I grew up in a suburb of Houston in a neighborhood with sidewalks and manicured lawns. I have fond memories of children riding our hot-wheels on the sidewalk, zipping up each driveway to someone’s house we all knew. Denise, Paul, Mercy, Carol. Kids spanning from 2nd grade to 6th, all mingling in the street playing basketball, riding bikes, coloring with chalk. The caste system of maturity as the older kids teased the younger and the younger kids gathering around toys.
This is my childhood and I love the memories. I can almost smell the air of a humid Saturday morning in October when the children begin to take to the sidewalk playing, knocking on doors, asking if so-and-so can come out to play.
My husband has a different memory.
My husband grew up on acreage in a tiny town in Washington State. Where rain and mud and large trees dominate his childhood. Where boys could explore for hours in a barn, watch the horses, and roll down large hills. He smells the pine and fresh air and instantly turns 8 in his head, playing trains and bikes and GI-Joes.
Each of our experiences influence our expectations for our own family. I see my children enjoying the company of others, playing in the front yard as I make dinner, calling to me that the neighbors are out chatting. My husband sees our children roaming a field of land, running in pine cones and leaves and mud.
We’re now looking for a house. It’s become evident we have a short opportunity of time to leave our tiny condo, expand our legs, and give each child a room of their own. It is now or never, in the words of our agent, and we have to move quickly.
It is now.
But as we look, searching, for the right place to live, the home we will keep for 10-15 years, for the duration of our childrens’ schooling and thus the majority of their childhood memories, we can’t get past our own happiness as a child. Land vs. Community. A newer home vs space.
We visit homes and the children marvel at the bedrooms. “It’s PINK already!” We watch as the kids run circles in the large yard running up and down the small hill. Laughing. Rolling. Smiling. We see neighbor kids playing and our children watching, wishing they could join in.
I know the lesson here. I know the conclusion. I know we are our own family, influenced by our parents but not tied by their experiences. We are a new family, full of new needs, new expectations. But we’re not so different from the family we belonged to back in 1979, or the houses we occupied. And in the end I know it’s the family, not the house, that creates the childhood memories to hold on to.
I just hope this family gets a house with a new kitchen. And a skylight.
And maybe a bit of land with large wet evergreens, because I believe in the American Dream.
We’re dreaming big. And the kids are dreaming with us.