We’re moving to St. Louis in a week. I’ve been thinking about different places I’ve lived. The list isn’t too exotic.
1. A small house on the north side of Vandalia, north of Interstate 70 (which didn‘t yet exist when I was born). My folks always called it “the stone house” because of its gray stone exterior. I forget the exact address but it’s near the small Reeter Cemetery. My parents already lived there when I was born in 1957, and we stayed there till 1959.
2. In 1959 we lived in Bonnville, Illinois in Champaign Co. while my parents had their new house built in Vandalia. Other than this year, I lived in Vandalia my whole childhood.
3. In 1960 we moved into the new house, 1216 W. Fillmore St. in Vandalia (although we didn’t have a house number then). My parents never moved again; Dad died there, in the kitchen, in 1999, and Mom lived there till she went to a nursing home in 2006. The house finally found a buyer early in 2008. I never had a definite moment when I “left home,” although the summer of 1980, after my first masters-degree year, was the last full summer I came home.
4. And 5. Two dorm rooms in Joy Hall in Greenville College, 1975-1977. I did not enjoy dorm life at GC; it was noisy and sometimes distressing. I never quite figured out how to have a happy social life at my college. I commuted my last two years.
6. And 7. Two dorm rooms in Taylor House at Yale Divinity School, 1979-1982. These were wonderful years; I still have Taylor House friends.
8. The Glendale United Methodist Parsonage in Pope County, Illinois, a wonderful parish position following my masters degree. I lived there June 1982 till June 1984. I was painfully lonely at first but settled in and enjoyed those years, from which I've still friends.
9. My wife Beth’s house on Bow Drive in Vandalia. We married in June 1984 and only lived there together for a couple months. Beth had lived there with her first husband for several years.
10. Our apartment in Charlottesville, Virginia during doctoral work, 1984-1987. The address was Barracks Road--it was the apartment at the far left end of the row of apartments at the bottom of the complex’s small hill.
11. A house we rented in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we lived Summer 1987 till Summer 1988. It was on the east side of town, on Oakmont. I remember the electric bill was so high (the place had electric heat) that we basically lived in one family room and kept the rest of the house at 60 degrees. A nice house but that aspect was unpleasant.
12. The house we bought at the southwest side of Flagstaff, on Shullenbarger Drive. The area was called University Heights; the streets were named for former Northern Arizona University employees. Lucky us. We loved the house and, whenever we had to give our address, had to spell the name each time. 1988-1991. This was the house where we lived when our daughter Emily was born in 1990, and thus the place has special memories.
13. Our house in Louisville, Kentucky, on Bingham Drive, where we lived in 1991-2000. I loved this little ranch house, although our life in Louisville had ups and downs.
14. Our house in Akron, Ohio, on Stonecreek Drive, where we’ve lived from 2000 until a week from now. So far, my favorite of our various homes, and these were very happy years.
People come in and out of our lives; obviously these folks exist independently of us, but we tend to recall them in terms of their relationship to us. So it is with places. Whose lives have been defined by their time in, for instance, that Bonnville house, or that Charlottesville apartment? I know that several families had lived in our Louisville house before we came, and only one before us in our second Flagstaff house and our Akron house, but the folks who purchased our Flagstaff home raised their children there.
No one will ever write the biography of a place with respect to the people who’ve lived there, but each place has such a history. “If these walls could talk …”