m telling the boys that’s where momma lived when I was there age, the woman who currently lives there comes out and sits on a bench on the front porch.  My heart skips a beat because for a moment I think about how incredibly awesome it would be to go inside. I mean, who isn’t curious about how their old house looks on the inside now?  But we drive past…and I show the boys where my grandma lived and turn the corner to show them where my best friend Alicia lived…reliving childhood stories as we slowly pass each one.

We make the block to take a last look and courage overwhelms me…okay, I’ll be honest…courage I can pass off onto Steve. I somehow easily convince him to ask the woman if she would mind if we took a look inside my childhood home.  I figure the worst she can do is tell the crazy people to go away. But she doesn’t.  She immediately says sure and invites us inside. I’m stunned.

We get the boys out and the moment we step inside memories rush through me.  I’m instantly a child again – giddy with emotion and at this chance to look into the past for a few moments.  The “big” front room that my brother and I would jump from one red velvety couch to the other (jealous?),  I could now probably walk across in 3 strides. It’s funny how things seem so much bigger when you are a kid.  I point out things to the boys that are different, and SO much is the same. It’s, of course, been updated some in the last 26 years but the layout is pretty much exactly as I remember.  I ramble on about whose room belonged to whom and I decide to keep the info about how my imaginary friend Potsy B initially came to me while I was in the restroom to myself.  I didn’t want to freak the new owner out ;).

She takes us outside in the backyard and the same huge tree that Nathan and I had a tire swing on still stands majestically. The tree we leaned against to count for hide and seek and tagged as “home base”.  I don’t know why this is the particular memory that makes the tears finally spill, but it is.

And I allow the memories to come….

of Nathan and I playing outside on the swing set

my dad’s tomato garden

the hole in the fence where the neighbor kid and I would talk to and spy on each other

the old, rough couch that use to sit on the back porch (don’t judge people;)

busting a boy’s mouth at my birthday party with the see saw

playing with the water sprinkler in my purple swimsuit

the stage of plywood that my dad promised would one day be a playhouse

feeding my uncle’s hyper dog that would jump all over me and tear up my legs

the shed…the way it smelled

my chicken Johnny

I literally have to swallow the intensity of my emotions because if I don’t, it will be an ugly cry.  As we walk back inside, the sweet woman who lives there introduces us to her two boys. She is a single mom and she works as a daycare teacher at the daycare I went to when I was little!! and get this?!  the same director is still there! 40 years this year she said.  and I have to pause for a minute to realize how God put all of this together…it’s not just a small world. It’s His world.

She walks us out and I thank her profusely for allowing me this opportunity.  She is kind and gracious and even invites us back. I tell her that my brother would love to see the house and she doesn’t miss a beat, saying “bring ’em”.  We’re about to get in the car and I have this flash of hand prints. I’m not sure if it’s a real memory but it keeps nudging me so I ask her if there are hand prints or anything in the concrete anywhere? She tells me that the name Rachel is written in the driveway somewhere.

“That’s me,” I can’t help but scream!!

Without hesitating, she goes in the house to get her car keys and backs her car out to reveal two small hands and two small feet with the name “RACHEL” and the date DEC ’80 written between them.

The sob rising in my throat catches for just a moment before I can’t hold back anymore.  It’s my dad’s handwriting.

I hug this stranger tight and weep deeply telling her that she will never know what she did for me…

…she gave me 8 more minutes


About Rachel

I am a mom to two amazing boys and a teacher to half of a first grade class (the half that listens to me). I am a lover of yellow candy and converse, a dr. pepper junkie and an excellent vocalist (in the car with only my kids around). one of my favorite things to do is laugh until it hurts. i have some of the most incredible friends and family. i am passionate about taking care of the earth and those who live on it. I am a lover of Jesus and ache to be in his presence. There have been many life changes for me in the last few years and I am learning this life all over's a crazy beautiful mess. View all posts by Rachel

8 responses to “The House That Built Me…

  • Wendy Hinsley Thompson

    It’s not even 8am and I’m already crying. Thanks for sharing Rach!

  • Heidi Chappotin

    Oh Rachel, you are such a gifted writer. And what a wonderful walk back into your childhood. Thanks for sharing part of it with us….

  • Cecil Emerson

    Rachel, I love you and thanks for sharing those moments of your life as a child it really touch me.
    Love, Grandpa Emerson

  • Barbara Shunk

    wonderful memories thanks for sharing Love you all so much.

  • Rachel Spies Wells

    “It’s not just a small world. It’s His world.” Amen, sweet sister. What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Love you!

  • Julie Potts

    I read this on the way to work (at stoplights, intermittently, I was safe about it. 🙂 Anyway, I cried. Such an emotional experience framed by your beautiful writing. So, here’s the ironic (God inspired, I like to think) thing about me reading this post this morning. My ipod was on shuffle – and it shuffles among around 500 songs. When I finished reading your post…..Miranda Lambert’s “House that Built Me” came on. I am not kidding. My stomach did a flip flop and a few more tears fell!

    So happy you got those 8 minutes. 🙂

  • Amy in Wanderland

    Oh, Rachel. Just amazing. God is so incredibly good to us. And—there’s an angel living in that old house of yours. ❤

  • Hollie

    GOD IS SO GOOD! You’re SO talented!!! Thanks for sharing! Sniff…sniff!

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