Hey hey! Well, the snow is melting fast but the lingering winter got the kiddo with strep – so we have been home the past couple of days resting and playing (now that he is feeling better). One more day at home and he’ll get back to school just in time for spring break! Well played my boy, well played. ;)
Today’s post is SO special to me. Last week I was able to take a really special road trip with my Dad – it was one we had been planning for quite some time.
The back story is a long, drawn out one, but the gist of it is that I moved around a lot as a kid and we didn’t stay anywhere for too long. Not really sure why, at least early on. Later in my childhood, in high school, it was due to some crappy stuff happening, but in my earlier years I don’t know – we just moved a lot. Overall I don’t think I lived in one house more than two years till I was 18? Maybe one house was three years, but that was it.
So that and all the other stuff from my childhood has played a BIG part in my love for homes and our current house in particular. It makes me deeply happy and content to be able to put down roots and nest and putter and live our days in a home we love.
I have fond memories of every place we lived, even during the not so great times, but there was one house in particular that affected me like the others didn’t. We lived in a small town in Indiana called LaFontaine for a couple years, when I was about eight years old to about ten.
When I say small town, I mean smaller than the small town Johnny Cougar sang about. ;) (Although I lived in that small town for years too!). LaFontaine has a population of less than 1,000 people, but living there stuck with me. I LOVED it.
We lived in an old farmhouse, on a ton of land, with a huge red barn (and a few smaller ones) in the back. I remember climbing the wooden ladder in the barn to the hay bale loft and hiding in the hay tunnels (even though I was totally afraid of spiders, even back then). I had a tire swing, I was outside a LOT, the dogs and cats would just come and go as they pleased, and my parents had a volleyball net set up out front pretty much all summer.
I would ride my bike about a quarter of a mile down the road to an older couple’s house to visit (I was an only child in the middle of nowhere – and no cable back then either of course) and the wife would bake pies and put them in the windowsill to cool and then feed me. I mean, seriously. It was amazing.
(My parents, my great grandmother (my namesake) and me in front of the house.)
So I’ve told my Dad for years that I wanted to go back. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. About a year ago we took a trip up – and drove around forever but could not find the house. Not much has changed about the farmland out there, which means every road starts to look the same after a while. We drove around for a couple hours and finally gave up.
My parents rented the house so there was no real record of us living there – we just couldn’t figure out how to get the address. I tried searching online for weeks and got nowhere.
So this past Christmas Dad surprised me with a gift – he found one of my report cards from when we lived in that house with the address! We were so excited! Problem is, it was a rural route address, and when we entered into Google maps, nothing was found.
So last week we decided to try it again, just the two of us, report card in hand. We started at the post office, but they didn’t know how to help us. They suggested the town hall (right across the street of course), so we went over there.
Thankfully the sweetest girl was working that day and was SO helpful. She made a phone call trying to figure out the new address but didn’t come up with anything. Dad mentioned that he remembered the first name of the landlord, but that didn’t ring a bell to her. He said the man owned a lot of farmland in the area and then right away it all clicked for all of us – she knew exactly who it was.
Dad knew we had lived near the landlord’s operation, so she did some more sleuthing and we set off in what we figured was the general direction of the house.
Thing is, both this time and last time I was looking for that big red barn and the other smaller ones behind it as we drove around. Dad was the one who said we should consider that they may not be there anymore, and wouldn’t you know it, he was right. He was the one who saw the house first as we drove down the road.
At first I wasn’t sure. First of all, it looked at least half the size of what I remembered! I think we’ve all been there – places we grew up with seem so much bigger, cause, well…we were half the size. ;) And Dad was right, the barns were gone. What was once a sweet farmhouse tucked into trees and surrounded by buildings was standing alone, all by itself in the middle of nowhere.
It was when I saw the front porch that I knew he was right. This was the place:
It was surreal. It’s been nearly 30 years since I’ve been there. Thirty years! I’m old!
It looked SO different, so lonely, so naked. The big red barn was gone – as was everything else I remembered about the back:
Oh my. It made me so, so sad.
The house was empty (I was going to knock on the door if anyone was living there) so we were able to walk around and I snapped a bunch of pictures -- some of the inside too.
Talk about surreal. So much had changed inside – I mean, I figured it had, it’s been a long time. But it was funny how I wanted the old stuff to be there still. Hardwoods had been carpeted over. Old windows and doors replaced. I was even sad to see the horrible paneling in the front room was now dry walled.
