30 April 2010


This is my grandparents house. It's on the market for $134,500 in Peoria, Illinois. I am overwhelmed with nostalgia as so many of my good memories from childhood are wrapped up in this dwelling. This home is sited on a corner lot in a comfortably middle-class neighborhood.

My grandpa started dating my grandma when he was 25 years and she a mere 15 years old. She was very, very special. A dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty from Cuba, Illinois. He was a first generation German immigrant from Alsace Lorraine. A self-made man. He eventually became a skilled cabinetmaker/carpenter, and for his bride he built this house. He purchased the land--several acres at that time--and built the house by hand and with love.

My grandparents both died about 40 years ago. I can't believe it's been that long. My mom and her sisters sold this house for something like $20,000.

In my childhood and my mom's the house sat up on a hill and beside and behind there were meadows and a creek. Near the end of grandpa's life, the street was widened and improved and he allowed the city to scrape and terrace and tame the hill and side yard. The house was always surrounded with flower beds, and I am pleased to see that the current owners have done such a nice job of landscaping.

Over time, grandpa sold off some of the land and after his death more land was re-zoned and subdivided. But, during my childhood there were lilac bush and bridle-wreath forts, fruit trees, a massive vegetable garden and dahlias. Grandpa raised award-winning dahlias.

Being at grandpa and grandma's was a time of security in an otherwise chaotic childhood. There were always rules and boundaries, but also unconditional love and plenty of freedom.

I remember games of croquet, crack-the-whip, and statues on the front lawn. We loved rolling down the front hill--scandalizing our grandma who had a strong sense of propriety. We built snowmen, weeded gardens, helped in the carpentry shop and were more or less given the run of the land. We climbed trees, waded the "crick" and claimed every nook and crannie as our own.

Much about the interior of the house has changed, some good some not-so-good, but enough of the details remain that I can't help but travel misty-eyed down paths of memories. Just the good ones, but even the not-so-good seem not-so-bad.

This is so special to me that I can share these photos with my kids. We've driven past the house, but until now they didn't have much of a frame of reference. Now I can say--see what a cabinet maker your great grandpa was? The details in the living room and diningroom are visible even after almost 100 years.

I catch a glimpse of the heat "registers" as we called the ventwork. Talk about a forced-air furnace! Standing or crouching by those registers was heaven on a cold wintery day. And, my grandma's hair drying method was to sit on a chair near a register and comb through her long and straight hair before twisting it into place with intricate weaving at the nape of her neck.

The kitchen, bedrooms, and bath(s) are unrecognizable. And, the lovely upstairs railing has been replaced with pine. I can't help but wonder what the basement is like. In my childhood it was a dank and dark place--somewhere I went seldom and reluctantly.

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