Memories of Childhood and Home

It could have been thirty years ago, it could have been yesterday, the memories are that vivid. 

You walked in the front door and to the right sat the living room.  The carpeting, red and black shag rug.  The furniture, black leather.  This is where I watched Gilligan’s Island reruns, waited for Santa every year, and where my mother would play Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Suzie Q” and dance with me for hours. 

You moved through the living room and entered the dining room, where we gathered to celebrate birthdays every year.  We would eat cake that was always beautifully decorated by my mother, in the shape of a roller skate one year, of Holly Hobbie in another.  We would have ice cream–it came in a box and was sliced with a knife, and was always Neapolitan–stripes of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.  (Do they even make that anymore?) 

Eventually, you found yourself in a kitchen bathed in the warmest sunlight, sunlight that made my mother’s hazel eyes sparkle, the flecks of gold just glorious.  The sun shone through the windows and across the kitchen table, where I ate bowls of chicken and stars soup, mountains of grilled cheese sandwiches, and piles of warm peanut butter chip cookies.  There was a television in our kitchen, where I watched episodes of The Donny and Marie Show and Sonny and Cher, by myself,  in the dark and in complete bliss.  (The flickering light of the television in otherwise darkness still transports me back to these nights.)

As you left the kitchen, you moved through the dining room and faced the staircase leading upstairs to our bedrooms.  If you passed my mother’s bedroom, you walked directly into mine, a room furnished with a  white canopy bed with butterfly bedding and matching bureaus.  It was here that I hosted annual slumber parties–parties where we would whisper about Shawn Cassidy and have dance competitions.  Many hours were spent here playing house and giggling with friends.

Outside was a large yard, perfect for making mud pies, watching a parade go by, and playing freeze tag.  Summer days were spent mixing dandelion petals into mud and offering them up to my mother for lunch.  We ran in the sprinkler, the water from the hose just cold enough to make us squeal with equal parts delight and discomfort.  We manned our lemonade stand (how lucky we were to live in a time when people still bought lemonade from children selling it).  In the fall, we would rake up all of the leaves and jump in our piles for hours.  I can still recall the smell of the decaying leaves, the joy I had jumping in them, and the discomfort of having the broken leaf bits inside of my clothing.    The winter brought so much snow that we could dig and make forts tall enough to stand inside.  We built seats and huddled together for warmth. 

This house sat directly across from a Catholic church and if I sit still, I can still hear the sounds of the church bells that rang out each Saturday evening and Sunday morning.  If you were quiet enough and the breeze was just right, you could hear the parishioners singing the hopeful hymns in beautiful unison, their voices spilling out through the open front doors. 

This was my childhood home.  This is the home where my mother raised me for the first decade of my life.  This is the home that I will always conjure up if you ask me to describe where I grew up.  This is the home in which I was happiest. 

I’ve always missed this house.  If you asked me why, I’m not entirely sure what I would say. 

Was it the house itself?  Unlikely. 

Was it the neighborhood?  I don’t think so.  

Perhaps it was more a combination of things.  It was not just playing outside, but knowing that my mother was inside making cocoa, the kind with those tiny little marshmallows that always melted just before you could actually feel them on your tongue.  It wasn’t just watching tv in the kitchen, but knowing that my mother was in the other room, waiting to tuck me in and tell me just how much she loved me. 

As I watch our children in our home, I wonder what they will remember.  Will they be able to recall the smells of rosemary or cilantro or pancakes that came from our kitchen?  Will they hear a Dave Matthews or Keith Urban song and be transported back to our living room, to hours spent dancing and laughing?  Will they see a Giant’s game on television and remember lazy weekend days, spent in our living room watching them play on television?  Will they see  and smell gardenias and remember how they grew just outside our back door? 

Will they combine these tangible things with the intangible, the love we have for them, the love that we have for each other, and combine them into a full and beautiful memory? 

I pray that we are giving them the ingredients for these memories.  I pray for happy childhoods for our babies.


  1. Megan (Best of Fates

    What a beautiful post. It does such a great job of conjuring up your childhood home – thanks for sharing it.

  2. KLZ

    Oh, so sweet. I always think of my mom when I smell lilacs…she loves them so much but could never get them to grow in our yard for some reason.

  3. Nichole

    I grew up in Maine, where my family still lives. Every time I go home, I drive by this old house and it always makes me a little sad to see how much it has changed.

    It is my hope that other children are making happy memories there as I did.

  4. Nichole

    Funny that you mention lilacs, as we had them growing outside our front door…how did that slip my mind?

    Their scent is so delicious. I love the way a smell can trigger a memory. How lovely that they remind you of your mother.

  5. So poignant, vivid and real. I loved this. I feel the comfort and warmth in all of your words. I know this feeling, and often think wistfully about my own childhood home. I'm excited to be creating the same kind of memories for my children and hope that this place where we raise them will always be their sanctuary, and filled with love and happiness.

    Glad to have found you through the Theta Mom community. I'll be back!

  6. Lovely. There's a house like that in my memory, though we only lived there a few years and I was very young – we moved away when I was 5. I have lived in the desert ever since then, but I still remember the sounds and smells of Seattle with all its damp. I remember the pull of my mom's boar bristle brush through my hair, the little wading pool, the feel of shag carpeting under my feet.

