Thursday, August 6, 2009

Home Sweet Home



There's a lot to be said for "going home" to the place you grew up; to where people talk like you; to where you fall asleep at night to familiar sounds and wake refreshed, even if you have jet lag. Being "back home" has significant meaning to me and I miss it when I'm away.

If you read this blog, you know Ohio is home for me, and I make the trip cross country 4 or 5 times a year to see my family and a handful of close friends. I usually stay at my folk's house-- Mom and Dave's, but their home is a home I've visited since I was 13 years old, long before they'd even met or married.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith bought the house my folks now live in, back the late 1950s. Mrs. Smith always told me the story about when "The Dame Fool" aka Mr. Smith, was taking the train from California to Niagara Falls where she was living with family while he was on an engineering job out West.

There was a big snow storm and the train was delayed overnight in our hometown-- a "god-awful place", she used to call it. The next morning, The Damn Fool went out for a walk-- in a blizzard-- and bought the house! The first time I heard the story was 1972, and all those years later, Mrs. Smith was still none too happy about Mr. Smith buying a house for them to actually live in without consulting her. The fact that it was in a small town rather than a big city, her preference, only added insult to injury.

The Smiths were Central Casting's version of the perfect "little old man and woman". Silver white hair, elegantly dressed, highly educated, world-traveled and just so darn cute you couldn't help but fall in love with them-- Because they were so in love with each other, despite Mr. Smith's "damn fool" status.

Mrs. Smith was 78 years old when we met. She'd broken her hand and word of mouth lead her to me for with help cleaning and doing chores around their home. We were fast friends and I spent every Saturday with her dusting, washing dishes, sometimes gardening and always hearing about her life experiences, which were amazing to a small town girl like me. Once I got my driver's license we'd grocery shop and do errands together too.

Mr. Smith was always smoking a cigar and eating ice cream for lunch. When we met, at age 83, he said it's what kept him going and it did until he was 97 years old. But Mr. Smith was lucky Mrs. Smith hadn't killed him years before! He usually got himself into big trouble for leaving things laying around or "mucking up the banister"-- the white carved railing leading upstairs. Every Saturday, my first job was to wash down the banister erasing Mr. Smith's sticky, muddy, grimy fingerprints so he wouldn't "catch hell" from his beloved wife.

My friends had no children or family and they became an important part of my extended family. I learned so much from the Smith's during our nearly 20 year friendship. Probably the most important lesson was that no matter how busy, or angry and upset, you might be with each other, when you part, even if you're just going to the market, always take a moment, hold the other's face in your hands and tell them you love them, then kiss them good bye and mean it. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it because I saw them do that with each other probably a thousand times. Never once did they not take a special moment for each other.

Eventually, I moved away and my dear Mom took over caring for the Smith's; making sure they had everything they needed and taking them to appointments, church and the likes. But Mom didn't do a lot of housework; Mrs. Smith said she'd rather do it her self "for the exercise". But as time wore on, the banister wasn't as white as it used to be and she gave up trying to change Mr. Smith's sticky hands habits. We'd talk on the phone every week and she'd still call him The Dame Fool but we both knew she wasn't fooling anyone. She loved him-- sticky fingers and all.

When Mr. Smith passed away, the neighbors poured over to their home to offer their condolences to a devastated Mrs. Smith. Somewhere along the way, a well meaning neighbor did a little cleaning and it included removing the grim from the white banister.

A few days after the funeral, a very sad Mrs. Smith stopped and sat at the bottom of the stairs crying when she realized Mr. Smith's fingerprints were gone forever.

Five years later, when Mrs. Smith passed away, my folks bought the house I'd first stepped foot in when I was 13. It's a warm and inviting home with sweet memories for me, including being married in the back yard, under the rose arbor, where Mrs. Smith always said I would.

I count it as a blessing for me to sleep here tonight.

How do you count your blessings?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit-- Mine - Mom and Dave's house, May 2009

62 comments:

Joanie M said...

What a lovely story! Thanks for sharing it with us! And enjoy your visit!

Valerie said...

Wow, what a story
Being thankful everyday (even with small gestures) really makes a difference
KawaiiNeko2008 at aol dot com

Holly said...

This is heart achingly beautiful. Stop it! I can't take it from you! Just kidding...it's a wonderful story and it says so very much about you and your parents that they raised a young girl who welcomed the quality of the wise and elder into her life without question.

Even then you were really amazing!

Mari said...

What a wonderful story! The house is beautiful and the story of what it meant to you before you family bought it is touching.

Christine said...

what a lovely, touching, life story, thanks for sharing as only you can. I love that romantic house photo.

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Girl, stop it! None of those emotional stories!!

It was beautifully expressed and I could almost imagine you getting married in the rose arbor and how Mrs. Smith is smiling down at you.

Enjoy your stay there. They sounded like very special people who touched many people's lives and yours was one of them.

Rowe said...

This is a lovely story Joanna. It's interesting to know the history of houses on a personal level. Hope your holiday is wonderful.

a corgi said...

