Tag Archives: home

Childhood Homes – Part 3

The third move of my childhood had us in the North-central portion of Wisconsin, namely the Wausau area. We initially moved into a rental home in the city of Wausau, then out to a house in a rural area of Mosinee, and then back into the city of Wausau before we left the area for good (my mother excluded, as she returned after leaving my father).

We moved in January of 1999, and it was bitterly cold, but my father apparently just didn’t want to waste any time in leaving. He was never very specific in why he wanted to leave and give up the role of pastor. In fact, my mother begged him to stay as she loved the area we’d been in, but to no avail. His mind was made up and could not be changed.

The rental house was the same house I detailed a little in this post. The attic was nice and spacious and we also had an unfinished basement. The porch area was small, but it was very nicely decorated. I actually have a little trouble sometimes differentiating between our rental house in Wausau and the house that we ended up moving into after Mosinee, as they were right next to each other and were actually owned by the same man. The rental house faced Emerson St, though, so the whole living room/entryway was different, as the other house actually sat on the corner and faced Weston Ave. In the first house, my bedroom was on the first floor and I had windows facing the backyard and our future house. I used to have a daybed, but that was actually a lot of trouble as far as making the bed went, so my parents later got me just a plain ol’ regular bed. I still had trouble remembering to make the bed, but at least it was easier when my parents nagged me about it. 😛 The first floor bathroom, I can’t really remember, and I think I might be getting it mixed up with the other house. They really were pretty similar!

That house also had another first for me: hardwood floors! The only other houses I’d lived in previously had some sort of carpet. I was homeschooled at that point, and I did the videos from Pensacola Christian Academy. Oh my gods, I remember some of those videos were recorded as far back as 1989 … when I was but 2 years old! The curriculum hadn’t really changed though, which as I look back and think on it, is kind of sad. Certainly they weren’t ALL that old, but I think the newest video was recorded in 1997, and they tended to run from 1991-1993. I watched the lessons in the living room and did my work at a set up there.

We ended up moving not even a year later … September of 1999, maybe? I can’t quite remember. My school area then changed up a couple of times while I was there. I think it was initially upstairs in the study, but then it changed to downstairs in the finished basement in my dad’s study, as it was quieter and there were less distractions. I was only thus homeschooled the rest of sixth grade, and then seventh and eighth grade. From my freshman to my junior year, I attended a very small Christian school.

The house in Mosinee was in a rural area. We had a pretty large backyard that included a sand volleyball court and a pool (which we rarely used, because it was above ground, there was no heater, and with no heater it was very cold!). We ended up adding a storage shed in the back of the property, and I remember very vividly helping my father set up the steel beams and handing him materials so he could put together the metal building. It was a pretty easy operation, overall. Later on, we also expanded the bathroom into the old pantry for the kitchen, and then moved the sink countertop from a long counter running along the center of the kitchen (that made the kitchen extremely small and was incredibly impractical) and put it against the actual wall so it was just a wide and open space. We also expanded the garage into a three car garage before I started driving (I can’t remember if it was originally a one or two car setup). Of course, it wasn’t long after we did all of the remodeling that we ended up moving. 😛

We spent the most time in the house in Mosinee. I think my parents liked it because it was a little out of the way, sort of in the country like they’d been used to in Georgia. A big difference though, besides the fact that we weren’t as remote as in Georgia, was that the yard was a lot easier to mow, so we had to keep it kept up. At the house in McDonough, besides being remote, we were at the foot of a hill that made especially our front yard very uneven and almost impossible to properly mow. We had a lot of tree coverage, though, so the grass didn’t grow too much. In Mosinee, though, we didn’t have a lot of trees and it was pretty open, so the grass grew rather well.

For mowing we used a riding lawnmower, because of the size of the yards, and to clean up afterward, we had an attachment that we hooked onto a four-wheeler that we ran to get up all the clippings. Funny, I remember my mother usually mowed the lawn. My father rarely did it, citing allergies … however, as long as I can remember, my mother’s allergies were more sensitive and severe than my father’s allergies. He was probably just a baby. Or lazy. Or both. I’m convinced he has some narcissistic qualities, if not a full-blown disorder, so an inability to see beyond his own problems is par for the course, and I think he only gets worse as he gets older. I remember wondering about the whole allergy thing as a teenager. If it was that obvious to me, even as fully entrenched in our family and naive as I was then, I wonder how many other things slipped under my radar? My guess is quite a bit.

