My Favorite House

I always drive by my grandparents old house when I’m in Minnesota. My grandpa built it for he and my grandma shortly after they adopted my dad in the late 1950’s. My grandma was one of my very best friends, so I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid.

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That’s me (on Easter in 1977) hunting for Easter eggs in the front yard. My grandma’s bedroom was on the other side of that black-shuttered window. She had two twin-sized beds in there. One for me, and one for her. When I stayed over night, we each stretched an arm out between the our beds so that we could hold hands as we fell asleep. I don’t remember my arm ever falling into the side of my bed though, so I’m guessing she waited for my arm to feel heavy, and then got up and out of bed to gently place it by my side. I sure wish I could ask her about that. Did she put my arm by my side on top of the covers? Did she tuck it under the covers? Did she kiss my forehead? I wonder about those things whenever I think about her.

I dream about being inside that house all the time these days. Do you do that? Dream about being in your childhood homes? I don’t always remember who is in the dream with me, but when I wake up, I swear, it feels like I was really there. They’re so vivid. I can see every room, as clear as a bell.

I decided to take a chance and write the folks who live in my grandparents old house the day we left to start driving to Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. Why not, right? I asked if it would be okay to swing by the house while we were in town. I included a copy of the photo above, and told them that my grandpa built the house- hoping they might recognize his name. (He built all but three of the houses on that cul-de-sac.)

Grandma_Letter

I also included my blog and email addresses, and wouldn’t you know it, the second day we were in Minnesota, I got an email from the current owners. They said yes!

We drove to the house the very next day, and although it’s painted yellow and white now, it looks almost exactly like it did back when my grandparents lived there.

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Stepping inside the (original) front door was surreal. Seeing my grandpa’s woodwork in pristine condition brought the biggest smile to my face! We forgot to bring our DSLR in, but I did snap a few photos with my cell phone while we were there:

1960_Foyer_House

Grandma used to set up the most beautiful Christmas tree in front of the window above. And I remember the carpet being a tightly-woven, off-white color…with a subtle scroll pattern in it. I can’t remember what she used to keep in that little cabinet, but what a great little place to hide tray tables these days, huh?

The first floor bathroom was such a treat to see, too. The super-soft harvest gold carpeting is gone, but I was delighted to find the original custom cabinets & fixtures in there…

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(The linoleum, shower, wallpaper, and tile are all new additions.)

I was equally ecstatic when I discovered the custom cabinets and countertops my grandpa built were also in perfect condition in the kitchen, and the den still sported it’s original wall panelling and fireplace…

1960_House

(The linoleum in the kitchen is new.)

I had to really choke back my emotions when Kevin started playing one of the new homeowner’s guitars down in the basement. I met Kevin in 2003, so he never got to meet my Grandma, but I think about how much she would have loved him all the time.

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The trees on the “island” out front have been trimmed up from the ground quite a bit, but it was so fun to soak it up and think about all the times we played together out there.

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I must have walked around that thing 500 times with my Grandma, and my dad said they used to play baseball on it when he was little.

It was one of the coolest experiences ever, and I’m so thankful the new owners were open to the idea of having us over for a visit!

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They were a very friendly couple, and even invited us to stop by with our little one in the future. My grandparents are the inspiration behind my heart for adoption, so I can’t wait to bring sweet baby P to the home they built together!

Have you ever visited a home from your childhood?

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Comments

  1. Patti says

    Hi Layla, What a great story! I did visit my childhood home in Miami many years ago. The owners were very gracious and gave me a tour. They didn’t change the fifties tile in either bathroom which was great and pointed out the same cabinets in the sewing room. They said they had wonderful memories of raising their own children in the twenty years that they had lived there!

    While in New Orleans with my 70 year old uncle, he showed me the house where he was raised with my dad and all the siblings. A man was out front and I asked it he lived there. He did and I told him my uncle grew up there and asked if we could see the house. He was delighted and let us in. My uncle was in tears as he pointed out the blue tile that was still surrounding the fireplace and showed us the bedroom he shared with his three brothers.. He told us of how my grandmother had four stars in the front window to denotes how many of her boys were serving in WWII. Before we left the owner took a picture of my uncle and me on the same back step that his mom took a photo of him and his brothers.

    Uncle Ben couldn’t stop thanking the owner for allowing us to go in. He told me that in a million years he wouldn’t have had the nerve to ask to see the house and how grateful he was that I had asked.
    Thanks for bringing back that memory Layla. I’m sure you will enjoy your for years.

    Patti

  2. Mary says

    Oh wow! I am writing this with tears in my eyes. I so understand where you are coming from. Some of my earliest and most precious memories are of my granny. I loved staying at her house. She has been gone for several years now, but no words could ever tell the impact she had on my life. My grandfather also built their house himself. It was a small little cottage with tons of character. It was their retirement home, and only about 900 sq ft. About 15 years ago the owners put the house for sale and I bought it! My husband and I added an additional 900 sq ft to the house since it was a little small for a family with 2 boys :-) Although we did renovations to granny’s cottage, it still has the same warmness it had when she lived in it. She was an awesome cook. Some days it even smells like her famous spaghetti! Thank you so much for your post. I usually never comment on a post, but yours really spoke to my heart today. God bless you.

