And, go. This is a pre-scheduled Finish the Sentence Friday post, and I can only hope that they didn’t change the topic out from under me, and that this isn’t posting optimistically early on a Friday morning, only to be completely irrelevant to.. everything. I’m going to assume that didn’t happen because the FTSF team wouldn’t do that. And even if so, hi! Here I am! I’m talking about home today. I fear I’ll waste five whole minutes on the introduction alone, but that’s ok. Once upon a time, well before amazing home renovations and the like, I realized this was our dream home. Or at least it had all the potentials of it. When we moved here, I was six months pregnant and we had an October blizzard. No power for 36 hours.
(This isn’t unlike last week’s April Winter Weather Advisory) We moved here and I was six weeks pregnant. I didn’t like the smells, only because there were any smells at all. It took me a long time to shift and adjust to this house, and I’m sure it felt the same about me. The truth is, it has good bones, and I think I do too. Des was settling inside my bones, and I was settling inside these bones. Since then, we have only made it better. There’s still room for a ton of growth, and I’m ready to take any plunges. My five minutes are up but here’s a piece I wrote when I figured it out. The dream, the dream, the dream:
“When we were kids, my maternal grandparents were snowbirds. Now that they’re 98 and 100, they’ve been permanently locked in the Fort Lauderdale area for over a decade, but my parents and siblings and I remember our New England summers well. They weren’t as flashy as our annual Myrtle Beach, SC or Ocean City, MD vacations. Those were filled with hot beaches and amusement parks and junk food galore. Our just as annual, but not as riveting, New England summer vacations were more subtle in ways I didn’t fully appreciate until I got older. The houses changed over the years.
Sometimes they’d get the same one in Grantham, NH. Once or twice the house was in Vermont, surrounded by golf courses and moose. Often, the house was in New Hampshire amid quiet highways and what I used to think were very tall mountains, until I moved to the west coast. Though the location changed over the years, some things stayed wonderfully the same.
Creaky hardwood floors. Breezy summer nights with open windows. A breakfast bar to gather around. The constant smell of pine. A loft area we loved to stand up on and yell down to the first floor from. Sometimes we even threw things down.
I always knew we were close when driving through the tall trees, we could see windows of light from the houses deeply nestled in the woods. I always knew we were close because the radio would go down and all we’d hear was the sound of tires on a gravel driveway. Then we had arrived, truly. What would follow were long days of book reading or going to the lake, or for the more adventurous of us, we’d go all the way into town to the one restaurant – a pizzeria, and the one place of entertainment – a lonely arcade. Sometimes we’d drive an hour on the suspiciously empty highways to go to a children’s museum that was somewhere..in the middle of nowhere. I honestly don’t know where we were. I love the air of mystery.
On a somewhat related note, during the summer after my father died we did make our trip up to New England. Instead of five siblings, this was back when it was just me, my sister and my mom. This was a year or two before the Brady Bunch marriage. We stopped somewhere in nowhere, Massachusetts at a diner. I really wanted a waffle but they only had pancakes. I was a grieving but adorable four-year-old and the waiter actually, proudly, somehow, had made me a waffle.
I think he put pancake batter in the grilled cheese press. Years later, we still bring up that memory. After I moved from NJ to California to Massachusetts, my mom, uncle and I pieced together where that diner was. In Florence, Massachusetts. Florence is part of Northampton. I live in Florence now. We went to that same diner, years later, when I was pregnant with Scarlet, and sat in the same booth. We also went after Des’ 20 week ultrasound to celebrate our unborn son’s health.
I don’t know the towns and cities we stayed in or trampled upon in New Hampshire and Vermont all those summers ago. However I’m sure somehow I have retraced some of those steps in my adult life. I’m sure I’ve been drawn to them like mosquitoes to the light. Somehow, I always find myself back in meaningful places, without having any conscious way of knowing how to get back there. I do remember that every year, my grandfather would take us to Dartmouth to browse the bookstore. It was mainly my thing so he sometimes would only take me, and we’d eat at a Dartmouth dining hall.
We were restless and easily bored kids, I think. I don’t think that’s unusual. The pace of life in a remote New England town was something I had to grow into. These weren’t your beach New England vacations with clam chowder or lobster in a pot.
I can’t find any pictures from there, although I’m sure my parents have millions, but here’s a sampling of what my poor elders were dealing with during those trips. They probably just wanted to read and relax for days. We were quite the haul:
Years ago, Scarlet spent the day with her grandmother. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I was on day two of complete laryngitis and would not have been able to be with her all day without being able to talk to that cute face.
Scarlet was brought back to us near her bedtime, after dusk had passed, and darkness had fallen. We heard the telltale sound of tires on a gravel driveway. I looked out the window to the tall, tall trees. I heard footsteps on the wooden-planked ramp to our front door. And then she was returned to us, sleepy putty in our arms. I was overcome with memories of being that slumped over, half-asleep child being handed from the car to the bed under the watchful New England sky.
The same sights and sounds. The same smell. Just 10-15 years later in a different state, but with the same geography and atmosphere. I could close my eyes and barely tell the difference between the present, and the time that had passed.