Anyway, sometimes I was allowed to run the four-wheeler to pick up the clippings. I had to wear a breathing apparatus and I couldn’t go too fast, but it was a lot of fun. Hot, sweaty, fun work. I might think it more of a chore nowadays, but when the novelty is all shiny and new, it’s hard to see past it. 🙂

There was also a very large field in the back of our house that was owned by a family down the way. They didn’t mind if we rode our four wheelers (or drove our Ford Ranger around … which I did several times before I got my license and thoroughly enjoyed it!) around in it. It was just an unkempt field. Beyond it was woods. A few trails. Some hunting spots. I used to like to walk around (when it wasn’t hunting season) back there. I sometimes have dreams about walking back there and going even further, like there was something beyond that I never discovered (the furthermost trail I found terminated in a lake, so not sure what would be past it!).

When we moved back into Wausau, we were back in the same area as before, since our house was right next to the rental place we’d had. It was previously lived in by an older couple, and the woman moved out after her husband died. It also had wood floors, which were quite lovely. Before we moved in, we added on to the garage to make it a three car and finished the basement. My room was the basement room, which was quite nice as I was a senior in high school and it was like having a little apartment. When walking into the kitchen entrance, one could just go down the basement steps and into my room, bypassing the entire house. I even had a bathroom in there and I set up a TV and later my ps2 there. The only thing I was lacking was a refrigerator and a microwave; I would have been good to go! Of course, my parents would have rarely seen me. 😛

By that point, I was homeschooling for the last time in my school career, but I was doing it via a state-wide charter school, which was new for us. They gave us Mac iBook G4’s to use for school (that we unfortunately had to return at the end of the school year) and thus began my relationship with Apple products. I’ve loved them ever since. I set up the laptop on a table in my room, and after the laptop was returned, I set up my desktop computer there and even bought and put together a desk for it (an accomplishment I was quite proud of).

My maternal grandmother lived with us for a spell while we were in Wisconsin. She was actually moved in when we were still in Mosinee (and she was given my room, and I was relegated to a space in my father’s downstairs study, which he rarely used … I didn’t mind, though, it actually afforded me more privacy and gave me more of an escape). She was a hateful, manipulative old woman, and she pulled most of her shenanigans in the second Wausau house. I think my mother just wanted to try to mend things with her and help her one last time, but she ultimately proved that she was beyond help. She was schizophrenic, likely bipolar, a pathological liar and master manipulator. She was a dark cloud that hung around us at the end, but once she was gone, it was like a brand new day.

This was one area that I actually thought would be hard to leave, and it was probably harder than most because my most influential growing-up years were spent there. I met my bestest best friend in the whole wide world (who is quite literally my psychological twin), so that was probably the hardest part, leaving her behind. It’s actually where I would consider “home” to be; above the other places of my childhood, that is where I would really point to as my hometown. It’s also the place I pretty much know the best, navigation-wise (I don’t quite count International Falls as it was so small, it was hard to get lost!). When I was driving there to my mother’s house (well, to the Wal-Mart in Rib Mountain to meet her) when moving from Ohio, I kept thinking about driving “home”. So even my subconscious agrees with me, apparently.

Stay tuned for the house saga! The next entry on homes will be a bit bumpy, as after our family moved to Pennsylvania, things got a bit rocky for me for a while. The memories are a lot more vivid, for the most part, but I feel it’s still good to document them for the future.

And so far on our current place … there’s a few issues here and there, but mostly, fiance and I are glad to be out of my brother’s house and on our own. 🙂 Our cat, Inara, is still adjusting, but she’s much better than the super clingy mess she was at first. One day at a time.

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Childhood Homes – Part 2

So, continuing in my series. 🙂 The home in McDonough, GA, was the first home I ever lived in. It was the only home I knew until March of 1997, when my family relocated to International Falls, MN so my father could take over as senior pastor at a church up there.

It was quite the culture shock. Even in March the snow was hip deep on me at 9 years old. We had visited there once before as a family, so I was familiar with snow, but the fact that this was now where we would be living started to set in as a reality.