My sister was born while we lived there -- we moved away soon after she was born. Here’s a picture I found of her as a newborn with Mom in the kitchen and the old metal cabinets and glass block window (with the old crank to open it!):
So precious! :) And check out that cane backsplash – I’m guessing it was wallpaper? I think it’s funny that I would totally use that in my house somewhere now.
Not all of the windows had been replaced, but the ones in the kitchen had – along with everything else:
It’s really a large kitchen – what I wouldn’t give to make it into a true farmhouse space again!
See that closed door in the room past the kitchen to the left? Behind that is a narrow staircase that leads up to the two rooms upstairs. They had pitched ceilings and I now realize really small little windows, but they seemed huge to me at the time. And I had the whole upstairs to myself. I remember the rooms being full of light every day, even with those small windows.
And one year for my birthday (in October), I had my friends over for sleepover, and we sat at the base of those stairs telling ghost stories. When one of us was just getting to the scariest part of a story, my Dad opened that door at the exact right (or wrong) moment and scared us out of our wits. It was hilarious (at least it is now). I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I was thrilled to find that I had old pictures of the outside too – you can see a little of the old barn here:
My Mom and (most of) my grandparents. I love this photo! :)
This is that same exact view now:
Ugh! I hate it! SO many trees are gone too – beautiful old, full trees. I wonder if they fell on their own? I don’t know.
Here’s the area to the right, almost 30 years ago:
The leaves weren’t even on the trees at this point, but you can see how many there were back there.
Behind that smaller barn to the right was where rhubarb grew and my tire swing hung from a huge tree. :)
It’s all gone now, every bit of it, even the trees:
I know. So sad. Dad said we were on about three acres of land and it was so, so pretty. We were out in the middle of nowhere but it was always so cozy to me.
Part of me was hoping to see that small barn, walk around it and still find the rhubarb. :)
The back of the house has changed a ton too. Here it is with the old window, door, awnings and what I think was wood shingles on the back?:
So different now, right?:
Although I do love the aqua door. :)
It looks like they redid the whole back of the house. There was also an old brick chimney that used to be on the right side of the house back there, and that’s gone too.
I knew the house from the front porch, but I also knew we had the right place because of the bay window on the side:
It’s still the same window. I have an old photo of me holding my newborn sister inside, looking out that window onto the fields and trees, but I can’t find it. I know I have it somewhere so it’s driving me crazy. It is such a special shot.
I took a (bad) picture through the window and this room looks smaller than I remember, but similar:
Here’s my grandma holding my new baby sis almost exactly 28 years ago (her birthday is in less than two weeks) – you can see that original door with the panes in the background:
I remember that middle room being HUGE. It’s so not. :) See that little alcove in the wall behind the sofa? If I remember right I think it was for the phone – you can see in the recent pic that it was taken out.
This last picture makes me sad – this was what I was expecting when we drove up:
See that massive tree trunk waaay over on the right? That was my tire swing tree. :)
But this is what’s there now. Of course the leaves aren’t back quite yet, but it doesn’t matter – all the big trees are gone. All the bushes in front of the porch. Everything:
My beloved childhood home looks so lonely. :( BUT, it’s still there.
I told Dad as we drove away that I would love to have the money to buy the house right now. I would rebuild at least one barn, plant new trees, landscape, and then start on the inside of the house. :)
I can’t stop thinking about it – I have it all planned out in my head how we could take the Bub up there on the weekends and just let him and the dog RUN. Live simply. Sit on the front porch and rock. Maybe play some volleyball in the front yard. ;)
I can’t get it out of my head.
It’s not going to happen, but it doesn’t mean I won’t quit visiting. I already have plan to drive my sister up there to see it, and I may take the Bub so he can run around. I have a feeling I’ll drive by it at least once a year, just to check on it.
I wish I could explain why this house has stuck with me so, why it affects me this way. I tried to explain it to my hubby last night and ended up wiping tears away and telling him he couldn’t possibly understand why it meant so much to me…because I can’t either.
Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and more emotional? Maybe it’s because I had been looking at old photos all day. Maybe because this is the house that made me fall in love with houses? I think it’s all of the above really. Our life was far from perfect while we lived here – but I just remember being so happy. Carefree. After that I didn’t feel like that for a really long time – but it’s how I feel in our house now.
So, I will just keep stalking it. Checking on it every so often.
Do you have a childhood home that you think about a lot? Have you ever gone back? Knocked on the door? :) Did it make you sad or happy to go back? It made me feel both – sad that’s it’s not how I remembered, but SO happy I got to see it again.
Thanks for letting me share it with you. :)