A ray of morning sunshine slanted down from the window on the stairway landing. Without thinking, I stepped into the beam, like a super star steps into a spotlight on stage. Closing my eyes, I smiled. It felt right and good to be there.
I may have stood in this exact spot on an April morning sixty years ago, when I was five. Back then I would have been listening to Mom talking to Daddy in the kitchen and enjoying the smell of fresh bread baking. I would have listened to my sister practicing her clarinet in her room, knowing that my brother was down the hall tinkering with a mechanical gadget in his room.
Today’s new, yet familiar, sunlight opened a floodgate of memories. Memories made more poignant by the job that lay before me, clearing out my childhood home to prepare for a new family to move in.
My Dad built our farmhouse the year before I was born. The family story about how my family moved from the old house to the new always fascinated me. The original plan had been to move before Christmas that year, but the varnish on the woodwork was slow to dry. Two days after Christmas, Daddy checked and declared it move-in ready, so Mom and my brothers and sisters wrapped a sheet around the Christmas tree and carried it across the yard to the new house. I was born exactly one year later to the day.
There had been no indoor plumbing in our old house. At the time many other people had outhouses, too. In the new house, we didn’t have just one flushable toilet. We had two, the second one located in the basement so Daddy could come into the house from working in the barn and not have to worry about dirty boots.
The sunlight I enjoyed so much pooled around me where I stood at the foot of the stairway. Linoleum laid in the fall of 1949 must have been very good quality. Despite constant use, it didn’t show wear. I liked the era’s unique color and design. Carpeting in the living room covered those tiles.
Remembering how we three youngest children ‘helped’ Mom polish the living room floor one Christmas made me smile. The furniture was moved into the hallway so she could apply the floor polish. When it dried there was a white film that needed to be rubbed off. She gave us cleaning rags, so we ran and slid from one end of the room to the other. What fun that was! How nice the house felt!
Christmas vacations were spent lying on the floor by the Christmas tree, eating chocolate treats, playing with my newest doll, reading a book or just dreaming happy dreams.
The linoleum living room floor was also the place where everyone knelt each evening to say the family rosary. No one complained or thought much of it. It was just something that we did.
Clearing out decades of accumulation can’t be done in just a day or two. Decisions have to be made constantly. What do we keep and what do we throw out? If we don’t throw things out, should they be sold? Which objects do various family members want to keep for mementoes?
That evening I talked to my daughter Tammie on the phone. She said, “How’s the house clearing job going?” I said, “I’m stirring up a lot more than dust. Today I found the floor lamp that I liked when I was little. It has a secret compartment where small things could be hidden.”
Tammie said, “That’s a fun memory. Were there more?”
I said, “Yes. I clearly remembered the day a man came into our house and installed our first telephone next to the front door. We had a party-line. That meant if one family was using the phone you had to wait until they were done, or if there was an emergency, ask them to get off the line. Each call rang into every home. We knew who the calls were for by the number of long and short rings.”
After a moment of thought, I told my daughter, “Do you remember how I once told you that home is where the sun shines the brightest? Today in my childhood home, I stood in a patch of sunlight in the hallway and remembered the time when that place was where the sun shone the brightest.”