I slowly stepped into the house I grew up in with my parents and three brothers and sister, now empty and silent. It’s difficult being in it now with my parents both gone and all of us kids grown up in our own homes. As I stand in the living room, words from a song by Amy Grant come to me:
If these old walls could speak
Of things that they remember well,
Stories and faces dearly held,
A couple in love
Livin' week to week,
Rooms full of laughter,
If these walls could speak.
It was, and still is, a very small house. Barely 1,000 square feet with one bathroom, three small bedrooms, with no doors growing up until my sister finally insisted on having one in her room as a teenager. We moved into the house in 1965 when I was one years old. My parents bought it from my dad’s cousin Kenny Stone with 44 acres for $7,000.
My sister got her own room, and as we added another boy and grew older, us four boys all shared a small bedroom across from my parents, two full sized beds just a couple of feet from each other. I remember sleeping next to the east window with Mike, while Dave and Perry slept in the other bed. With no doors, we couldn’t get too loud, or we’d get a warning from Dad.
I remember early mornings while still dark Mom waking us up to get ready for school. The kitchen was on the other side of the house, but I could distinctively smell and hear bacon frying or sausage gravy and biscuits. With one bathroom many elbows were used to jockey for position while brushing teeth and combing hair.
Our home was a place for epic wiffle ball games, where a ball hit over the fence into the pasture was a massive homerun. Our basketball goal sat on a black oak tree by our propane tank and next to our smaller garden where Mom and Dad grew beans, carrots, potatoes, radishes, peas, and watermelon. The larger garden below was dedicated to strawberries and tomatoes.
Mom’s favorite spot was at the kitchen table next to the oven, where she did bills, added stamps to her S&H green collection, combed over JC Penny, Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogues, or visited with our great Aunt Dorothy Stone or Tressie Chaney. It was also the place where she liked to smoke. She gave up smoking years later, but the damage to her lungs sadly had been done.
Dad’s favorite spot was his old couch, situated perfectly for him to stretch out and watch TV. His remote was four boys.
It was a small house, but it was home for all my time growing up. Later, it became the frequent place my boys would go when we built our home on the same land. They loved their Mamaw’s cheesy scrambled eggs and hearing Papaw tease her with a twinkle in his eyes.
I still mow the yard around the old house. From time to time, I step inside and walk down the hallway into Mom and Dad’s old bedroom, and our bedroom. Memories echo off the walls as I sit on my old bed. Memories of laughter, of brotherly fights, of Dad’s stern voice, while at other times him singing morning songs as we got ready to go fishing. I hear Mom’s hollering that the bus was coming, that breakfast was ready, and that she fixed the hole in my jeans.
Over the years in Young Life, I’ve built relationships with many young people who have come from broken homes. Some were raised by a single parent; others divide their time between divorced parents. Some smile when they talk of their parents. Others do not.
Listening to the voices echoing off the walls of this old place, I feel grateful for my parents. They were married nearly 60 years before Mom’s passing in 2013. Dad hung on for another eight years, passing himself in March of 2021. He missed Mom terribly over those eight years, but stayed at the same house, going out in his little truck to visit his sister Annie, his cousin Leroy, and good friend Cap, and his long-time neighbor and friend Shorty. He’d run up to see his cousin Billy and became the adopted grandpa and great grandpa to Mindy and her kids just up the road on Bear Creek Road. This all brought him joy and life.
I believe they are reunited now. Both had saving faith in Christ. I got to participate in their baptism in a neighbor's pool on a warm, joy-filled day a few years before Mom's death. I can still picture my boys watching and smiling.
We are not sure what we are going to do with the old house. It needs lots of repairs. We may spend the money to fix it up, or we may tear it down and have one of the siblings build a home at retirement. No matter what happens to the old house, the memories will remain firm and true, a foundation of love, commitment, and family.
The walls continue to speak.