The house we lived in for almost two years was a rental that was owned by one of the members in the church. It was a two-story (my first and only) with an unfinished basement. I remember being really excited that my bedroom was upstairs. I don’t know what it was, but I’d always had the childhood fantasy of having at least a two floor house and having a bedroom on an upper level. I’m not really sure why. Maybe the allure of the unknown? Nowadays, screw it, let everything be on one level. Fuck stairs. But back then, it was a new experience that I embraced wholeheartedly.

My room actually changed after we were there for a little while. When one walked up the stairs and went down the hall, there was a bedroom at the near end of the stairs, one in the middle, and the end of the hall terminated into the master bedroom. I initially had the middle bedroom, which was smaller but had a closet. I later moved into the other spare bedroom because it was roomier. The middle room was okay, but I really preferred the one on the end anyway. It had a window that looked out onto our postage-stamp sized backyard and garage, the back alley, and then a neighbor’s backyard and further still the neighborhood as a whole. The middle bedroom window just looked across at another house. No real view. The only nice thing was there was a tree beside it where a white-throated sparrow lived. I loved hearing the sound of its call. But I still preferred space and a better view.

The switch meant that the study was moved from the end bedroom and to the middle bedroom. That was where the computer got moved. By this point, we had internet, but I didn’t even know how to use it other than e-mail. And I didn’t know anybody’s e-mail address, so it didn’t matter anyway. We had a family Juno e-mail address but I can’t remember exactly what it was. To me, computers were only good for tetris, pinball, and paint. The most fun thing in paint I did was a basic basket weaving design, going pixel by pixel to create the pattern. I never saved it, I have no real clue why I did it. It was just fun, almost relaxing. I was an odd child. 😛

The kitchen, while small, had a sliding glass door that opened up onto a back porch. We loved cooking on the grill out there and the door was convenient and also provided a nice view for us. Another first for me, along with window blinds! The house in GA never had any blinds while I was there, only curtains, and I gotta say I really fell in love with blinds after that.

The garage sat directly in the back of the house, separated from the structure by a miniscule yard area (another first, again). There was an attic storage space in the garage, but I was scared to go up there because it was high up and the space between the creaky wooden steps did not help my vertigo. I remember, after a while of living up there, somebody broke into our garage and stole the CB radios my parents had in their cars that we had used for the cross-country move (since nobody in the moving party had cell phones). It was the only crime I was ever aware of living up there, so it was a bit startling, but it soon passed. We never really had any news coverage, so it’s hard to say what the crime was really like, but it was a quiet town with the feel of being stuck in the 50’s. We used to joke that if the world ended, it would take ten years for us to hear about it. At the time, International Falls didn’t even have their own news or radio station, we had to go on a station out of Duluth – three hours away! International Falls isn’t just a small town, it is very remote. But it was lovely.

It was the kind of town where I could ride my bike to the library and back alone with no fear. Or down to the grocery store to run an errand for my mother. I think the only actual grocery store was Super One, and it was about five or six blocks away from where we lived. It was in a plaza with an ice-cream type of restaurant, a sit-down restaurant, and a theatre that had a grand total of three screens, that I remember. Looking it up via google, it looks like they’ve likely expanded to five screens since then, as I honestly don’t remember it being that big. I only remember two or three screens at the most. Slightly aside, but I remember going to see Flubber and the reel messed up about halfway into the movie. We got free tickets to another showing of it for our trouble.

One thing that people probably wouldn’t expect when visiting is the smell. There is a paper factory in International Falls – Boise Cascade – and also another one on the other side of the Canadian border in Fort Frances, Ontario. The smell is … unique. It takes some getting used to. The closest thing I can use to describe it is the smell of cooking cabbage. Once you get used to it, you barely notice it, unless the smell happens to be particularly strong, which happened once in a while.

While I was up there, there was a lovely little store that I loved to go to. I can’t remember the name of it, unfortunately, and from what I hear it was closed down years ago. It had a wonderful variety of things from all kinds of winter wear, supplies, a large wall stacked to the brim with moccasins, and various and a sundry little toys. I got most of my beanie babies from there as well as my first pair of moccasins. I’m not sure why, but the way they are made make them excellent for warm house footwear, which is very useful when anything over zero Fahrenheit is considered a heat wave.