I enjoyed reading about Mr. and Mrs. Smith; what a wonderful couple they were; so glad they were part of your life for that season of your life :)

enjoy your time in Ohio

betty

Alison said...

While I was reading this lovely entry I was formulating in my mind what I would say in my comment. Hey, all my ideas have been taken! Really though, this is a beautiful little story. How special to have a memory like that.

Geraldine said...

This was a wonderful, heartwarming story to read.

I read your comment over at SEl's place and thought Id stop in.

my blog is at:

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Sheri said...

Great story and thanks for doing a giveaway, it is very sweet of you! :)

My name is PJ. said...

I was temporarily swept away to the stairway within the four walls of that house; swept, as though carried by the wind. You tell the best stories! Thanks for sharing. Oh - today, I count my blessings in odd numbers, and only on my left hand. That is not to say my blessings are few, rather that's just how it's done on the first Thursday in August.

Marisa said...

Thanks Joanna for sharing the wonderful story of your old friends' It is very touching reminder that the little things that cause us angst in our relationships become some of the the things we miss most about someone when they are gone.

Betty said...

You are such a good writer Joanna! Your words bring it all to life and I can just imagine Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Great memories! I remember when we used to live in Canada and came to visit our parents and siblings. It was so special but also weird to live in your "old room" as an adult and see things with "grown up" eyes.
I´m glad you are enjoying your time!

Brian Miller said...

love it. the little fingerprints we hold onto,like blessings...my fingers and toes...and her fingers and toes...and...

Willoughby said...

What a sweet story! Reading it was a wonderful way to start my morning.

Enjoy your time in Ohio. I'm waving to you from Michigan, can you see me?

Rootietoot said...

What a beautiful place you have- and I love the story. I am happy that you're getting to return home, and that your father will be well looked after.

Right now, the blessings I count every night and morning are that one of my kids hasn't accidentally killed himself.

Jan said...

O Hi O

How cute. That is just lovely for sure. Have fun and you have the best place to go.

yorksnbeans said...

what a beautiful and touching story. have a wonderful stay!

yorksnbeans said...

what a beautiful and touching story. have a wonderful stay!

Joyce said...

Oh....dang I didn't even have my first cup of coffee this morning!! This is the most beautiful touchy story. It needs to be published or made into a movie!!! J- it would be neat to write a small journal telling this story and others, adding to it every visit home and tuck the book behind some wall to be discovered someday.

I'm glad you and Mrs. Smith became friends and part of each others life. My hat goes off to you at such an early age. The double bonus of having this sweet home and its memories continue in your life.

Have a wonderful time and golden weekend! xoxo

Ina in Alaska said...

Now you went and made me cry this morning! What a beautiful love story. And how this adorable couple profoundly influenced you. How lucky that you get to visit this house filled with sweet memories. Perhaps you will share some photos with us of the interior and is the white bannister still in the house??

The Courteous Chihuahua said...

What a lovely story. How lucky they are to have had such a marriage. How lucky you are to have known them.

Cathy Clementz said...

The photo of the house looks like HOME. It is wonderful that it worked out that you can call it home. Thanks for sharing the love story...have a safe trip getting back to reality!

Attila The Mom said...

What a beautiful story. ::sniff sniff::

Just what I needed. A good cry with my morning coffee!!

Jayces said...

What an absolutely beautiful story. That needs to be submitted to some short story contests or something. Thanks for sharing such a sweet and personal memory!

A Joyful Chaos said...

What a sweet story! Thank you so much for sharing it.


My list of blessings is quite lengthy!That my children are all healthy, and the life I am priviledged to have is a good place to start.

KrisGC said...

That one made me a little teary eyed! It is a beautiful story. The house if beautiful as well.

We can learn so much from our elders, they are so wise and have so much to teach. We all would be wiser if we would take the time to listen, as you did. Thanks for sharing.

CraezieLady said...

I love a good story that makes me cry! Crying is, I think, one of my favorite things to do! Even sad crying, because it lets me know that there's love in there somewhere!

I'm going to take the Smith's philosophy to heart, and make sure that from this moment forward, I always make time for a special moment - for my husband and my kids!

Thanks for sharing that great story, Joanna!

CSquaredPlus3 said...

What a wonderful story! Beautiful, quaint home, the fingerprints, the lump in your throat from the "kiss your loved ones good-bye" lesson. Wonderful!

Neat that your folks purchased the house and that you're blessed to stay there. Smiling.

TechnoBabe said...

Great post. I can already see how sentimental you get when you go home for a visit, and it "looks good on you". There are so many lovely heart pings in this post.

Elle said...

What a beautiful house and a touching story.

gypsylulu said...

Ahhh, what a lovely story!..thanks
so much for sharing with us!
Wedo need to say the sweet things while our loved ones are living!
gypsy

Kathy said...

LOVE this post- how lovely to have such sweet memories! Kathy (from ShabaliciouS)

grannyann said...

What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing.

Loraine said...

