From the Braver Institute
Almost fortythree years ago exactly, my parents bought a brand-new house. I was very young when they bought it, but I can still remember walking around in the empty newness of it and the echo of my footsteps as I walked room to room. I hadn’t resided (lived?) in our previous house long enough to have what you might call childhood memories of the place—just a handful of random, detached recollections. For all intents and purposes, this new home—while not my first— would be my childhood home. It would also be the home of my parents long after I moved out.
I know there are many people who grow up living in a wide variety of places, never having one they can truly call their home, but there are many of us who know of home as one place. Sure, I have lived in other dwellings as an adult, I have rented apartments and owned houses, but true “home” for me has always been on Kawbawgam Road.
For a handful of years my entire immediate family lived in that house, until my big brother and sister moved out. They were (and still are) considerably older than my younger sister and I.
The house was comfortable enough for all of us, and was considered big by most standards. It was a large split foyer with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a finished basement and a twocar garage. It was a 70’s modern dream home.
Over the years my dad would regularly say, “Yep. I sure do like this house.” And then he would go into all of the details of what he liked about it, like he was trying to sell it to you. He did it the same way he would when he was trying to sell my mom on a car that he had just brought home on a test drive from a dealership. For over forty years he would sell that house to anyone who would listen.
As life would have things, all of us kids moved back in and out of the house at various times over the years and for various reasons. Now that I think about it we weren’t the only ones to who would call my parents’ house home. My uncle lived with us for a summer. My grandparents lived with us for several months when they moved back to the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin. My ex-wife lived there during her final years of college. My niece and her daughter lived there while they looked for a home while her husband tied up loose ends downstate. It has been home to many people, and has provided countless more with a place to stay for a few nights. All who stayed there were welcome.
In recent years my parents hadn’t really needed such a large place, but a big house was convenient during the holidays when everyone was home. With the death of my father last year, such a large place became abundantly impractical for my mother. Besides, it was ten miles out of Marquette and she really didn’t like the drive to work in the winter (sure she could retire, but she likes to stay busy). My mother decided to put her house on the market, and move into an apartment owned by my brother and his wife. It has plenty of room for her and her things, and it is centrally located in Marquette. It just made sense.
On a recent visit to my mother’s new place she asked if I would stop by the old house on my way back home to turn off the water pump and drain the line to the outside faucet. As I turned onto Kawbawgam Road I was a little troubled by the fact that for the first time in over forty years there hasn’t been a Braver living on that road.
Walking into the house it struck me that this was the first time this house had been empty since it was built in 1969. My footsteps echoed now just like they did then. As I walked from room to room I was surprised that I wasn’t overwhelmed with memories of the place. Sure, some of them came to mind, but as I mentioned in a previous column, my memories don’t reside in that house, my memories reside in me, and home is not that building. Home is wherever mom is.
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