Returning Home

Letter from the Editor, October/November 2019

Megan SwoyerA man and his wife rang the doorbell and, when the homeowner opened the door, he explained that he had grown up in the home, and asked if he could see the inside once again. When he stepped out to the back porch, he stopped in his tracks. “Wow,” he said. “It’s so different now.”

Rather than looking out to the screened-in porch that he remembered, he took in a new and gorgeous layout chock-full of style and panache.

Creative homeowner/interior designer Tiffany Edison had transformed the space into a room perfect for her large family. A two-way fireplace had been installed, and comfortable furniture and a new beadboard ceiling awash in a light-blue paint adorned the room.

The screens were gone on the porch the man remembered and it was now an open-air space. As the son of the original owners of the home, he told Edison that when he was a boy, he and his family gathered in that room a lot.

“The man and his wife loved the changes, but he choked up when he saw his old bedroom and the back porch. He apologized and said he was ‘overwhelmed,’ ” Edison recalls.

I know how he must have felt as he toured parts of his childhood home in Ann Arbor, which we feature in this issue. He may have sensed he was dreaming. Everything was familiar, but not familiar at all. That’s how I feel when I drive by the home my parents owned for some 40 years. Every time I’m near that neighborhood, I make a point to cruise by the large Colonial house. Well, not really cruise. It’s more like a stealthy crawl. I turn the radio off and put the windows down, so all my senses can absorb the scene.

I can nearly hear my mom yelling something like, “Can someone please bring in the garbage cans?” Or I might recall hearing her announce, “It’s time to light the pumpkin candles!” And, “Help me hang the Indian corn on the door!”

I imagine my dad’s Notre Dame flag flapping against the flagpole, and I remember the sound of the electric garage door as it slowly rose up to reveal sparkling-clean cars and a neatly stacked pile of logs for building fires come fall — and my old blue Schwinn, awaiting a ride.

What I squint at today through my car window is a bit different. The once well-manicured front lawn with trimmed trees and bushes, and scant landscape adornments, isn’t so tidy. The garage door is up, showcasing shelving units bursting at the seams with toys, garden tools, shoes, and other miscellaneous stuff. A plastic, neon-colored swing hangs from a small tree in the front yard along the brick pathway to the front door. A large workbench takes center stage in another garage my dad had built to house his favorite cars.

It’s a new day, a new family, I tell myself, and they’re molding the home into what they need it to be. I hit the accelerator and drive away fast, filling my mind with thoughts of anything but the love I had for that house and the people in it.

I’d like to return to the 1970s and spend an autumn afternoon there. The school bus would drop me off and I’d enter through the front door. The Indian corn, with its dried leaves and colorful little kernels, would move ever so slightly as I’d open and shut the door. Mom would be in the kitchen sprinkling cinnamon on sliced apples for a pie, while chicken or ribs roasted in the oven. Relaxing music would be playing on a transistor radio, and firewood would be at the ready for an evening blaze. My brothers would either be playing ping-pong in the basement or strumming a guitar upstairs. I’d think about taking the Schwinn out for a spin before homework and dinner.

I saw a post on Facebook recently that said, “Wouldn’t you just love to step back in time and be in Grandma’s kitchen again?” I shared the post and received some lovely insights. “My grandma had the best laugh, and she could make pasties,” someone said. Another replied, “When I was very young, my grandma would give me a cup of tea with cake sprinkles at the bottom; it was so special.” “The best smells came from both of my grandmas’ kitchens,” another comment read.

If you’re home right now, look around and soak up everything you love. If you get a chance to be in your grandmother’s kitchen, go soon — and take it all in!

Change, of course, is inevitable. And I’m one to embrace it. Things that no longer work, are deteriorating, or are in need of an update require attention, especially in the capable hands of a good interior designer like Tiffany Edison. Her goal was to update the home we feature in this issue, but to maintain its historic vibe, as well.  The porch needed to accommodate her large, blended family — and it does. “It’s my favorite place in our house,” she says. Her children love it, too. And once they’ve moved away, if they return someday to visit their childhood home, chances are it will be different. Nothing stays the same.