Almost every night I go back to that place... I go back there in my dreams. I smell the cookies fresh out of the oven, I see the smiling faces, and I know--I'm home.
Part One: How it Was
It changed so much, but it still remains the same. When my parents first moved in, each room had a different color of carpet. It was the 70’s then, so the previous owners weren’t shy on their color choices either—red, orange, blue, green…all bright, shaggy, and blinding. But things eventually changed there. Tan carpet replaced the rainbow floor, and burgundy carpet was laid carefully in the master bedroom. It was a simple improvement to make the house a home.
This home over the years welcomed and housed eight children and two hard working parents. It was always busy—everyone doing his or her own thing, rushing here and there. But somehow amidst the hustle and bustle, life was simpler there, and almost always peaceful. However, that peace would end just as the battle would surmount every mealtime, as we all would try to squeeze through the small doorframe from the living room to the kitchen to try to sit by mom for dinner.
We sat at a beautiful oval mahogany table. There were a few dents and scratches, but not enough to detract my mom’s ever pleasing stare at her beautiful table. The table leaf was once inserted, and almost never removed, as our family was just too big to not have the extra space. Metal folding chairs with lightly padded cushions surrounded the table, as the beautiful wood chairs my mom dreamed of, would never fit us all. The kitchen cabinets were dark, old, and stained with spilled milk, water, juice, and even crumbs that wouldn’t seem to go away. A cold, red linoleum countertop covered the counters and spread up the walls to serve as a backsplash.
After barely making ends meet each year—year after year, my parents finally had enough money to remodel the house. My dad’s hard work was paying off, and my mom could finally dream (out loud) of a newer and prettier home to house her family.
The tiny kitchen doorframe was covered, and a big opening was made in the kitchen to allow for an easy flow of traffic. Beautiful cherry wood, with just a simple clear coat of glaze was laid on the floor. The light olive green paint was replaced by a neutral tan color—but the bumps all over the walls remained. After hours and hours my mother’s new, and one of a kind textured ceiling was complete, patterned after her own design. Crown molding was hung, baseboards laid. Fresh new tan carpet was laid—even in the master bedroom. New cabinets were installed—almost a caramel honey color, and smooth to the touch, with little silver knobs. The check that I had let slip behind the red linoleum backsplash years ago was discovered; still in its envelope just waiting to be found. Beautiful countertops were placed atop the new cabinets—a marble effect to linoleum.
A large rug was purchased to help protect my mom’s cherry floor, and to protect our knees as we knelt each morning for family prayer. The same couches that we had had forever, surrounded this new rug, with my dad’s new leather recliner at the head. The wood floor beneath us was much more smooth than our old rough carpet that had been in the living room previously. Our scripture cases slid under the couch with such ease each morning as we finished our family study. Some mornings, if we weren’t careful, we could push too hard and the scriptures would slide all the way under the couch and come out the other side.
My family’s home changed over the years, but so did the people in it. 1343 N. was a place of refuge for our family. This refuge was where we learned to read at five years old, as we stumbled over words like Zarahemla and Ishmaelites, and zoomed over the phrases like “and it came to pass”—which is a common phrase in the Book of Mormon. This refuge welcomed our daily morning scripture study. This refuge is where we talked to God often, where we plead for each other’s protection, and gave our grateful hearts to the Lord. This refuge encompassed us and made a home much more than just a place to live.
But in 2006 this refuge became a home for another family. My dad built my mom a new beautiful home to welcome and embrace our ever-growing family. But my refuge, my childhood home, is where my dreams are. When in deep sleep, I am taken back to that place. It is where my life began and where my heart remains.
Part Two: My Life Now
I see it all in a blur. The cherry floors, the white stone fireplace, and the honey-caramel cabinets all are there as I spin around in a circle of correctness. I’m here; I’m finally here. As I spin, the joy I’m feeling seems to build and spread like sunrays that reach through the whole house. My husband is here, my family is here, and nothing seems to be going wrong. It’s simply bliss.
But all too suddenly, my spinning gets interrupted as I bump into the oval mahogany table—you know, the one that my mom just simply adores. The spinning stops, the rays of joy seem to grow dimmer. I don’t feel any pain, I don’t know why I stopped.
My dream suddenly comes to an end as my body wakes to hear my little boy stir in the room nearby. It’s almost time to start the day. 1343 North will have to wait. I roll over onto my back knowing I have a few minutes to try to wake up a little bit more before grabbing the babe. I look up. The dark ceiling knows my amazement. I’ve had this dream before, or at least ones similar. My dreams all seem to take place in my childhood home. I haven’t lived in that home for 8 years or more. I have lived in another family home, plenty of apartments, and now I am in my second home with my husband. But I always come back to 1343; my subconscious even seems to know that this place will always be home.
I continue to lie there; not wanting to give up on the content feeling the dream has stirred within me. I wish to go back and be in the warm embrace. I want life to be simpler again. I think of how life really was, or at least the good parts of life I will never forget... I’m sitting on the old and familiar couch in the living room, the floral pattern with vines twisting and turning around me to pull me in and hug me in a soft embrace. I lean my head back to see my mom in the kitchen as we talk. I rest from a long day of school as she hurries to make dinner for the family. It hadn’t even been 12 hours since we all sat on this same couch as a family early in the morning reading scriptures and kneeling to pray before we all left for the day. The couches are different now without my family, without…that extra feeling of happiness spewing from Book of Mormon. But the smell of family still lingers in the fabric. And the happiness lingers too in the walls of this home.
Little tears start in the next room. I have to get up. I go throughout my day, but always pausing to daydream about the smell of my mom’s gingersnaps fresh out of the oven. She would surprise me and make them—just to make my day better. They always tasted the same. It didn’t matter if she made them on the cool red linoleum countertops that spread up the wall, or if she made them years later when the counters were replaced with a tan-ish linoleum that tried to look like marble with the different colored swirls and lines cutting through.
I think back to 1343, and the carpet on the stairs. It was worn from people walking, running, and occasionally sliding down in sleeping bags—not to mention the wear from the bowling ball that took a ride down the stairs when my little brother wanted a little bit more attention… But then I think again how that worn carpet was home for Barbie, Ken and Kelly, as my sister Mary and I would play Barbie’s on the stairs all day, day after day. No one seemed to mind, we were never in anyone’s way. At least that’s how I remember it. Life really did seem to be simply perfect looking back at it. We had all we needed, and even all we wanted.
But I guess the same is true now for our new family home (108) just one mile north. However, the sense of nostalgia for 1343 is felt by all—especially for my brother, Jake. He is connected to that house, to the memories made there. And he is going to buy it someday. It’s already planned; the owner now (a family friend) has already been talked to. We really can’t seem to let go of 1343.
I am unable to disentangle myself from it. It built me, it shaped me, and it was who I was for a long time. I wonder…was this how Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam (characters in the Book of Mormon) felt just a little as they left their childhood home in Jerusalem? When their father Lehi dreamed of the great and spacious building—was it a place he had seen before? Was the dream of the tree of life similar to the apricot tree I had in my backyard that was full of memories of climbing and eating popsicles in it with my siblings? Was his dream influenced even more by his family, and by his experiences in his home?
Going back now to visit 1343 is a different place with others living there, I feel like an intruder, an outsider to those sacred walls. But going back to 1343 in my dreams, it’s still mine—it’s still home.