The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 16, 2013

Precious memories fill home

KEVIN CULLEN
Commercial-News

“Downsizing” is a relatively new term, but it’s been going on forever. The old folk sell the farm and move to town. The widow empties her big house and gets an apartment. Retirees decide that an RV is all they need, now that the kids are gone.

Everywhere I go, someone is downsizing. Yard sales are filled with personal things not needed in smaller, more efficient quarters. My brother and his wife no longer have a house; my sister sometimes talks about selling hers.

Me, I’m not so sure. Our two girls are out of college, working, and living on their own, but Laurie and I still cling to the three-bedroom, two-bath, two-story house that has been our home for so many years. It was built in 1876. We have trees, a yard, purple irises, a little patio and a big garage.

We don’t love the heating bills, the taxes or the “to-do” lists, but we love our house. It is filled with things that bring us beauty and ease and a sense of place. Whenever we go on trips, we smile when we unlock the front door and step back inside. It is our cocoon, our kingdom, our home.

I can see the benefits of an apartment: No snow to shovel, no yard to mow, no leaves to rake, no roof to patch, no gutters to clean, no drips to fix. If something goes wrong, call the landlord. If you don’t like the neighbors, move. It’s no big deal.

When I was a kid, we lived in apartments and we moved a lot: two different schools in first grade, two more in second, another in third, another in fourth, and another in fifth. I envied children who lived in houses, with both parents.

Those sudden and painful moves probably made me appreciate a house more than I would have otherwise.

Laurie and I bought our first house in 1983, so we’ve had 30 years to accumulate things. If we ever downsized, I’d have to unload so many “house” things: pipe wrenches, ladders, saws, drills, electrical supplies, saw horses, porch chairs, lawnmowers, paint brushes, shovels … the list could go on.

And that’s not all. There’s the Hoover-era Chevrolet truck, the porch pillar from my great-grandfather’s house, the Danville streetcar sign, the 800-pound printing press, the bicycle collection, the books, the work table, the vise, the camping gear, the motorcycle.

No apartment could hold all our furniture. But how could I part with my great-grandmother’s slipper chair, the Gone With the Wind lamp and Mom and Dad received for a wedding present, or the five-legged oak table that we bought as newlyweds, and excitedly brought home?

To us, it’s the best table in the world. Loved ones have sat at it for 31 Thanksgiving dinners. We watched our girls grow up around it. It has seen a few bad days, and thousands of happy ones.

Downsize? Who knows? Maybe someday … but I hope not.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.