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Memories of Homes We've Lived In


Of all the homes we lived in, and there were many, Grandma Jungas's above Grandpa's hardware store, was the most important to my well being. I once was telling my granddaughter, Rachel, about this Grandma and how no matter if I was left behind in China, on a mountain in Switzerland, or at a Madras railroad station, I could always count on being able to go and live with my Grandma Jungas. Rachel softly replied, "That's how I feel about you."

The first Reedley house we called the Yellow House; it had no furniture and we ate watermelon for supper the first night having no dishes or cookware. The second house in the country holds many memories for me: the school bus, sharing one bathroom, the largest bedroom going to Betty, Joanne, and me had floor to ceiling cupboards which we filled mostly with paperdolls, the outhouse as a "just in case," the washhouse where I caught my hand in the wringer washer and where Mom spent many hours, the tiny kitchen where Phyllis lured us into drying dishes by telling countless stories, the back room where Phyllis and Grace constructed beautiful paperdolls, the shed at the back where we cut peaches in summer, the fields beyond through which Joanne and I could shortcut to Marion Wiest's house, and so forth.

The first Hillsboro home had an airconditioner in the living room where I collapsed each day in the summer after working in the kitchen at the old folks home where Grandma and Grandpa Hiebert resided. I contracted the three-day measles and spent many lonely hours in one of the three upstairs bedrooms with only a radio for distraction. The second Hillsboro house was a sorrowful house where we lived when Dad got sick. On the other hand, it was where Betty, Paul and I fell in love and married. Betty and I shared a bedroom with a porch without a railing. The day we moved in Mom worried aloud about whether or not we would walk in our sleep and fall off that porch although neither Betty nor I was afflicted with sleep walking. Yet I woke up at 2:00 a.m. perched on the edge of that porch, looking down into our backyard. I later got Paul's bedroom when he married and for the first time had a room to myself, although that lasted only six months.

All of these homes, except Grandma Jungas's, were small. I don't know how Mom did it with us all under foot. The homes in India were large with verandahs, large bedrooms, semi-detached kitchens, but also housed an occasional snake or scorpion. But all of that is another story.


I often think about the little house that we had in San Diego. Carol and I were married there, and lived there for our first couple of years together. The house was on Point Loma, on the harbor side of the ridge (on one part of the ridge there was a cliff about 100 feet high, with a house perched on its edge, that we could see from our front yard), so we were protected from the worst of the storms and salt spray, but the ocean was an easy walk away. Carol and I got into the habit of walking over to the beach a couple of evenings a week to watch the sun set. We had 2 orange trees in the back yard that were navel and Valencia grafts, so they produced two crops a year of delicious oranges each year (and since we often left the fruit on the tree, we had fresh oranges in the backyard more than half the year). We also had a lemon tree that bore all year round, and the most wonderful apricot tree on the planet (the fruit was heaven -- people that hated apricots loved this fruit). The house was between the views of the ocean, the harbor, and Mission Bay, but we couldn't see any of them because we were in a small depression, which was why we could afford the house (you could see the fireworks at Sea World by standing on the picnic table or getting up on the roof), but there were great views to be had with short walks in any of these directions. We really liked living in San Diego (even being near the takeoff path from the airport), but the schools and the work were much better up north (where we are now), so we left.



I guess that my paragraph should be about the house I lived in the shortest amount of time. While we were waiting for our new Monmouth house to be completed, our family lived in a rented cabin at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mississippi River in Oquawka, Illinois. I have so many memories of living in the cabin that it hardly seems possible that it was for so short a period of time. There were the mice who popped their heads out to say hello when you took a shower. There was the TV that didn't work. There was sharing a bed with a younger brother who didn't always make it to the bathroom in time. But there were also the barges that would shine their spotlights in reply when you flashed a flashlight their way from the bedroom window at night. There was my mom reading "Huck Finn" to us, and my Dad making steaks on the beach below. Five people and a dog living in a small two-bedroom cabin. We were all happy once we moved into our new house, but I think the cabin stayed inside us all. I'll never read Mark Twain without thinking of the cabin in Oquawka.


Best memories: playing "witch" with its deliciously scary fun...splitting up in two teams to creep around the house at twilight or nighttime, not knowing when the "witch" would jump out. Putting on plays in the parlor. Walking through the fruit orchards or raspberry bushes. Playing in the room-sized spaces between trunks of the giant eucalyptus trees. Playing "salt and pepper shakers" with poppy seed pods. Eating slimy spinach and cold oatmeal. Looking for mushrooms hiding under pine needles. Setting up mossy beds in boxes for rollypoochies.

Taking afternoon naps in a quiet upstairs room, looking out at leafy trees and feeling pleasantly drowsy. Cool baths pouring water from large pottery cujas (spelling?). Dad shooting flying foxes out of trees. All of us in upstairs bedroom, mom bringing hot cocoa and dad reading stories. Having a wrap around veranda for tricycle riding. Terrifying narrow escapes from the horned oxen with their leg chains and weights to slow them down. Snakes and scorpions and spiders and worms and ants and other such.

