The House on Sylvan Drive

Written by Laurie Halladay on November 14, 2011

 One of our frequent contributors, Laurie Halladay, writes a moving story about her childhood home, and what has happened to it through the years. 

Laurie’s childhood home as it looked in better times

On a recent visit to my hometown, I was told not to go by my old house, for fear I would be upset by what had become of it.

I knew they were right, but somehow my rental car felt like it was being pulled by an invisible magnet as it made an involuntary left turn onto Sylvan Drive.

In front of me was the two-story brick house my parents built in 1940 when they got married. Situated on a wooded lot surrounded by giant oaks, it was the first house built on the street. My Dad’s uncles constructed it, and the house was lovingly finished by my parents who lived there until 2001 when my Mom died and it was sold.

As I looked at the torn-up lawn, bedraggled drapes hanging at the windows, and the ugly cream-colored paint covering the beautiful varnished wood trim, I tried to remember the shell of a building when it was my home. And, I wished I could have five more minutes in the house with my Mom and Dad as it had been for all of those 60 years.

***

I could imagine turning into the driveway, getting out of the car, and walking through the unlocked screened door leading into the kitchen. It would bang with a familiar clang. Dad would be sitting at the table working a crossword puzzle. Mom would be standing over the sink getting lunch ready.

We would carry trays through the dining room’s French doors to the screened back porch. The yard would have been manicured for my visit, and I would look with fond memories at my play house which now stored Dad’s yard equipment. The picnic table still sat in front of the brick fireplace, reminding me of the many cookouts and croquet games we used to play on summer Sunday afternoons.

After lunch, I would take the three steps down into the family room, which was added in 1952. The brick wall with the big fireplace reminded me of the many Christmas celebrations we shared there. Dad and I would pick out the perfect tree which sat in front of the window where a card table now stood ready ready for my parents’ dinner in front of the TV.

I would find my Mom sitting in her favorite chair in the living room with the late afternoon light streaming in through the window. She would be reading one of her favorite murder mysteries while she watched for the arrival of the paper boy. The living room housed the collection of scrapbooks which my Mom religiously kept up to date. No visit home would be complete without a browse through one of the 13 books.

My dad had disappeared upstairs to catch the ninth inning of a Tiger baseball game on the TV in his room. I would head to my room at the end of the hall, but first I would peek into the storage room which once was my nursery. My mom was an artist and had hand-painted koala bears climbing the walls. They were still there.

My room was a time warp. It was easy to feel I was back in high school since very little had changed. I looked in the drawers of the table between the twin beds. An old diary was there, just as I had left it. Some prom favors were stuffed in the back. I could picture my felt skirts and saddle shoes sitting in the closet.

Well, my five minutes were up as I walked out the front door for the last time and gazed at the garden where the tulips had once blossomed and all of our Easter pictures had been taken.

***

Yes, you can go home again, if only in your memories. It was a wonderful visit.

Dogwoods in brilliant bloom at the house on Sylvan Drive