That was obviously the biggest difference between Georgia and Minnesota: the weather. We had to learn how to layer (and learn fast!). As southerners through and through, we really didn’t understand the concept of layering for warmth. Long underwear? Unheard of, except in maybe movies or the like. And at that level of cold, gloves and a hat are a must, not a maybe. I’ve also lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and while it gets cold in the winter, hats and gloves aren’t required winter wear. In Minnesota, they definitely are.

There are also little differences that one probably wouldn’t expect. A “casserole” is a “hot dish”. Milk is available in bags. It’s customary to ask someone if they want something three times. And, of course, the long Minnesota goodbye, where guests and hosts can spend literally hours preparing to leave each other. There’s a German/Polish/Eastern European influence in International Falls that just isn’t quite present in rural GA, so the cuisine can offer different things as well. We had pierogies for the first time (and loved them). If one ate fried fish, it was a good chance it was walleye (which has a very good taste to it and is a plenty in Northern Minnesota). Brats and sauerkraut was a thing. Jell-o salad was a go-to for gatherings. Soft drinks were referred to as “pop” and not “coke” as they are commonly referred to in the Atlanta area of Georgia.

Overall, it was a wonderful place that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the freedom I was allowed and the places I could go just all on my own. I loved the large and spacious library that was mere blocks away. I loved the little park area that I could visit and where the Fourth of July festivals were held. I loved the quaintness of the town. I’m not sure I would like to live in a town that remote again, the kind where almost monthly trips to a city three hours away to do any decent shopping are required. But I have lovely memories of it and it certainly has quite a few high spots, despite our short stay there. It was my first glimpse into the world outside of the house on the little dirt road, and I was fascinated.

Childhood homes – Part 1

I haven’t written a blog post in a minute as I’ve had several things come up and just haven’t had the time nor inspiration for it. However, rather randomly, I thought I would go through remembering each home I grew up in. A couple of homes, we didn’t end up staying in for long, so I might condense those, but at least this one I will devote one full post to, as it’s the first home I lived in.

The first home I ever lived in was in McDonough, GA, out in the boonies. Go down one particular main road, make a turn off to a road in between two cow/horse pastures (whose cows and horses were only there briefly while I was growing up…where the owner lived and what happened to them, I have no idea), make a left at the end of that gravel road onto another gravel road, and we were the last house down that way. We only had two neighbors. Nowadays, developments have bought up all the surrounding property and housing is being put in, so it’s nowhere near as isolated as it used to be. But back then, it seemed like we were a world unto itself.

We had a nice bit of property stretching all around us. Our very large front yard was dotted with trees, but our smaller backyard was more cleared. The land was uneven, as there was a hill on one side that went up to one of our neighbors, and so our lawn was not the manicured perfection one might see in suburbia. I certainly couldn’t go out barefoot as we didn’t really know what all was out there (I did once, that I remember, and got a rusty bit of wire lodged deep in my foot for my trouble). I remember, next to the pathway that went from the driveway to the front porch, there was a dogwood tree. It was there that we had a bird bath setup, and I enjoyed watching the birds sometimes.

I also got a swing set in the front yard, with a couple of swings, a little swinging device that sat two kids on either side (I’m not really sure what it was called…you didn’t really need two on either side, but it was just normally meant that way), and also a slide. It wasn’t an elaborate setup, but I enjoyed playing around on it.

Between what I would call our main front yard and the road, there was just an open field of grass. I remember my dad had taken me out there to try to teach me how to use a baseball bat, but I was woefully unsuccessful at picking up the proper hand-eye coordination. We still played catch sometimes, though, using a tennis-type of ball and these velcro catchers. Other than that, I don’t remember playing much with him. I watched him doing home repairs and various things over the years, and I became his little helper by handing him tools and supplies, but playing? I don’t remember much of that.

My parents built the house that we were in. By the time I came along, they’d added on to it, so it had three bedrooms upstairs, plus an office space and a storage space in the finished basement (which I eventually got a little play area set up in the basement as well). My room was rather large, with a closet that stretched from wall to wall. On one side of my closet, there was a small alcove I could climb up into. I spent time in there reading, it was a little safe place for me. I loved it.

Since I came along so long after my siblings (my sister and brother were 18 and 16, respectively, when I was born), the third bedroom was converted into a study area that was then used as our little school room once I was started on homeschooling. It was pretty small, but it fit our needs just right. My mother also had her sewing machine and supplies in there as well.

