Small house. Big yard. Enormous love.

My home… There was never a time when I was embarrassed or ashamed to bring my friends there. Everyone was welcome. No matter how little we had or how many mouths were being fed, the welcome was the same - warm, sincere, and genuine. There was always room for one or two more, whether it was a neighbor, a cousin, or an unexpected friend that joined me after school. Sometimes that meant running to the cellar for another jar of canned beans or a second pound of butcher wrapped hamburger from deep inside the old chest freezer. The menu, while seldom the same from night to night, always featured a great tasting home cooked meal that was served with love and my mothers smile – even if it was yesterday’s leftovers.

I didn’t know it at the time, but now that decades have passed I realize how special those days really were. I didn’t realize that the family and the home I was born into was as uniquely special as it apparently was. I remember thinking how very big our house was, only to find out that it barely stretched to 1400 square feet after adding onto the original structure three or four times.

On the outside, the color I remember was called "barn red" and it made our home stand out as the one that couldn't be missed when giving directions to someone coming to our house for the first time. With clean bright white trim around the eaves and windows, and a graying cedar shake roof, the old five-bedroom, one-bath home where I grew up sat proudly back from the street with an oversized and manicured emerald green lawn out front. At the most forward edge of the lawn, separating an open ditch and a two-lane country road from the yard was a four-foot high laurel hedge.


Not only did my dad’s neatly hand-trimmed hedge add an attractive boundary to the property, it served as a perfect outfield wall over which home runs could be hit during our frequent games of neighborhood whiffle ball – a version of baseball that was played with a plastic bat and a lightweight plastic ball with holes in it. The dip in the yard that was closest to the house, where the old well was located, would always serve as home plate. The corner of the garden was first base, the lid to the shut-off valve for the water faucet standpipe was third, and whatever we could find to complete the diamond was thrown down and identified as second base.

I can't begin to estimate the number of hours that my friends and I played our childhood games in that yard. It was one of our neighborhood’s most popular gathering places. In addition to whiffle ball, we played croquet, badminton, kick the can, red rover, mother-may-I, capture the flag, dodge ball, Simon says, tag, and whatever else came into our vivid imaginations.

When the sun went down and we were called inside before saying goodbye for another day, one of my parents would frequently meet us at the front porch to see how we all were doing. I remember their voices and recall the way they joked and struck up conversations with my friends. Sometimes there would be a snack for us to share.

Earliest house

I remember the long gravel driveway where we gathered each morning to catch the bus during the school year and a different bus to the berry fields during the summer. I remember the other structures on the half-acre property too. There was an old and weathered garage, a chicken coop, a cloths line, even a “two-holer” outhouse that when eventually obsoleted by indoor plumbing was there for emergency use when my sisters took over the only bathroom in the house.

Over time the driveway was paved with concrete, the garage was rebuilt, an electric dryer replaced the clothesline, and the chicken coop and outhouse were torn down. With those changes space opened up for new memories to be made. And with each iteration of change one thing always remained. It was the thing that made our small home seem large. It was the thing that made our front yard feel like a fabulous park. It was the thing that thing that kept bringing the family home for Sunday dinners, holiday picnics, birthday celebrations, and just to say hello. It was something that money couldn’t buy. It was a special feeling of love and affection that was always present in our home. And that was quite a gift. A gift from my parents to each other and to their children that lives on in our memories of them today.

Dad and Mom - young

No, I was never embarrassed or ashamed to bring my friends there. The truth is that I was very proud that they wanted to come. I always thought that our house was special. But it wasn’t the house that was special, it was the couple who bought it, made it a home, filled it with love and raised their family there. The environment that my parents created and the spirit with which they lived their lives gave each of us an edge. All we had to do was see it and make it our own.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.