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Dorothy was right, there really is no place like home



 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Courtney Dunham Correspondent

It’s hard to imagine my childhood home for sale. I haven’t lived there in almost 20 years, so why am I dreading to see the sign in the yard when I return home this weekend? No matter how grown up we are, I can’t imagine we’re ever ready for our family home to be sold.

My merged family moved into the South Hill home in 1972. Two things immediately overwhelmed my 5-year-old mind: how big it was and how many kids I had to share my mom with now. Our family had grown from four kids and Mom to a new stepdad with eight more children. From the get-go, things were crazy and it’s been that way for the past 30 years.

Picking bedrooms was a big one for my teenage sisters. Of course Brig and I, the little girls, didn’t have much say in the matter. We shuffled from room to room whenever one of the girls would graduate and the next one down would score the “senior room.” We slept in the same bed for years in the basement before graduating to the upstairs and to our own beds. We were glad to leave the basement, since it was a scary place at night. Even though I was the youngest, my older sisters usually picked me to lead the pack downstairs to inspect a suspicious noise. They made sure, though, that I always was armed with a long butcher knife, just in case the boogey man jumped out.

It was all about the waiting game growing up in my household – waiting for the bathroom, the bigger bedroom, food, clothes and eventually for the cute boys to come and pick us up too on a Saturday night.

Summers were the best times, our days filled with swimming and nights playing kick the can. My folks decided early on that vacations would be a nightmare, so they invested in a backyard pool. I was always the first one in each spring and the last one out in September. I still love the water, and of all the things I will miss when the house sells, the pool tops the list.

Our house was known for its great parties. One of the more memorable ones happened after Mount St. Helen’s blew in 1980. My sister and I were running in an all-city track meet when the sky became dark in the early afternoon. We thought a big storm was coming in, but to our shock tons of ash started falling from the sky. We arrived home to find the pool ruined and ash everywhere. Being the true Irish partiers they were, my parents threw sheets over everything and opened their doors to dozens of kids and parents.

I plan to say goodbye to my most memorable spots of the house this weekend. It’s where I grew up – where I loved and lost several pets, played for hours in the back yard, sat at the dining room table for so many meals, never able to get a word in, and tracked down Mom for some one-on-one time in the kitchen. I think I will miss the chats with my mom most and the pool. God I love that pool.

They say it’s the people, not where the memories took place that matter. I think it’s a bit of both. I’ve never liked goodbyes, and this one will be hard. Yes, it’s time for my parents to downsize, and yes, I haven’t lived there for years, but it was always home – there’s no place like home.

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