The master bedroom was nice and spacious, with its own bathroom and a walk-in closet. I remember one time, during homeschooling, my mother was teaching me about how some Christians were persecuted in other countries, so she had us pretend like we were them. We wore scarves to conceal our identities and we had to sneak around and get to the closet, knock, and then do our Bible lesson there in private, in the near dark. I’m not sure why, but it upset me greatly and scared the shit out of me, so she actually stopped the lesson and we finished it outside of the closet.

We had a pretty nice kitchen set up with a lot of counter space. The washer and dryer were also in the kitchen, but they were easily hid with sliding doors when they weren’t being used. Walking through the kitchen, one would arrive in the dining room area. It wasn’t overly large, but it was barely partitioned off from the kitchen, so it was like a big open space. For a while, our piano was along one wall, and we eventually had a computer set up there. It was one of the ancient ones that had the four separate boxes on the screen with the programs listed. I always liked to play tetris and solitaire and eventually pinball. We had no internet, obviously, and I had no real use of the computer other than the occasional game.

A door on one side of the dining room was our side door, and my parents eventually put up a nice little deck there. It was a nice little size, though nowhere near as big as the front porch that stretched across most of the front of the house. I remember one year, a bird built her nest in one of the shelves we had out there. I loved peeking in at the eggs and then the baby birds once they hatched, though I had to be cautioned against handling them as I wanted to pet them.

When we eventually got a couple of goats, we fashioned a pen out in our back yard for them. The pen was just into the treeline, so they wouldn’t be directly exposed to wind, and my dad built an overhang for them and we had a couple of igloo-type of shelters for them to get into when it got cold. I loved having them, and I’d play around with them. The kids they had were especially adorable, the way they’d just jump around and run and skip.

While there were plenty of trees surrounding us, there was only one that was any good for climbing. Most – if they weren’t evergreen – didn’t have branches that were low-hanging enough for me. There was only one, beside the goat pen, that I was able to scale. I remember the first time I was able to climb it, I felt incredibly triumphant. It wasn’t very high, but I still climbed it!

One very specific thing I remember … we had a garage that was built in to our house (it sat below the master bedroom), but as far as I remember, the vehicles were never put in there. It was used as storage, but not vehicle storage. I remember when we moved and my parents started putting the cars in a garage, I thought it was such a novel concept, as I’d previously thought that a garage was pretty much just for storage. I must have seen other people put cars in garages – my sister, specifically, comes to mind – but I guess it didn’t really click for me until I saw my parents do it.

Going up the pathway to the front porch and through the front door, we had no entryway, the front door just opened up into the living room. We had a large picture window, and we had a small TV set up there. We didn’t have cable or satellite or even an antenna until ’96 when the Olympics came in town, but we had a VHS player and we played a lot of movies. There was a nice fireplace across from the sofa, but it was never used throughout the whole time that I was there. I’m not sure if my parents ever used it, but when I was maybe 6 or 7, they had the fireplace taken out and they put the piano there. I remember I was initially upset, as even though the fireplace wasn’t used, I still loved it. I watched the contractor – a church friend of my parents – tear it out, insulate the wall, and patch it up. While I was initially unhappy with the change, I eventually got used to it.

I really loved that house. Even though we were pretty isolated, I loved the freedom I had to roam around the yard and the treeline and play. And while I sometimes wished I could go outside without having to put on shoes, I was pretty content. I’d actually randomly thought here and there about what if my family moved, even just to another home, and I’d start thinking about all the things I liked about our house and decide emphatically that I never wanted to move away. Funny how when my parents announced that we were going to move to Minnesota and asked me if I would like that, something just clicked in my mind and I said I would like it. I’m not sure what happened that day that changed my view, but it was very quick and sudden, like someone flipped a switch in my mind, and I was all of a sudden okay with moving away and losing the friends and community I had.

Since we moved several times still throughout my life, perhaps that is why I find moving to be an easy thing, mentally. While, at each place I’ve lived, there are places that I love, I don’t find myself tied to one particular area so much that I would never leave. I sometimes do wonder what it would be like to feel that kind of connection, but it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have that. I like the semi-nomadic life I’ve had. I’ve experienced a range of things I never would have otherwise. And I have a pretty good sneaking suspicion that I won’t live out the rest of my life here in Minnesota … and possibly not even in the United States. 😉