#45 – My Childhood Home

auction006Recently a cousin sent me some slides from my parents’ household auction in 1978. They moved to an apartment at the Rockhill Mennonite Community after living in their house for 48 years, so they needed to divest themselves of many household effects.

The slides got me thinking about my childhood home, half of a duplex at 125 W. Chestnut St. in Souderton, Pennsylvania. I warmly recall the setting where I grew up. I knew all our neighbours and enjoyed my playmates. My church occupied the end of our block; my elementary school sat just across a side street from the church. Grampop Clemmer and Aunt Esther lived just two houses beyond the school. And I could easily walk the two blocks to the family feedmill at the center of town.

It all felt safe and comfortable to me as a little girl. And fortunately, a woman up the street knew my name and phoned my Mom when she found my three-year-old self walking alone up the middle of the road, heading “towards town.”

Side view of Sue’s childhood house

As for the house itself, the place where I most liked to hang out as a young child was the padded bench in the kitchen. It hid a radiator, making the spot warm and cozy. The bench belonged to my Dad at mealtimes, but the rest of the time I could lie or sit there while my Mom prepared lunch or baked for the weekend or did the laundry or canned peaches or froze corn.

During my primary school days and beyond, I often gravitated to the rocking chair in the dining room. From there I could look out the big “picture window,”  which faced our side yard. I loved reading there after school or in the evening; my Mom often joined me in “her” chair, which faced the rocker.

Martha-Clemmer-in-Living-RoomIn that dining room, the larger world came to  us, as Mom made Sunday dinner for various pastors in our extended families, and for foreign missionaries amongst our kin when they came home on furlough.

In the living room, my Mom claimed an easy chair by the radiator as her favorite spot. I preferred curling up on the couch, where she helped me through the chicken pox by reading aloud Laura Ingalls Wilder books. And in younger years, I loved the corner hideaway where the couch from one wall and an easy chair from another wall came together, giving space for little ones to play on the floor. Sometimes an adult helped me and my friends create a roof over our hideaway with a blanket.

Cousin Helen

I enjoyed hosting my cousin Helen on sleepovers. But by the time we reached junior high and found boys fascinating, we discovered another use for the bedroom. We knocked on the wall with a hair brush, thereby alerting Jonny – who slept on the other side of the wall – that we were ready to hang out the window and watch for the Sputnik with him. My Mom inevitably heard the racket; more than once she showed up with her pillow and bedded down on the floor, ending our fun for that night.

The unfinished basement of our house did scare me. My Mom sometimes asked me to go down to the fruit cellar to bring up a jar of peaches.  But that meant I had to run past the furnace and the coal bin, both of which seemed creepy.

Sue with nephew Gerry

The Souderton Mennonite Church up the block bought our house when my parents moved on. They used it for various purposes for 20 years, then tore it down when the church expanded down the whole block. Since my nephew Gerry was one of the pastors, I got to go through the house with him shortly before it was demolished…a lovely trip down memory lane.

In that house and that neighborhood I felt nourished as a young girl, and for that I am most grateful.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What were your favorite spots in your childhood home or homes?
  2. What warm memories – if any – do you have of your childhood home(s) and neighborhood(s)?
  3. If your childhood home was not a secure place for you, where else in your childhood environment did you find grounding for life?

Next week:  The Gift of Hospitality

6 thoughts on “#45 – My Childhood Home

  1. My childhood home was a wonderful secure place nestled in a hollow in a small river valley in the Catskill Mountains. I often see it in my mind’s-eye with smoke coming out of the large stone chimney from the cozy fire which often burned in our large fireplace. We lived in a white clapboard home that had large picture windows which looked out over flower beds, swept across a large lawn that led up to an inclined driveway that in turn led to the rural public roadway that ran along what we call a “bench” at a height of 25 feet above the top of our home. The inside of our home was paneled in pine and there were many fly-fishing rods hung on the walls. There were several pools where the brook and brown trout hung around. Mother made wonderful fish-fries. Lying in bed at night listening to the crickets and watching the fireflies (also called lightning bugs) I could always hear the sound of rushing water. The small river flowed only 50 feet from the rear of our home. and both before and behind our home the heavily treed mountains rose up sweeply. All of this made me feel like or home was snug in a natural hollow. Our neighbours were few and scattered. As a child I’d walk a good half-mile to get to the first of these. If you were playing with the neighbours you’d always be invited to stay for supper or dinner cause it was too far to go home and come back. Ingrid Graner was almost as good a cook as my mom. We had a party telephone line. The number of rings told you if the call was for your home. We lived a very quiet life. In summer the crows woke me up and I cam to love their cawing sound. It said to me ” Wake up. There is a new day breaking.” As a child swimming in the river and sledding in the winter were some of my favourite pastimes. Both my father and mother were great reades and they read to me many stories. Even better my father made up original stories about a moose that supposedly lived in our woods. I never saw the moose in real life, but I sure see many deer and wild turkeys. looking back it was a charming, secure life.
    Heather Whitehouse

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Sue, for reminding me of our farm auction. I have not thought about that for many years. It was a sunny, winter day with lots of snow, but relatively warm temperatures. When I needed to furnish my first apartment, I wished for some of the furniture I remember being sold that day. I, too, have many warm memories of sitting close to our cooking/home-heating-stove and watching my mother prepare a meal for us. Home for me was a place of love, warmth, and many happy times.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks so much Sue. I appreciate hearing about your childhood home, the apparent safety of the neighborhood and community. I too have good memories of both of my childhood homes. One of my favorite memories about the Elkhart home was shortly after mom and dad moved to Waterford Crossing, my sister Rose led us sisters together on a little tour of each and every room in the house where we could each speak a memory of that room, acknowledge it together before moving on.

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  4. I am glad you added the third question. We who had places of security and safety in our childhood so often forget that not all children were so blessed.

    Muriel Bechtel
    515 Langs Dr., Unit J,
    Cambridge, ON
    N3H 5E4
    Home telephone: 519-219-3344
    Cellphone: 226-338-6915

    Every sunrise brings the promise of a new beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

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