September 20, 2009
"My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest." Isaiah 32:18
The year was 1963 on a cool Spring Saturday. He needed to do something. He was feeling desperately pinched with a wife and four kids living atop his in-laws in a second floor apartment of their Bayridge Brooklyn brownstone on 56th street near 9th Avenue. Though the kids knew little of it, his wife was beginning to feel depressed. She had always dreamed of a home of her own, something she had seen in her dreams and on rides out to see family. But with four kids born within the space of eight years and a husband bringing home carpenter wages, hope was dim. Hope deferred, makes the heart grow sick.
As he drove around the tree lined neighborhoods he saw families living the good life, he earnestly prayed, "Lord, is there a place for us?" The prices were unthinkable $18,000, how could he ever ever swing it. He had nothing except a loving wife, four blue-eyed kids, some tools and the GI bill which would allow for no down payment. He felt a knot in his belly, being a immigrants child, he knew little of finance, buying and selling and owning things.
Fast forward almost 45 years, dads been gone nearly a dozen years and Mom is selling the place. 40 Peachtree Lane, Huntington, NY 11746 Long Island. Our address, our space, our home. Mom is 76 now, caring for a home, yard, and fixing things is hard to do, besides, those were dad's specialities. He presence is all over the place, all at once I see him meditatively getting lost in his piano playing, building the cozy wood-stoved den, finishing the basement or building the screened porch. In a flash, I'm eight years old sitting on my bike and I can hear his booming voice belting out a "How Great Thou Art" while mom is at the piano. Mom's wrapping up 45 years of marriage, 5 children and 25 grandchildren cycling through this incredible place called...home.
Born in 1965 this was the only home I'd ever known. It was too small the day they moved in, about 1100 square feet I'd say, with a dark unfinished dungeon, er, basement and a one car garage. Soon dad would start knocking down walls, finishing the basement, and swallowing the garage for a bedroom. This was the starter home and the finisher home. In fact, nearly everyone in my neighborhood started in these homes and are finishing in them as well. Our neighbors the Caiola's, the Brenseki's and the Boos' have all lived in their homes 40+ years.
Your childhood home(s), can be so idyllic since our memories are veiled, but I truly believe mine was wonderful. Looking back, it seemed like total perfection, though I know it couldn't have been. Kid-filled streets, no bike helmets and Mom ringing the bell at 5:30pm for dinner, it seemed we never stayed in the house. But I know every nook and cranny of the place, the spooky attic with all the Christmas stuff. The basement work room, with all of dads tools, cans filled with nails and long forgotten projects. And the dark and musty boiler room, where mom also had her ever-filled Maytag washer and dryer. I just knew that some creepy creature man was hiding, waiting to grab me. The place where I would iron my money before I would ride my bike to the Dime Savings Bank.
Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Our sense of place and of feeling settled I've often thought, has much to do with what our home experiences were when we were young. Knowing there was a place where I was loved and cherished made me a king and 40 Peachtree was my domain. My little taste of heaven's total embrace. Often my kids ask me "Daddy, where's the best place you've ever gone?" or "Where's your favorite place to eat" and my answers are the same each time...home.
As I finish my random thoughts and if you have another 4 minutes, think back to your family home(s) warmed by good memories as you listen to this song called "Home".