Country singer Miranda Lambert had a song a few years back called “The House That Built Me” and it’s one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. It tells the story of an adult woman going back to her childhood home and asking the current owners if she can take a look around. They lyrics are poignant and the tune is haunting. It’s a beautiful song:
I know they say you can’t go home again.
I just had to come back one last time.
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam.
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine.
Up those stairs, in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar.
And I bet you didn’t know, under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave.
Won’t take nothing but a memory From the house that built me.
This past week my husband and I went back to the town that built him, East Aurora, NY. The“village,” as they call it, is a picture-perfect Norman Rockwallish colonial town on the outskirts of blue collar Buffalo and it offered him the best of both worlds: safe and charming yet full of hard-working people. It made him who he is.
The birthplace of President Millard Fillmore, the historic Roycroft design movement, and Fisher-Price toys, EA has history and charm. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Price actually started their toy company in a local garage and kids from the village were put on the boxes. This photo is my husband on the snap beads box.
His was a childhood filled with playing in the park and riding bikes. His home away from home was the East Aurora Boys Club. (Now the Boys AND Girls club! Oh the horror!) The club has stood the test of time and while we were in town it had a ceremony inducting a few locals, including a good friend of ours, into the Wall of Fame. When I first heard about us attending, I thought “but I don’t want to do that!” Am so very glad I did.
The place was packed and the speeches were moving. So much inspiration. One inductee gave a couple who took him into their home as a child a bowl of candy. Lifesavers. As the emcee noted, “At the boys club we learned to win but we also learned to lose. We learned self-respect and to respect others.” These traditions and values continue to be taught today.
In today’s fractured world, one big glaring splinter is the appreciation of generations. The Greatest Generation just can’t understand the morals and values of today’s Generation X. Millennials look at their Baby Boomer parents like they’re something out of Game of Thrones. But, if we step back and really think about it, yes we might have different opinions, but we can also learn something from each other. This is where places like the boys club come in. Generation after generation is guiding the youth of the town and even though checkers and chess may not be as popular as video games in the game room, pick-up basketball is still king. Best of all, it’s organized by the kids and not all of them get a trophy.
Walking to mass on Sunday (yes, walking to mass…so cool!) I couldn’t help but think how fortunate the kids in East Aurora are to grow up where they do. They have all the high-tech they need but they also have the low-tech past staring them in the face everywhere they go. Nostalgia carried me all during our visit and it continued as I listened to the priest’s sermon. He noted that when we are young, we are gaining things. We gain knowledge, physical growth, and new emotions. But, as we age we start losing things. Our health, our memory, our friends and family. We should never stop learning though. I learn so much from the little three-year-old buddies I teach and vice versa. Ten-year-olds at the boys club are learning the same things their grandpas did. Old teaches the young and the young teach the old.
Another place this concept is alive and well is at Vidler’s Store in East Aurora. It’s a multi-story, old-school five-and-dime that is a true treasure. Every time we go back, I have to go to Vidler’s. Inside you’ll find everything from toys of generations past to the latest in home décor. I spend literally at least an hour there as do the hordes of people visiting it daily. Yes, ceramic cookware is cool, but so are paint-by-number sets. In life, we need both.
The house that built my husband, his childhood home, is at the top of this blog and is walking distance from Vidler’s, the church, and the boys club. His mom is in a nursing home now and I so wanted to knock on the door and ask the new owners if I could touch the place and feel it. I never got the nerve.
In her song, Lambert sings “You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can. I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.” Going to the boys club ceremony, walking the creaky aisles of Vidler’s, staying with my brother and sister-in-law, and attending my husband’s 40th high school reunion, reminded me that despite moving to Boston and eventually Texas, thankfully my husband hasn’t forgotten who he is and where he’s from. I’m pretty sure he never will and it’s something to sing about.