  3. Kari says

    I have always wanted to do this….go back in time.
    My grandma was like a second mom to me and her house was so magical.
    Annnnd her house was also white with black shutters. :)

  4. says

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now and always enjoy your pictures and stories. This one in particular touched me deeply. Probably because we have just moved my 84 year old mother who had been living in my childhood home for over 50 years, the only home I ever new. I think it is so special that you got to visit your grand parent’s home. The people who live there now are very nice and they will have many years of happiness as did you and your family. I wish you all the best in life and your adoption. I will keep reading.
    Hugs
    Claire

  5. Magen says

    As I read this, it brought tears to my eyes. I remember my grandmother’s house quite often and I miss her dearly. She passed away when I was 10. I have many wonderful memories in her house.

  6. says

    That is seriously amazing that you were able to do that. My grandpa also built the house he and my grandma lived in, and my mom and aunt grew up in. I spent so much time there as a kid and I think of the house so often. I drive by anytime I’m in that town, and dream of being able to walk through it again, so I know exactly how it must have felt for you. So awesome. Great post.

  7. Josey says

    Layla,

    Whether you are a country music fan or not, I’m sure you will totally appreciate Miranda Lambert’s The House That Built Me. Here are the lyrics:

    “The House That Built Me”

    I know they say you can’t go home again
    I just had to come back one last time
    Ma’am, I know you don’t know me from Adam
    But these handprints on the front steps are mine

    Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
    Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar
    And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
    My favorite dog is buried in the yard

    CHORUS:
    I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
    This brokenness inside me might start healing
    Out here it’s like I’m someone else
    I thought that maybe I could find myself

    If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave
    Won’t take nothing but a memory
    From the house that built me.

    Mama cut out picture of houses for years
    From better homes and garden magazine
    Plans were drawn and concrete poured
    And nail by nail and board by board
    Daddy gave life to Mama’s dream.

    CHORUS

    You leave home, you move on
    And you do the best you can
    I got lost in this ole world
    And forgot who I am

    CHORUS
    …if I could walk around, I swear I’ll leave
    Won’t take nothing but a memory
    From the house that built me.

  8. says

    I am fortunate since I can still visit my grandparents farm ~ although it is empty now I will wander through it and around the grounds remembering when it was alive and full of family. Mom just sold the house I grew up in in 2006 but I drive by when I can ~ someday I will knock on the door and ask for a tour. What a great opportunity you had ~ sounds like you had a great visit.

  9. Michelle says

    What sweet memories. How lucky you are to visit your grandparents home. Just last week I was thinking of my grandparents home and how I would love to explore the attic. My uncle and his family lives currently in the house but I don’t know how he would feel about me snooping around in the attic. I remember the crisp white metal kitchen cabinets and the aqua kitchen table and chairs. I loved sitting at that table and listening to my grandma tell me stories of my dad. She use to give me a little drink of Coke-a-Cola and wafer cookies as a snack. If my brother and I were really good she would give us pennies so we could go to the corner store to buy penny candy. Next time I’m home I may just stop and ask my uncle if I can take a look around.

  10. says

    Beautiful post, Layla! I often wonder about the “old” homes with treasured memories in my life. So nice you got to go back!

  11. says

    Layla,
    What a wonderful day. I may have to do this with my Grandparent’s home. So many wonderful memories there. What a wonderful couple they were for accommodating your request!

  12. Megan says

    Aw, this is such a sweet post!! I’m from MN as well, and miss it terribly. I often think of stopping by my grandma’s old house north of downtown St. Paul when I am home, but am not sure if I could do it. Her childhood home, which is off West 7th Street in downtown still stands, and the owners are always gracious to welcome some of the family members.

    Cheers to good memories with grandma!!

  13. says

    Such a sweet story!!! I can totally relate! :) I’ve just discovered your blog and love it! I’ve also just begun my adventures in home decor and have recently started re-doing old, rustic, fabulous flea market finds! I love bringing them back to life with new, vibrant colors!

  14. Jessaca says

    Choking back tears. So sweet! If you’re ever up in Kansas City, give me a shout! Would love to meet you!

  15. Susanne says

    What sweet memories!!! My husband, two children and I live in my childhood home. When we bought it from my mom she moved one county over into her childhood home. My daddy’s mother died 5 years ago and we still have her farmhouse too. Hoping to make it a weekend retreat. We just cannot let go of houses in our family!

  16. Juli P says

    Layla,
    My Grandpa built the house that he and my Grandma lived in, in St. Paul MN in 1934. They raised my mom in that house and I spent countless weekends there with my “sweetie” as I called my Grandma. As a family, we spent countless Saturday evenings there for family dinner, watching The Lawrence Welk Show.
    Today, my husband and I are raising our own family in that very same house. My Grandma lived in it until she was 96 years old….we bought the house from my mom when we got married. We’ve done a ton of work to the house, but it still has lots of the little touches that my Grandpa added to it.
    Hopefully, someday soon, I’ll be ready to submit the livingroom to you for a pick my presto! It desparately needs to have a complete re-do!