    What my two eldest kids remember now of their early childhoods always surprises me because they are not the memories that would have been significant to me. It shouldn't surprise me; they are their own people, but I'm their mom and I assume I know what they think about. They both remember a lullaby I used to hum to them. Jacob remembers reading books together, and playing outside alone. Abbie remembers not the things we DID but what we talked about – Hey Mom, remember that story you told me about…?

    And Carter. I hope he has happy memories.

    Whoa. OK, reverie over. Thank you, Nichole.

  7. Kris

    This post touched me, because I am always wondering what parts of their childhood my daughters will take away and remember in years to come. What parts will resonate with them?

    I so hope that only good memories come from this childhood and this family and this home that their daddy and I are trying to make for them.

    But I see on a daily basis the small angers and hurts and pains that they interpret and take away with them into their bedrooms at night. I see again and again how their child-eyed interpretation of events are not always the same as mine. And I worry that their small bits of sadness outweigh the joys of our day to day life.

    I worry.


    Your post touched me for another reason, and that is that some of my best memories of Michigan (where I grew up) are of the outside where we played. The green, the damp, the lushness of it all. Our recent move to Oregon has brought back many memories and associations, as our outside is very much like the outside of my youth.

    The inside, I hope, is much much different.


  8. Uyen

    I found you over in the Blog Frog and thought I would check you out. What a great writer you are! Your blog on memories of childhood and home made me miss the house that I grew up in Virginia. That will always be "home" to me. My parents have since moved 3 times now and yet, I still drive by my old house whenever I go back and visit them in VA. The funny thing is that the house is so old now but yet in my memories it is a completely brand new home because it was newly constructed when we first moved into that house. sigh…those were the good old days! :)

  9. tara

    I don't know what it is about childhood homes and why a certain space will resonate with us forever. I wonder about my kids too. Like what will they cling to when they think of home? My kids divide time between two homes (dad's and mine) and I wonder sometimes which one feels like home. For me I remember places other than home because my parents are still in my childhood home, so maybe it's lost that kind of specialness? I remember summers on a lake and I remember the one year we spent in England. Those take on more weight for some reason. Odd since I spent so much more time in the childhood home…

  10. Nichole

    Memory is such a funny thing. It holds on to such random bits. I could have written so much more about that house, it is so incredibly vivid.

    Thank you for your comments…I look forward to reading your blog. :)

  11. Nichole

    We can only hope that if we offer enough of the wonderful stuff, it's bound to outweigh the not-so-great moments, like when Mark made them eat poo logs with gravy–

    The love that you have for those girls is amazing and protective. (

    They are lucky to have a mother who is so present and deliberate, one who will undoubtedly teach them to have a sense of humor (okay, maybe Maj not so much).

    I included the links, because I think that sometimes you need a reminder of just what a great job you're doing.

    If I had to describe your family with just one word, it would be "united." Strip away the jokes and what I see is a family incredibly intertwined and involved with one another. That is a beautiful thing.

    Your girls will have joys that far outweigh and tiny bits of sadness, have no doubt about that.

  12. Nichole

    The memories that your children have are just lovely. It never fails to amaze me how we all filter things differently.

    And the pull of your mother's brush? That image chokes me up. I remember my mother brushing my hair too–I used to just love that.

    Thank you for sharing your memories with me. You paint such a vivid picture with your words that I always find myself nodding along, as though I somehow recall them too.

  13. Roxane

    Beautiful. Took me back to my little place. Thanks.

  14. Kat

    Like everyone reading this blog, it too brought me tears…of JOY. I remember my childhood vividly, like it was just yesterday.
    Then reading Adrienne's comment about her mum's bristle brush through her hair…i choke back tears, for I don't recall a moment spent with my mum in such emotional terms. My mum left when I was 3yrs old. I grew up with my dad and spent my entire life living in 2 different countries (Philippine Islands & Australia) Summer in Greece, winter in the Netherlands. I am blessed to have my father's family all scattered abroad. It gave me a chance to see the different faces of the world. When I became a parent, I vowed to devote my time to my children and nurture them into the adult that they want to be. I want them to experience all the fullness that childhood could possibly give them. I want them to have more than what mine gave me, in return for the greatest memories. That they all would gather together at a Sunday brunch and reminice when the days grow old. :)

  15. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    So lovely, Nichole! WHY do those marshmallows always melt too soon?

    I hope my kids don't take away the vision of their mother always in front of her computer..

    I remember both happy and sad times from the house in which I grew up. And that's okay. That's life.

  16. Shaun Cassidy. Holly Hobbie. Gilligan's Island. Neopolitan ice cream sliced with a knife. We must be near each other's age, or at least close enough to touch if we reached out, because each of these references made me smile. And nod. And say, "Yes."

    But the detail that showed me you were a writer for sure? Cheryl mentioned it first above me. Three weeks ago.

    "It was not just playing outside, but knowing that my mother was inside making cocoa, the kind with those tiny little marshmallows that always melted just before you could actually feel them on your tongue."

    You are a beautiful writer, mother, person. And although I wasn't around last April, I'm here now.

    And oh, so glad to be reading your words.

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