a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

The Little House on Prairie Avenue

< by Jorie of themidwestmaven.wordpress.com >

Before I moved away to college, I had only called one place home — a cozy, three-bedroom, two-bath brick ranch house in suburban Chicago. Like all the others on the tree-lined avenue, it was built in the 1950s, part of a sleepy community erected in the post-WWII housing boom. From the outside, it’s nothing special. But to me, it’s a living museum.

When my parents moved in as newlyweds in 1973, it was their “starter home.” It wound up carrying them through the next four decades. My dad, a handyman if there ever was one, knocked out walls, remodeled the kitchen, and added a master bedroom and bath. Out went the wood paneling, orange shag carpeting, and avocado kitchen appliances of the ’70s; in came the earth tones, blond wood cabinets, and stenciled walls of the ’90s. Flipping through a family photo album is like shooting the house through a time machine of American interior design.

The lion’s share of my childhood and adolescent memories are set within a two-block radius of that address. When you know a place so intimately for so long, your memories start to layer over one another. The front yard is not just where my sister and I sold painted pinecones in a stroke of entrepreneurial genius as young kids. It’s also where I practiced pitching to my dad in grade school, where I posed for photos for the homecoming dance as a high school senior, and where I chased my parents’ new dog, Bodie, just two weeks ago.

Even though I’ve lived in other cities and no longer reside at that address, I can’t imagine calling any other place “home.” But I’ll find out what that feels like soon enough. My parents are itching for a new adventure, and they’ve started building their dream home in a different town.

I’ve already started to think about what I’ll do when they move. I’ll miss my home itself, the easy way I can maneuver around even in the pitch black, sure of every wall, every door knob. But what I’m most worried about is losing the physical anchor to all my memories, the neat storage space of my past.

The thought of a new couple moving in, oblivious to what has transpired here, is like a punch to the gut. I want to walk the next owners through the house, wagging my finger in their faces and reiterating how special this place is. “My dad did all this woodwork on the wall by hand, himself. There are two very important dogs buried there beneath that bush because it was their favorite shady spot to lie. The basement is a fantastic place to Rollerblade when it’s cold outside. Did you know there was once a 20-foot homemade rock climbing wall in the backyard?”

But for a little while longer, the house is still mine. And when I return to it, it’s always the same scene.

It’s quiet. I’m driving my car, I’m biking, I’m walking. I’m returning from a friend’s house, a long dance practice, a semester at college, a stressful week in my tiny Chicago apartment. It’s sunset, midnight, 7 a.m., and all the hours in between.

That little ranch house is glowing, lit up from the inside like a Norman Rockwell painting. Soft lamplight spills out everywhere through the open windows and doors.

From the end of the driveway, I can see two furry heads silhouetted in the doorway. My dad is tinkering with a project in the garage, reading in his armchair. My mom is stirring a pot on the stove, standing on a step-stool to water her plants. My sister is doing homework at the kitchen table, playing with the dogs in the living room. It’s all happening, all the time.

Ahhhh. There it is. I’m home.


  Holly wrote @

My parents moved from the house I considered home right after I graduated high school and I was always so jealous of my friends who could go “home.” Slowly, though, their new house has started to feel normal, but never like home home. Great post!

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you, Holly! I am hoping that my parents’ new house will take on that “home” quality but I have a sinking suspicion that nothing will ever surpass the comfort of that cozy little abode on Prairie Avenue. 🙂

  on thehomefrontandbeyond wrote @

one of the most beautiful posts I have read in a long time–makes me understand how my sons feel about this ramshackle place we all call home

  Jorie wrote @

Wow, thank you so much. It’s interesting how a home can be viewed through the different lenses of parents and children. My parents said they appreciated this post for the very same reasons you said–they have a better understanding where my sentimentality comes from!

  on thehomefrontandbeyond wrote @

you make them proud

  Amy @ Healthy and Fit for Real wrote @

I felt the same way when my parents moved. I cried at a loss of memories and I still drive by that house and am disppointed to see the changes they made (bad ones in my biased opinion). I didn’t think someplace else could feel like “home” but now I realize that I still have those memories and it’s my parents that are what make a place “home” for me.

  Jorie wrote @

Amy, I can only imagine driving by my childhood home in the future! It must be so hard to see the current owners make changes–especially if it’s not for the better. I’m hoping that my parents’ new house will have that same cozy, homey quality, and I’m sure it will. But I’m still going to be an emotional wreck on moving day!

  My Guest Blog for A Breakfast Serial – wrote @

[…] I’m sending you over to another corner of the Internet, A Breakfast Serial, where I guest blogged about my childhood home in suburban Chicago. Here’s a little […]

  Kacy wrote @

Beautiful post, Jorie. I felt very similarly to the house I grew up in. My parents sold it shortly after I went to college, but I still remember it vividly and find it in my dreams often. It’s funny how important walls and a roof can become in our lives, based on what happened inside them.

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you, Kacy! You’re so right. Most homes are pretty unremarkable from the outside, but hold such significance to the families that dwell within.

  Kate wrote @

This is such a sweet post. I got tears reading it. I haven’t lived in my childhood home for 15 years, and still I find myself daydreaming about it. It’s amazing to me that you’ve called one place home for so long. What a comforting experience 🙂

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you so much, Kate! It’s refreshing to hear I’m not the only one so attached to my childhood home. I’m going to take so many photos of it before the moving out process begins — just like “Father of the Bride.” I’m going to be an emotional mess!

  Rebecca @ Blueberry Smiles wrote @

This is a beautiful post. We moved twice when I was a kid so I am not as attached to my house, but I still like the feeling of “going home”

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you, Rebecca. There’s no place like home 🙂

  Jean Lunde wrote @

Love your message,Jorie. There is nothing like your growing-up home. Good work.

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you so much, Jean!

  Rachel Prill wrote @

So great! And yes- I don’t want anyone else to move in there. We have so many great memories! But we also have etched our initials in the driveway..don’t forget. Way back in 2000, when we got a new driveway. Wow–time really does fly!

  Jorie wrote @

I know! I didn’t have a chance to include that little tidbit but I love that our initials in the driveway will live on 🙂

  Miki Schroeder wrote @

Beautifully written, Jorie. It makes me think of our own home, where we have raised our children, as a real member of the family.

  Jorie wrote @

Thank you so much, Mrs. Schroeder! I’m sure Mike and Allyson feel very similarly about your house in Bloomingdale, too.

[…] The Little House on Prairie Avenue (abreakfastserial.com) […]

  The Midwest Maven Turns One Year Old – wrote @

[…] Waxed nostalgic about my childhood home and wrote an ode to growing up with a […]

  Sarah Cedeño wrote @

“the neat storage space of my past.” Love it. It is nice to know there are others as nostalgic about homes!

  Jorie wrote @

Thanks so much for reading, Sarah! I think we are kindred spirits when it comes to home-related nostalgia. I love your writing style, by the way.

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