Everybody has a story: Hidden letter to share history of a beloved home

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(This is one of several letters written, and hidden, for the future owners of our old home on Northeast 54th Street in Minnehaha).

When recalling the essence of a home, it comes down to remembering moments — time with family and friends. This house holds 35 years of special people: My mom, Marge; stepdad Dick; brothers Ted, Dan, Steve, Tim; and stepsister Michelle. There were a few really good dogs, Pepper and Sam, and an ever-growing circle of people who entered through marriages, births and friendship. This home was backdrop to birthdays, tough economic times, teenage drama, heartache, puppy love, real love, loud fights, joyous laughter, marriages, new babies, hope, death, divorce, birthdays, holidays, quiet early morning cups of coffee, big happy family reunions, worry for those far away, and the simple joy of being under the same roof enjoying a meal together.

I was 11 years old when my family moved into the house on 54th Street. It was a summer day. My brothers and I piled out of the car and made our way like a mob to the front yard where a number of beautiful Juneberry trees lined the perimeter. An epic berry fight ensued. Little red berries were bouncing everywhere. I’d like to think the neighbors were glad a bunch of kids were moving in, but I’m sure we looked like a tool-stealing rowdy pack. My brothers had long hair in 1975.

Dick installed an amazing tree swing around the time we moved in. The rope was high in the branches so you could swing around the entire tree in what felt like a good long time for a kid. Half of the circle was your launching strip — giving you time to run fast, spring forward and fly around the tree, Tarzan-style. I think everyone should have a special tree. That old tree was like a friend, and I spent many solo hours around this tree, thinking, through all the seasons. I especially liked fall. There was a row of giant poplar trees in line with the tree swing. A million little yellow leaves quaking in the wind. There was no other sound quite like this whooshing rustle. I hope the tree swing tree lives for a long time.

Cars filled the driveway during our teen years. Tulips came up each year in the corner of the front yard in honor of my aunt—my mom’s best friend—who died too young. Irises from my great-grandmother, who lived in Baker City, Ore., also made their way up each year. The flowers were award-winning, mammoth beauties. My mom spent many early mornings sitting on her stool before work looking out the kitchen window.

For many years my stepdad was always up and off to work early, and later he made beautiful turned wood bowls and fixed things with skill in his pine-scented shop next to the garage. My friends giggled at the sign my mom put on the door: Dick’s Hole.

My bedroom was upstairs. I had this amazing bunk bed with a desk underneath. Awards from various sports lined the walls. My room was always a mess. I studied hard at my desk and talked on the phone a lot. The small closet was packed. I loved the baby blue light cover. I’m grateful I had my own room. It was a safe, private, happy place for me. The light in late afternoon is amazing coming through both windows. Peaceful. You can hear frogs at night if you keep the window open.

It was bittersweet when mom made my room a guest room. Down went the bunk bed and mature wallpaper went up.

I left for college in 1983. I drove off down the street away from the house and my waving mom. She always stood by the mailbox waving goodbye whenever I left.

I got married in the backyard on a hot summer day in 1996. There were 250 guests sitting in the late afternoon heat as Ned and I exchanged vows. Mom and Dick planted flowers and climbing pole beans, and we stood under a lovely trellis of wisteria. During the ceremony, Ned planted a blood maple tree out in the back acreage. (It has been moved to the front). Everyone at the wedding put a scoop of dirt around the tree throughout the big reception. We had a feast, cold drinks, kids running around, and a live mariachi band. My grandpa Arthur loved it.

I had two kids, Jace and Arthur, now 13 and 11. They both love the house, the swing, the basement with the fun toys, the computer and Grandma’s way of making everything so comfortable. I held them as newborns on the couch in the living room. I watched them crawl, walk and run around the house. I couldn’t image them ever swirling around the tree swing with such grace and ease. But they did and it was beautiful. I especially loved watching my kids love and cuddle their grandparents.

Arthur has autism. Coming to Grandma and Grandpa’s is something that always felt centering for Arthur—and for me and Jace. Simply put: my kids love their grandma and grandpa. And they loved this house. Home is beyond description. It can only be felt.

Arthur cried and protested when he heard his grandma and grandpa were moving. I did, too. Saying goodbye to an old friend is hard. How can I explain that our dear memories and the essence of our good home will remain in each of us? They just do, and I have a feeling Arthur knows more about this than we can imagine.

Our family lived here. It is a special place. Please take good care of this home.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. E-mail is the best way to send materials so we don’t have to retype your words or borrow original photos. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA 98666. Call Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.