Beautiful story. I haven't read a story of yours I haven't liked, but this one almost made me cry.

I don't count my blessings in the literal sense, as there are too many and I'd just get confused. In spite of some minor in- law BS with a person whom I'm sure has mental issues, I have a wonderful family (on both sides). I have a husband who loves me and always takes those sweet moments for me. I have three teenage daughters whose worst problems are the occasional tiff amongst themselves. I have a ton of incredible friends. I live in a decent home, I have great furniture I got dirt cheap, and my husband and I are both employed and even LIKE our jobs.

I can't complain! ...but I do sometimes anyway, I'm still human.

Matthew said...

Yep..... very nicely told. Thanks for sharing.

First time visitor. Just thought I'd say hello.

lisa said...

This story comes full circle. Very sweet and the house holds good memories for you. Enjoy your visit.

Spencer L Casey said...

I don't know if I can say anything that hasn't already been said. But I want you to know you have an incredibly special miracle of sorts on your hands. That house is so much of who you were, who you are and what you do in your life.

I'm not expressing this well. You already said it. Just, thanks for sharing. Beautiful.

Cheers,

SLC

Angie said...

That is one of the sweetest things I have ever read. Even better because it's true. :)

Green-Eyed Momster said...

I count my blessings in stories like this that bring me to tears. How am I going to explain why I'm crying when my Hubby gets home?

Maybe I'll just let him read this post.

You have a wonderful way of telling a wonderful story and reminding me what's important in life.

Sleep tight!

Hugs!!

Beverley Baird said...

Counting blessings is a must.
Thank you for the lovely story.

Unknown Mami said...

That was lovely!

My name is PJ. said...

Okay, Joanna, Here I am again. Different day, same posting by you. Different comment by me. How am I doing so far?

Debbie said...

That is such a lovely story. We would all be so blessed to have a couple like that in our lives.

Cindy La Ferle said...

Lovely memory ... and you KNOW how much I love home. The word itself makes me feel good when I hear it, and I love reading stories about what home means to other people.

I count my family at the top of my blessings/gratitude list. Next come my longtime friends and old neighbors, who've gotten me through a very, very rough summer this year.

Elise said...

Hello, you have the most beautiful blog here, I'm loving reading it and your pictures are just stunning... thank you so much !!!!

Mrs. Holly Hall said...

will read this more in a bit, just leaving a comment to add another entry :)

Gran said...

Wonderful story! When I get cranky, and tired, I take a few moments to count my blessings. And then I feel better.

diane said...

I thought I commented on this the first time I read it. I must have been so touched I forgot to. I love this story, and it makes me think about how much I love Cute Hubby and what would I ever do without him. xo

Shel said...

What a heart-warming story. I'm a life-long Ohioan...all my family lives here and I can't imagine living anywhere else although I do like to visit.

Betty said...

Just wanted to pop in again and let you know you have an award to pick up over at my blog. Don´t feel pressured. I hope you participate, but totally understand if you can´t.
I just wanted to mention your blog, because I think it´s so great! :)

knittnkitten said...

What a lovely thing to read on a Sunday afternoon.

Margaret Cloud said...

I loved reading this post, it made me a little sad. I was born and raised in East Liverpool, Ohio. I lived there until I was 14 years old. Thanks for the memories, I like to read about my friends lives.

Michele P. said...

I agree there is no place like home... I moved away for 7 yrs to RI, got back home to Maine several times a year since I could drive it ;) It has been 5 yrs since I came back for good and I am glad I did, since I lost my dad and grandmother this yr. All that is left is my mom... hubby misses his family in Guatemala terribly too and tries to get home to visit once a year. We are also looking at buying some land and building there and should something happen to my mom we will probably move there to be closer to his 5 siblings and his HUGE family there. I love my hometown, but unfortunately when everyone you love is gone it gets depressing :(

Lilly said...

What a great story and a home full of memories. Enjoy your holiday and look forward to hearing about it on your return.

Lilly said...

Beautiful story and so touching!
My family and my friends are my blessings ^^
Thanks a lot
eli_green22 at yahoo dot com dot br

Lulu said...

man....you had me at the grimy banister.....sigghhhhh...this hit me really hard, considering my mom just came to visit.

And um - yeah, I'm in the for THE GIVEAWAY!!

Oz Girl said...

Wow, what an emotional story. Poor Mrs. Smith, losing his grimy fingerprints after Mr. Smith died. How sad. I can understand how she must have felt. The very things that annoy us while someone is alive, are the things we cherish and miss once they have departed from us.

Hope you are enjoying your vacation at home!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hi Everyone! Thanks for your kind words. Mr. and Mrs. Smith how a dear place in my heart. They were an amazing couple who taught me so many life lessons.

Keep those cards and letters coming. I love hearing from you!

Bellamere Cottage said...

What a darling story...how special that home is!

Blessings,
Spencer

Tina12312 said...

Thank you for the lovely story this morning, that is so touching. I'm trying to count my blessings by thinking of one good thing every day.