Archive for January, 2012

A sequel to an old story, or the beginning of a new one?

January 22, 2012

For some who loves writing as much as I do, I realize that I don’t do it enough. Hopefully, this project will get me going on it again.

It has been an interesting month for the Holmes family. On Dec. 6, my wife, Angie, was laid off of her job as food writer for The Cedar Rapids Gazette after nearly eight years with the company. A week later, I suffered a concussion at work, and I’m still dealing with the after effects of that. Along with a couple of things, the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 have been interesting to say the least.

But the rotten cherry on top of this spoiled sundae came on the evening of Jan. 4. We have been living in a very nice rental house for the last two-plus years, and at one points had thoughts of buying it. But an uncertain future for us, coupled with the owner’s desire to get the place sold has had us living under the possibility of suddenly needing to move. We had hoped to get through the winter without having to worry about moving, but on the 4th, our luck ran out. The owner called and said the house had sold, and we needed to be out by Feb. 13.


So, suddenly, we were scrambling to find a place to live. But while there are a lot of houses for sale in Vinton, nobody seemed to willing to rent. For the better part of a week, our relator friends in town were looking high and low for us, without much success. As if our life wasn’t complicated enough, we were potentially facing homelessness.


Then, about 10 days ago, I was driving down C Avenue in Vinton, and my gaze went — as it always does — to 809 C Ave. It is an address I know well; I should, after all I lived there for almost 12 years!

My parents bought that very house in January of 1964 when I was in first grade. They sold it September of 1975, a month after I started college at the University of Northern Iowa. And the day we moved the last of our family’s possessions out of there was the last day I was in it — until last Saturday.

After driving by the house that day, something dawned on me. The house had been empty for a while. At least since shortly after the July storm, if not longer. I knew that someone in Cedar Rapids owned the house, I knew that some damage to the house after the storm had been repaired and I knew that no one was living there.


So the old journalist in me started doing some digging. I made some phone calls, did some research online and found the owner’s name. I even contacted a neighbor who lived next door to us when we moved in back in ’64 and is still there today. Finally, that evening, I got in touch with the owner. I told her of our interest in the house, of my history and and she indicated she was interested in doing something with it. We agreed to meet to see the house last Saturday, the 14th.

James Earl Jones has this great quote in (the greatest movie ever made) “Field of Dreams” when he’s talking about baseball and he says, “The memories will be so thick (people) will have to brush them away from their faces.”

That’s how I felt as Angie, Sage and I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning. It was almost a sensory overload for me. All at once I was six, then 11, then 14, then 18, then back to what I am now (feel free to do the math on your own, LOL).

We went into the house; there was a new front door, the coat closet had moved, and there was fresh paint and carpet, but once we went through the door I again stepped back in time. Every wallpaper seam was the same. There were all new energy efficient windows throughout the house, but the view through each of those windows was the same as it had been nearly five decades ago.

Throughout the house there were changes — a new kitchen countertop, fresh paint over the 1960s wood paneling, and a remodeled bathroom that even has a NEW claw-foot bathtub — but for the most part it was the same house I grew up in; almost as if it had been frozen in time. Right down to the utility room off the kitchen with the washer and dryer and the basement, with the eight-inch pipe in the floor that goes seemingly nowhere.

It was a pretty simple decision. We’re starting the move on Feb. 1 and hope to be watching the Super Bowl there on the 5th. For now, this is a six-month move, but it could be longer, up to a year and a half.

I know a lot of people whose parents have lived in the same house for 50 years or more. For them, they come “home” every time they come to visit. My parents moved out of my┬áhouse in 1975, and even though Mom still lives in the house they bought just three years after selling my┬áhouse, home to me in Vinton will always have the address of 809 C Ave. attached to it.

So now, seven-and-a-half years after moving back to Vinton, and 36 1/2 years after moving out of my house, we’re headed back. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be filing weekly updates here on “Watching The Wheels” about the journey home. About Sage living in my room and about looking out the front door at Jolly’s and thinking about Lynch’s Grocery Store. About figuring out how to use a shower conversion in a claw-foot bathtub and about flashing back to the neighborhood football and baseball games in Stephens’ back lot.

It’s going to be an interesting trip. Thanks for riding along!