  17. Sunny Beamish says

    Summer always reminds me of my childhood home..in Huntington Bch California. It isn’t the ocean so much as the everyday things we would do in the summertime as kids.
    I got a chance to swing by a couple of years ago, when we had the shortest of time to go through our track of homes. The house looks different , but there was a young girl outside in the yard.
    I hope she has time to climb the tree, walk the fence and lay on the grass at night looking up at the stars and pondering the heavens.
    Thanks for asking us..loved your photos and the dear memories you shared.

  18. Linda says

    Hello. just wanted to write I’m living in the house my dad and family built at 2lbs 4oz I came to this house I just turned 66 in May and happy I can say I’m home. The both of you bring so much joy to my heart you don’t see Love like the both of you have just looking at you. Thank you for your wonderful stories. your new little one coming you both will make wonderful parents, I carry you both softly in my heart,
    Linda

  19. Laurie says

    Thank you for this beautiful post Layla — one of my favorites! It brought tears to my eyes recalling kindnesses from my own childhood and praying I will someday be that sort of grandmother. I love how you often take time in your blog to share treasured memories of simple, tender moments or nostalgic finds. Your grandmother sounds like she had a very gentle and kind way — you seem the same way! Gentleness and kindness are so beautiful and are often forgotten in this world… thank you for all the lovely reminders of them in your blog! What a reminder of God’s grace and kindness that you were able to see your grandfather’s original woodwork in their old home all these years later and can show your little sweetpea the photos! : ) Love the adorable 1970s Easter photo.

  20. teresa says

    That is the sweetest post ever! I have tears, of course! Thanks, L, for the sweet trip down memory lane. And, yes, I dream of the house from my childhood, my grandparents home and times spent there!

  21. Amanda says

    I know you are not likely a country music lover, but have you heard the song The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert? You must listen to the lyrics . It sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it and this post made me think of it. I also have such fond memories of my childhood home and my grandparents’ homes.

  22. S says

    Yes! I visited my childhood home just last month. I didn’t write a letter in advance, but I should have. I didn’t know til the last minute whether I’d have the nerve to even knock on the door, but I did! And got to walk around the outside of the house and peek into some of the windows. I didn’t get invited inside, but it didn’t even matter. :) Funny how small everything looks now, in my memories, everything looks so HUGE!

  23. Amy O'Shields says

    I just had to go get a tissue and wipe my tears. My husband and our 9 year old have always lived in my Grandparents home. One was a 100 year old farmhouse that we lived in until our son was 4 then we moved into their newer home when he turned 4. Grandaddy passed away and Grandma moved into a retirement home. We are moving out this house late Summer since my Grandma has passed. My Grandma was my BFF and I’ve always felt a special connection to them by raising my kids in their houses. It will sadden me to leave but we have had such great memories . I know your Grandma is looking down on you and smiling :)

  24. says

    Hi Layla,
    Thanks for sharing!
    I too am from Minnesota…would you be willing to share the town your grandparents lived?

  25. Bobbi says

    A couple weeks after reading this, we were at a neighbors funeral when a man and woman approached us, not knowing them, they explained they grew up in our house! We were chatting about it, and despite being in the midst of some remodeling and it not being perfectly spotless, I invited them to come over (my hubby’s eyes wide knowing the mess at home). I explained we are working on the house, and they we so excited and said they didn’t care {which I really think they didn’t mind the mess} It was such a great experience catching up and hearing about it, as their grandparents lived her before their parents! So much history learned about our old farmhouse! Thanks for the post on this or I may not have offered for them to come out! Blessings to you!

  26. Karen W. says

    I feel you- my husband and I just bought the house my Grandpa built in 1947. My Grandma passed away 27 years ago, and my Grandpa passed 2.5 years ago. They each passed in their sleep in this house. I have spent every Christmas of my life in this home, and that will continue to be the case :-) We just moved in 3 weeks ago and it has been an absolute joy to have the honor of living here and giving it the TLC it needs. So, so many wonderful memories…

  27. says

    I was raised in the house my dad and grandfather built together. We were all suppose to live together – four of us (mom, dad, my brother and myself) and my two grandparents. It was a two bedroom, one bath home – but it was so special. Two weeks after we all moved in my grandfather passed away from a heart attack. However, my family and my grandmother lived in that house my entire childhood. A few years after my dad passed away, my mom remarried and sold my childhood home to a friend – who ended up being my husband! When we got married he sold the house to his oldest daughter who still lives in it today. It has been through several renovations – some my dad made, some my husband made, and a couple that my step-daughter’s family has made – including a new kitchen and turning half the front porch into a third bedroom – but it still only has one bath. It is amazing to walk back into that house and know all the love that those walls have seen – and to know that my dad and papa would be so happy that “family” was still there!