You know the song “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert? I got to have that experience recently when I drove by my grandma’s old house in Swartz Creek, outside Flint.

My family moved around a lot growing up, but until my senior year of high school when my grandparents moved to Florida, this was a constant. I’d spend summers here, some holidays, and even lived here for awhile in 6th grade.

As I pulled onto the street, I could see there was a woman working in the yard. By the time I got there, she had disappeared into the house. I pulled into the driveway anyway. I hollered a hello into the open garage, but she didn’t answer. I rang the front doorbell, but no one came. I figured she was probably scared to come to the door for a stranger, these times and all. As I turned to go back to the car, she was suddenly there!

I introduced myself and told her about how my grandparents had built this house in the mid 60s. About how I used to play in this yard. About how that huge pine tree in the backyard was the result of a seedling my Aunt Pam had brought home in a milk carton when she was in kindergarten.

My aunt brought home a seedling in a milk carton in kindergarten. This is that tree today. (via JR)
My aunt brought home a seedling in a milk carton in kindergarten. This is that tree today. (via JR)

She pointed to her old front door and said, “I’ll bet this is the same too.” (It was.) We began to walk through the front yard and she began to tell me her history with the house. She and her husband have been there about 25 years, having bought the home from the man to whom my grandparents had sold it. We walked to the corner of the house and I spotted the same old TV antenna. She told me if I’d like to walk around the whole house, that’d be fine. We did, and the memories just flooded in.

I told her where the fence between the front and back yard used to be, and about the annual garden that used to run around the perimeter of the backyard. She pointed out the lilac bushes that were still there— I used to love when those bushes would be in bloom. They smelled so good! I pointed out the awning over the back patio was the same — although the patio was now enclosed. The heavy sliding metal door from the garage to the backyard.

She then invited me to take a look inside if I wanted to. I hesitated. I didn’t want to invade this woman’s home. She wasn’t expecting all this, and who ever wants unannounced company? I think she read all that on my face. She said just to overlook any mess, because she didn’t know she was going to have company.

I’ll admit to getting a little teary-eyed as I entered the house through the garage. I saw the same tile my Grandpa had put on the floor in the half-bath. The lady pointed out that she’d never replaced the kitchen cabinets — they were indeed just as I remembered them. The faux brick behind the stove was still there too. I pointed out where the old rotary wall phone used to be and walked into the living room. I showed her where I remember the Christmas tree, right in front of the replaced windows. I asked her if she still had the clothes chute from the main bathroom to the laundry in the basement… she said she’d NEVER have gotten rid of that!

I asked if the creaky board was still in the hallway. She stared at me blankly for a moment, unable to place it. She was a little surprised when I quickly found it! I explained how that little board in the hallway had a lot to do with how I walk, even today. For a big guy, I can easily sneak up on someone. I walk pretty quietly. It’s because of that creaky board in the hallway, or rather, being trained to avoid it at a very young age. When my Grandpa would work 3rd shift at the Buick factory, he’d sleep during the day. If one of us were to step on that board, it would wake him up.

The house seemed much smaller inside than I remembered it to be, maybe because I was viewing it through a child’s eyes then. The woman offered me a hug as we left, and I thanked her for allowing me to relive my childhood just a little bit. She enjoyed getting to learn a little history about her house too.

That was a good day.

The house my grandparents built in Swartz Creek, outside Flint. (via JR)
The house my grandparents built in Swartz Creek, outside Flint. (via JR)

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