We all began a new adventure the spring of 1980. There was a new stepdad, 10 kids now instead of 5, a new neighborhood, new backyard, new bedrooms and new schools. The house at 3924 on Orchard Drive was big and it echoed downstairs. Sliding down the stairs on a sleeping bag was an adventure in itself! Remember the mural on the office wall? The red carpet in the master bedroom? The tiny fans in the toilet bowls? Remember the spiders in the playhouse? And the really big chestnut tree in the backyard (and was it really a chestnut tree or did we just called it that so we could sing the song at Christmas time?)
Weekends were play time. We slept outside on the lawn every night all summer long. We took walks through Dick’s yard across the street to Adelaide, making our way through the “cat walk” in between the Murray’s and Cannon’s yards. Ms. Keister and her Collies and flowers lived next door. Davis’s down the road and Browns on the other side. The Paynes, Christensens, Hayes, and Freemans were behind us with the Wilsons and Gatherums around the corner. A whole block of friends for our big family!
Along came the trampoline, providing hours of entertainment and activity and doubled as a new bed in summer. The girls laid out on it to get tan and jumping with the sprinkler spraying full force underneath was undoubtedly the best way the cool off. We shared Dick’s backyard for a garden and picked peas and raspberries and canned tomatoes and peaches and cherries.
Bapa came to visit and built new furnace ducts. That made Dad happy because now the cost to heat the old house would go down. We painted our rooms – everyone picking their favorite color. Brett chose bright blue and we also had peach, green, and white with red and blue stripes. We “traded” bedrooms several times, moving the furniture all by ourselves. Things would stay that way for a few months until another boring Saturday came along and someone got the great idea to move it all back again!
Christmas morning each year began with everyone in the office until Mom and Dad said it’s time. We had to drink our orange juice “because the excitement will upset an empty stomach!” When the parents said it’s “okay” then we walked in order (oldest in back) into the room to see what gifts were waiting. We always took turns, going around the room, one gift at a time.
The ping-pong table in the basement served two purposes. One, the expected – to play ping-pong. We all got pretty good at whacking that white plastic ball at our siblings with amazing accuracy. (Of course, it was always done with love.) Purpose number two was the advent of “The Business”. Printing stamped cross stitch and getting paid for each square of fabric you walked to it’s designated “drying row” on the ping pong table. And what a family business it was! We even had some of our friends and neighbors earning money by “bagging” the patterns, stitching up models and helping with printing for the business. The business grew and changed with each new cross-stitch trend. What we did not know or realize at the time, is that the business would teach us to be creative, industrious and most of all support each other’s ideas when we became adults. We all saw first hand what was possible and what could be achieved through hard work and persistence.
The teenage years brought dates to the front door for a decade or so. Dates turned to courtship and then to marriage and the kids moved on and out. Mom said, “I think it’s time to sell the house!” Dad moaned, but went along with it. They listed the house and waited. And waited. And waited. No one wanted our old house. Okay, fine! Then let’s build a gazebo, buy a swimming pool and a hot tub! Mom dedicated a few years to the yard and planted every bulb or seed known to man.
In September of 1989, the old house went from being “Mom and Dad’s” to “Grandma and Grandpa’s” and from then on, a whole new set of memories was made for another generation. Over time, there have been countless hours of babysitting, swimming, sleepovers, and jumping on the tramp (but not on Sunday!). Kelsey, Tommy and Malyn even called the old house “home” at one time or another. The grandchildren have their own separate set of happy thoughts when they reminisce about the old house.
Gammy came to stay after her stroke and brought her big smile and funny phrases. Unsure of who or where she was, we loved her and kept her company as best we could. Later, Bapa got cancer and had his turn living full time at the old house, too. Over the years, he had built so many cabinets, drawers and desks in that house – he probably felt right at home. When Grandpa W died, Grandma came for a stay, as well. Long enough to get comfortable and then she fell in love with Grandpa S and off she went!
2003 brought church mission time for Mom and Dad! Time to pack up everything they own, stuff it all in the downstairs bedrooms and head to Washington, D.C. It was also time to share the old house with Tammy and her family for 2 years. They made another set of memories during this time. When they moved out, we all pitched in to get the old house ready for our parents to come home. Yipee! We could all go visit the house. For a while anyway….
Then Mom said, “I think it’s time to sell the house!” Dad moaned, but went along with it and they worked for 2 months solid — cleaning, painting, updating and repairing. “The 4th of July sounds like a good weekend to show the house,” said Mom. They put an ad in the paper, hung a sign in the yard and waited. This time, however, they didn’t wait long. A new family came along in 2 days and fell in love with our old house.
Mom & Dad moved and we said goodbye to the old house. When some of us we are back in the neighborhood, we drive past the old house and remember all of the fun we had growing up there. (And we still can’t believe the huge pine tree is gone!) It was just a building of brick and plaster (and cement, haha) but to us it was a place of love and safety. Long live The Old House!!