This week’s song at Take This Tune is Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me”.
Unlike many people, I still live in the house that built me–across the road from the creek, on the only high ground in the immediate area. When I first knew the house, forty-two years ago, it was covered in white shingle (which, we learned much later, was saturated with asbestos) and had no bathroom: just an oldtimey farmhouse, with two porches and an outhouse and a shallow hand-dug well. When we moved here I was seven, my brother just barely five and my sister only two.
Although I remember one other home prior to this, this one has been home for so long that that other seems a dream of a place I never knew.
We were renters for the first twenty-odd years we lived here. The landlord was a skinflint who raised the rent every time he had to make an improvement: digging a well, repairing holes that rotted through the front porch, putting in a bathroom.
Here my grandmother moved in, allegedly because she was too infirm to live on her own; the truth of the matter was, she was an intractably mean woman determined to be the center of the universe, and made my mother’s life a living hell. There were things that happened in those seven years that have colored my life, and those of the rest of the family, to this day. She died when I was seventeen, but there was damage contained in our souls that has only slowly been healed.
The house, fortunately, doesn’t seem to remember. There are ghosts here, but they come from an earlier time in its history and seem in the main to be happy spirits.
Here first my brother, then my sister, began courting and eventually married and made households of their own.
Here my father became ill in his late forties with the heart ailment that eventually killed him. One cold morning in November 1992 he dropped dead in the kitchen floor.
Here Mom and I continued living. There have been hard years here, some of which I wonder how we’ve survived.
We have made improvements over the twenty-plus years since the landlord died and we finally bought the house: new bathroom (twice); new roof (twice); new electrical outlets; partial new flooring; new siding that covered the ugly white shingles; changes in heating, from kerosene to wood and finally to propane.
Here there has been music from the very beginning, for my dad played guitar and sang, my mother and I sang, my brother played just about any instrument with strings and my sister played clarinet and mandolin.
Here there were pets: dogs, cats, a pony, a baby duck.
Here Mom’s health has declined.
For the time being, I am here alone while Mom is in a skilled nursing facility receiving physical therapy following a mild heart attack and pneumonia that kept her hospitalized for twenty days. Here now things are silent save for the TV, the cat, and the click of my keyboard as I type these words.
It has never been this quiet before.
Eventually, it will be quieter, for Mom will pass–although, God willing, not for years yet–and I will be here.
There are memories here with me, for better or for worse, in this quiet.
This is the house that built me.
Take This Tune is a weekly meme hosted by my friend Jamie. Each week, she posts a music video and asks participants to write about the images, associations or emotions the song raises in them. Please click on the above link if you’d like to join in and follow the instructions given there.