This Old House
The Place We Called Home

Sara Etgen-Baker

© Copyright 2023 by Sara Etgen-Baker
1230 N. Rogers Street, Springfield, Missouri.
                           1230 N. Rogers Street, Springfield, Missouri.

The old house, built in 1895, was the best of weathered antiques having hugged North Rogers Street from days of horses, to days of horse-powered engines, and now to electric cars. As the story goes, Grandad purchased the old house shortly after returning from WWI by merely signing his name on a piece of paper. He added ‘indoor’ plumbing, a garage, a carport, remodeled the inside, and replaced the roof—a roof that protected the house and would do so for many-a-year to come.

Shortly thereafter, Granddad moved his wife and four children into the old house, and it was the place my mother, uncles, and aunt grew up, calling it ‘home.’ Later, my cousins, brothers, and I spent many joyful days inside the old house. It is my second ‘home,’ and the calling of the years somehow takes me there. I can remember each room as far back as my memory goes. I can touch them, feel the texture on the walls, smell the scent of Granny’s perfume, and hear Granddad shuffling across the creaking wooden floors.

In my daydreams I am once again sitting on the porch swing with Granddad watching the Missouri sunset, a sunset as bold as one of Granny’s persimmon jellies. The trees gradually become silhouettes, their branches gently swaying in the wind. The first sound of the nocturnal creatures comes—chirping crickets and buzzing mosquitoes. Soon it grows dark. Then out of nowhere a mysterious yellow twinkling appears in the night, quick flickers and crackles of incandescent light too fast for the naked eye. The soft warm glow of lightning bugs slices through the darkness. I’m enchanted, imagining Granddad and I have discovered the lair of a great magician.

Inside the house is a kaleidoscope of memories—photographs adorn the walls, each of them conjuring up the emotions of those moments long-since passed. Though the exterior of the house has suffered many winters and storm seasons, the old wooden floor has been sheltered inside. The floor, made of American walnut, is more cinnamon in color where the varnish holds and paler in the regions that have more wear, having been shaped by the soles of our family—of generations living and loving there. It’s as if the house holds onto happy memories in its floorboards and walls, for inside we were safe and warm even on cold, wintry days.

During the holiday season, my parents occasionally bundled up us three kids and drove from Texas to Missouri in Dad’s cramped 1949 pickup truck, making sure we arrived at the old house by Christmas Eve. How special those holiday family gatherings were—a time when the old house was filled with children romping about, holiday shenanigans, abundant laughter, warm drinks, and loads of holiday goodies! I still remember the gingerbread men with their chocolate buttons and eyes resting on a plate in Granny’s kitchen. They were quickly dunked in homemade hot chocolate as the family sat around the vintage oak table and talked. That table, like the old house, has aged with us, becoming more distinct with age. It’s surface now has the face of a beloved old man, as if all those lines were his well-earned wrinkles.

When summertime rolled around, the backyard hosted many a family get-together. My grandparents were frugal folks who for many years converted their backyard into a garden that reaped a bountiful harvest that included tomatoes, squash, okra, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers picked at just the right time for making crispy bread and butter pickles—Granny’s favorite.

Oh so many precious memories live and breathe inside that old house—too many to write about in any one story. I pause from reminiscing and storytelling wishing I could somehow roll back the clock, but I can’t. Apparently, I've been the victim of getting older—something that happens to all of us at one point or another. My ‘getting older’ has been going on for quite some time now and without my knowing it! But getting old is sweeter because reminiscing and storytelling turns back the hands of time. Suddenly, I’m seven again dwelling in the old house enjoying the people with whom memories were made, and the memories of the old house and the people who lived there remain with me forever.

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