Sunday, March 13, 2016

Google Maps and Childhood homes

Hubby used to be a deputy sheriff and worked for ten years in a maximum security jail.  Often, when he was out and about, he would run into people who had recently been inmates at his jail.  As a result, he is more than a little security conscious.

When we married, he moved from his distant state to my small town in the heart of Missouri’s wine country.  The first time we went to the grocery store, I opened the door to get out and he stopped me.  He said I shouldn’t be in such a hurry.  He proceeded to explain the importance of scanning your surroundings to see who or what in the area might be a risk.  I just boohooed him, told him he was no longer in his crime-ridden state and hopped out of the car.  

It took a while but he did get over his look-first habit. However, when we plan to go someplace we have never been (especially if it is in the city) he likes to search out the location on Google Maps.  Knowing the lay of the land (so to speak) makes him feel more prepared if something unexpected occurs.  He says he likes to know where the back door is.

Recently, hubby was checking out something and it gave me an idea.  Could I find my childhood home?  At that time, we had a rural route for a mailing address and I never knew the road to have a regular name. The area was simply called All Saint’s Village which comprised two roads that made a “g” shape. Directions were always given by landmarks.

I learned (from the sky view) the entire area had been greatly developed over the last fifty years.  What had been miles of corn and soybean fields were now subdivisions, strip malls, schools and churches I had never heard of.  With some perseverance and lots of luck, I finally found the mile long road.  As I scrolled down the road with Google maps I was tickled to see most of the houses I remembered were still there(though updated)scattered among  many newer ones. 

The road still ended in a curved dead end  and there our house still sat, fourth from the bottom. It appeared all three acres   were still intact. The house number was on the mailbox and the website gave me the street name.  

On a  sunny day last week I keyed the address into our GPS  and did something I never thought I would do.  We drove to my childhood home.  We  tried to do it once about five years ago, without planning,  and were unsuccessful because so little of the area matched my memory.  

It’s hard to describe the feelings I got driving down that road.  My first sight of the house caused so many emotions to flood  into me.  I was in sixth grade when we moved into this house and I have not lived there since my wedding in 1966.  My family moved   about 1970, to the town where we all live now. 

Hubby didn’t want to stop after he saw the no trespassing sign with an assault rifle  pictured on it, but  I finally convinced him to let me go knock on the door.   We ended up having a nice visit  with the retired couple who have owned the place for the last thirty years.  They let me tour the house while I told them stories from my childhood.  Things like the huge snake that made me jump on top of my dresser one summer,  the day the toilet was installed or running into the kitchen to dress over the floor vent,(the only warm spot in the house). Then there was the time my brother set the barn on fire and  the many times someone fell out of the tree (now huge)in the front yard.  

I was surprised they were able to fill me in on most of the families I knew back then.  I learned that some of the little ones I used to babysit are still in the area and several still live in their childhood homes. 

Realizing it has been over fifty years gave me a shock.  I just don’t think of myself as being that old.  Fifty years! Where did the time go?  As for the house, it was already old when we lived there. It has since been renovated several times.  

The cistern  has been replaced by city water, the coal furnace by propane, a screened porch now covers the entire front, a new exit comes out of the kitchen onto a deck.  The mailbox is in front of the house instead of down the road. What was our garden space is now a fruit orchard, and a large pool sits where our makeshift baseball field once rang with the shouts of my brothers playing ball.  The gravel road and driveway are now blacktopped.  Vinyl siding  covers the asbestos shingles but the chimney is still leaning (much more noticeably). The outhouse, barn and all signs  of our hog pens are gone.  A large garage now sits in what was once a marshy area caused by the drain off of the septic tank. 

My bedroom is now minus one window, and all the other rooms seem much smaller than I remember.  A wood burning stove eats up a chunk of the living room (no more frozen runs to the floor vent) and the new exit door made the kitchen seem brighter but smaller.  What used to be the coal bin and the fruit cellar both sit idle because no one has wanted to scrub the black soot from the concrete or deal with the cellar’s primitive gravel floor. 

The longer I stood in that house, the more I was overcome by emotions.  It is my nature to forget the good times  and recall only the bad ones. So my memories of living there are mostly unpleasant ones.  I was having visions of my father, in a fit of temper, using a golf club to smash all the lights in the living room, or burning everything stored in the basement when it was not cleaned quickly enough to suit him. I even noticed some of the hiding places we scattered to when he was having a meltdown were still there. 
But, I also remembered where the Christmas tree always stood and things like picking blackberries, swimming in the creek, and our 4-H meetings in the basement which left me realizing  that I did have some good memories after all.

When is the last time you visited your childhood home?  Google Maps can take you there.


  1. We moved away from the house I grew up in in 1970. We just lived in the next town, but rarely went back to the old neighborhood. Now I live three hours away. About eight years ago three friends and I went to each of our childhood homes on different days. I realized the friends I've made in adulthood had never seen the place where I grew up. We had a wonderful time on all four visits and I found my memories were good.

  2. What an emotion-packed telling! I'm so thankful the new(ish) owners were amicable to your visit.
    The closest I've come to visiting my own childhood home is Actually, it wasn't my exact residence; rather an identical unit along a street filled with government-built 'quads.' Nevertheless, I saved photos of each of the rooms. Silly, huh?

    PS - Yay for hubby's cautionary instincts. I wish mine were more finely tuned.

  3. My youngest son is a deputy sheriff!! So let's hear it for all deputies everywhere today!! Hip hip horray! I went back to my hometown a few years ago with my cousin and my sister. The housing complex we grew up in is almost totally gone. We stood in front of my grandma's home (which was a mansion when I was a small girl) and found it to be a rather ordinary, tiny house!! Funny how those things shrunk as I grew older. I am so happy you got to make a visit inside your childhood home. And that you found some good memories there to go along with the not-so good ones!