Last week, I found myself physically back in my childhood neighborhood, having an experience that I had not had in many years. In recent years, I have driven through my old neighborhood and on occasion driven by the home that my parents created for my siblings and me. But last week, I actually had the occasion to go inside of the home where I had lived from age four to age twenty-six when I married. Visiting a childhood home may not be a big deal for many of you. Perhaps you have moved on to a better life, better surroundings, and a better living environment. Hopefully, my visit will conjure up very fond memories for you also as did my visit last week to my home, back in the day.
The first thing I observed when entering my old home was the absence of radiators. Many of you recall that radiators were used to heat homes in the past. Memories of “bleeding our radiators” stand out in my mind. There were fifteen rooms and three bathrooms in our home and some rooms had more than one radiator. Thus, memories of going room to room with a radiator key to bleed each radiator, along with a small bucket and a rag will be embedded in my thoughts forever. This task was so tedious that it would take place over several days.
Today, the home where I was reared is undergoing a complete renovation and there are no radiators. Ducts hidden behind the walls and in the ceilings have replaced radiators for heat and now there is hot air heat and central air conditioning; a major change in how my family stayed warm and cool in the past. My thoughts on the absence of radiators quickly turned to air-conditioning units. As I went from room to room, I could still visualize the locations of my family’s window air-conditioning units. Obviously, with central air-conditioning installed, these window units are gone. As my eyes dropped down to the floors, I immediately recognized that the word plank floors that my father used to paint brown and the wall-to-wall carpeting had been replaced with state of the art, hardwood floors. As for the old closets, they too were gone having been replaced with built in closets for storage of clothing and supplies. Then, a trip into the kitchen revealed that the old gas stove had been replaced with a gas range typical of a modern kitchen with wall mounted wood cabinets that had replaced the old metal cabinets that my father installed back in the fifties. I could only admire the island countertop for preparing and eating meals, a feature that my mother would have loved. The wall between the kitchen and the dining room had been removed, resulting in a spacious kitchen and eating area. While my mother has not been in the old kitchen for more than twenty-five years, I could imagine the place where she once stood or sat preparing meals. Yes, this was the home in which I was reared, but with its renovations and modern features, it is not the home in which I lived, back in the day.
The fifteen rooms and three bathrooms never created a space issue in our home, back then. The six of us, father, mother, and children, never had to jockey for room for our favorite things to do such as watching television, playing checkers, sitting around chewing the fat and other fun activities. Still, we were limited in where we could gather in the past; a den converted from a bedroom was our usual gathering place. But in this renovated house, the room on the first floor that was a kitchen when I was growing up has been converted into a sitting room. What my family would not have given for such a room to come together as a family in the past. As I walked down the long hallway to navigate the steps to the second floor, I noticed something to which I paid little attention when I first entered the house; the vestibule, where many memories were created, was no longer there. In its place was a nice sized foyer, reminiscent of many modern-day homes. I also noticed that the wood railing for the stairs had been replaced with a modern cast-iron railing. The plaster on the wall leading up to the second and third floors had been removed to expose the red brick which created an interesting look and a unique feature. But once arriving on the second floor, the first room in which I arrived was the bathroom and I wondered what happened to the claw foot bathtub that was in this bathroom and the other bathrooms in the home. Those classic bathtubs are now replaced by modern bathtubs with shower attachments. What memories did recalling this claw foot bath tub resurrect; an image again of my mother washing my back and my hair as I sat in a tub with warm water, back in the day.
Unfortunately, for too many of us, our old homes are gone, victims of gentrification and revitalization. So, while you may not have the chance to physically enjoy the memories of your home of the past, check out your photograph albums, perhaps, just maybe, there will be enough black and white photographs to leave you with warm childhood memories of your home as it used to be, back in the day .