It’s funny how we find ourselves back to the places we once found ourselves in, but never imagined we’d settle. Maybe my summers in New England planted the seed in my brain that this was where I wanted to be. Maybe I would have found myself here anyway. It didn’t seem likely in the fast-paced and populated Jersey life I was so accustomed to. It didn’t even seem likely when I was about to move to California and I was pretty sure I’d embrace that lifestyle forever. (I still might)
This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “My home..” (5 minute free writing) And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin: HERE.
Janine Huldie says
I truly could picture you as that little girl wanting only a waffle as I was reading this, because seriously you painted such a vivid portrait here. Glad that little girl did indeed get her waffle and that she has grown up to be you my twin for life! Hugs <3
I love that photo of the five of you! And I had to laugh at your describing Ocean City, MD vacations as “flashy.” I suppose to a kid they are! But I spent my senior week down there, and it was most certainly un-flashy.
Your title reminded me of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, and it occurred to me that Scarlet could rock a Laura Ingalls costume for Halloween! You could too.
Kristi Campbell says
I haven’t spent much time in New England but this post makes me want to. In the photo of all of you – are you on the far right? The look on your face is priceless 🙂
I remember road trips with my parents and two brothers, being handed off so sleepy. Great memories! Also now I want junk food. Thanks for that.
Dr. J says
That photo of the kids really stood out to me also! As well as your beautiful home in the woods. I live in the woods also. Wouldn’t want it any other way. Nature is a gift.
Kenya G. Johnson says
I think we’ve wanted to change the topic a few times, but if it has made it to the spreadsheet it’s etched in stone – so no worries there 😉 I enjoyed your posts, with smells of the not real waffles and beaches. I love the picture of you and your siblings. How long was that after the “merger”. It’s really cute. I remember you sharing it here or on Facebook. You all should do a then and now.
I also was pregnant with Christopher when we found our house and moved in. I also did not like the smell and I can smell it in my memory. We painted right away and even if paint isn’t a smell that belongs to us, it still smelled better than the no smell.
Beautiful memories. I enjoyed reading them. They made me long for sun slanting through pine trees, and dust motes dancing on the scented breeze, for long days reading, and knowing that other people are in charge of making sure everything’s okay.
Clark Scottroger says
…made me thinking of those (sometimes in old movies) the animation that shows the path of the hero as growing dotted lines, weaving over a map.
funny how the memories of childhood don’t so much predispose us to a place (or people or things) as much as enhance the natural tropism to the familiar.
I liked your line,
“It’s funny how we find ourselves back to the places we once found ourselves in, but never imagined we’d settle.</em"
Enjoyable FTSF post.
Pat B says
Your descriptions invited your readers right into the beautiful scenes you painted with your words. Describing your child as “sleepy putty” was absolutely perfect and also the “telltale sounds of tires on a gravel driveway.” I truly didn’t want your FTSF post to end.
Eddie Staudt says
I’ve read this blog four times enjoying every word and picture Tamara. You treat us to a very heartwarming story here. I had many clear pictures in my mind as you so beautifully described your summers in New England, the return trip to the very same booth at that diner in Florence, the tall trees, gravel driveway, and the wooden planked ramp to the front door. l love that family photo, and the winter scene of Athena in front your cozy Swiss Chalet style home.
Isn’t it insane how pregnancy can spark a move? I made the decision to move from my mother’s house when I was 8 months pregnant. I was unpacking for the first full year of his life, then a year later we bought our house, Jake was conceived 3 months later, we were STILL unpacking with him! LOL
As always, the pictures are stunning. The one at the top – you should turn into a note card. But I digress…I’ve taken the kids to New Hampshire and Vermont. I love the Dartmouth campus! And I browsed the bookstore with the kids. The downtown area is so cute!
Oh Tamara, your writing. It’s so beautiful and it draws me in and holds me every time.
I love that memory of the pancake batter on the grilled cheese grill. These are the kind of funny and very personal memories that knit us together as a family. Love when you free write, Tamara! You have such a beautiful voice…
You have such a gift with writing. I could be a restless kid too, but I normally calmed down when my parents gave me a new book. I think they figured out early on to get me to quiet, I just needed a book, ha.
Oh how I love the beautiful memories you had and the fact that a new generation is enjoying similar moments! Love the photos of you as a child too! Honesty, you look the same! 🙂
This piece of writing gave me chills. I am so impressed with your storytelling, truly. And how you describe and weave together stories of your childhood with the scenery and how you settled into the bones of your home as your child comfortably created a nook for himself in your belly. Gosh, you’re good, do you know that? Like, WOAH! why-don’t-you-write-a-book good. I also have this obsession with scenery and finding myself in places that exist a certain way in my memory. Sometimes I wonder if my mind’s eye romanticizes the feels and smells of a place and if I would be disappointed when I actually made my way back there, so many years later. Does that make sense? Anyway, I’m glad you were able to piece together your memories of that diner and that you were able to return there, to the place where you had a waffle made on a grilled cheese griddle <3 Bless that server, eh?
SO MUCH LOVE for this writing prompt, Tamara. *HUGS*
Mrs. AOK says
This was lovely. And of course your pictures are perfection and I could totally spot little Tamara. 🙂
The waffle story! Did you watch Parks and Rec? I don’t know why but the memory made me think of Leslie Knope, probably because loves waffles and breakfast foods.
Anyway, it’s always such a pleasure to read your writing.
I love that the waiter did that for you! I would take a waffle over a pancake too. Your home is lovely, and it houses a lovely family. I am glad you all found each other and share your wonderful stories with us 🙂