I loved the chicken coop out back, smelly and dusty though it was. There was a stone wheel out there to sharpen knives on. Connie Wiebe and I had a private club up in the garage attic; sometimes Willard Dahl and Gordon Stelting were invited to climb up and join us. I remember thinking we might gradually jump off higher and higher places to the point of being able to jump off second floor ledge. Don't think we ever made it. I remember the cheap thrills of running through the sprinkler on hot summer days. I actually enjoyed mowing the lawn with the mechanical push mower. Didn't enjoy digging up dandelions (now they are considered a desirable flower). Hot steamy summer nights - we would all drag bedding and pillows into the dining room and sleep on the floor near the water-cooled fan system. A well that looked spooky from above. A basement with musty smell and thrilling mysteries -- storage for the steamer trunks, a huge cauldron for making home-made lye soap and boiling water for laundry. A coal furnace that burned out long before morning on bitter Kansas winter nights. Standing out in a screen porch watching summer storms, lightning and hailstones and blinding rain. Mom had a vegetable garden and always threw crumbs to the birds, which waited daily for her gifts. Polishing the wood floors by putting on several layers of socks and "skating" around. Lying on the floor peeking through the French doors when sisters and their boyfriends were in the living room on the sofa making out. Mom finding a pipe full of silver dollars hidden in a vent somewhere in the floor (then giving it all to the church!). Reading under the covers by flashlight after "lights out." Listening to opera in upstairs bedroom with Jo. Listening to radio mystery thrillers in the kitchen. Night-time cereal snacks in the kitchen - many boxes of cereal in a high-up cupboard over the kitchen table. Being asked to practice violin in our parent's bedroom closet because of the screeching assault on everyone's ears.


The best place was Grandma Jungas's upstairs home. Six bedrooms. Front room, dining room, library corner, parlor. Kitchen, back porch. Bathroom at the top of the stairs above the front door, which opened on the sidewalk. Then all those cupboards full of sets of dishes: the pink glass set, the yellow glass set, the parrot dishes. The handsome gray plush parlor couch and chair set with tassels. Grandma's bedroom with the old-fashioned high bed and dressers. The mangle room stacked to the ceiling with boxes and round tins in which Grandma stored bits of lace, etc etc . Uncle Jake's room which Grace and I cleaned once a week for 25 cents. The old piano in the front room on which Grace and I were supposed to practice duets but never did, much, to our teacher's disappointment. The pantry off the kitchen with so many old-fashioned things on the shelves.

But most of all, Grandma sitting there in her rocker under the cuckoo clock. She would be trying to learn to read English from a second-grade reader, or crocheting and upset because she had made a mistake, or arguing stubbornly about something, or beating Paul and me at Chinese Checkers with her exasperating moves.. Late at night she would sit there and worry about the starving children in the world (she said). Once she told me she didn't expect a large place in heaven--she would be satisfied to be a small stone in the wall under a window. Sometimes she would be in the kitchen, sitting, washing dishes in a large pan. After her gall bladder surgery, she practiced walking--around and around the dining room table, hanging on to keep her balance. The home and Grandma went together. They belonged. I miss them both.


I loved our house in Mahbubnagar, our home during winter vacations. It was huge.

We had an immense frontroom that left many memories:
-the two pianos we'd play during evening prayer time; one was one-half key off from the other so Betty taught me to transpose; we'd hear rats nibbling in the back of the pianos
-an old record player on which we'd play the sets of records Dad had carefully chosen before leaving the States: Peter & the Wolf, Nutcracker Suite, Messiah
-a small area in the front where Mom kept the small bed with the baby a man had brought to her; it looked so dark against the white sheets; a family came to adopt it but we learned that it died soon after this
-the big wicker furniture and high ceilings
-Dad reading to us by the light of a petromax at nighttime

A large room where Mom madly sewed school clothes for us adjoined the frontroom--to the right, I think.

You walked through the frontroom to get to the dining room, with all its events:
-curry and rice for most suppers; if we didn't get curry, we'd complain, although often we'd already filled up on boarding buah (a coarse grain--kafir?--with a hot, meatless curry sauce on it that we'd gotten from the compound boarding school
-the interesting meals when there were visiting missionaries; not as interesting was the time the Krauses were there and Gwen was scared to death they would tell what she'd been up to in Bruton...
-butter that was beautifully molded in exotic shapes
-Saul making delicious meals; the school boy helper who served us and came at our every ring of the bell

Mom and Dad's big bedroom:
-the thing I remember about that room was Mom's reading Shakespeare while she nursed Loey; and now Loey says she doesn't even read Shakespeare. Hmmm. So much for early influences.

The cement stairway to our rooms upstairs:
-once Mom felt something slither past her foot as she went in the back screen door; Dad got a lantern and looked around & found a viper curled up by the bottom step--where we would have been going a few minutes later.

Dad's office was at the top of the stairs. He'd work there on the missionary field records until late, late at night.

The bedroom where we girls slept was just above the frontroom and was about as huge.
-we loved to sleep in late, slip out so Sugnanama could make the bed, then climb back in very carefully so we wouldn't have to do much once we did decide to get up
-we had big shelves full of musty books, mostly British ones--like the Campfire Girls and soupy romance; we loved them.
-we loved sleeping in our coccoons, the big four-postered beds with mosquito netting; Mom would bring us hot chocolate, kiss us goodnight and then tuck the netting under us. It felt so cozy and safe
-once there was a snake slithering around in our ceiling at nighttime; Dad shot it. We also had rats nibbling on our books and we'd find big holes knawed out of them

I can't figure out where Paul slept. His bedroom must have been up by us--maybe by Dad's office area.

Downstairs there was a veranda all the way around the house.
-Margy would ride around and around it on her trike.
-Loey would crawl around on the veranda and play with Judy Schmidt. Once Mom found Loey out there with half of a large cockroach in her hand; to her horror, Mom found the other half in Loey's mouth. Good for the immune system, right?

Upstairs we had a verandah right outside of our bedroom:
-Gwen and I would play paper dolls there hours on end; Gwen always got to have the bride while I got the boring groom
-Mom always told us to be careful if we had Margy up there when she was little since she was worried that crows might come and peck out Margy's eyes
-before we left for India the last time, I climbed from this veranda over to the flat roof next to it and sunbathed for quite awhile since I wanted to be gorgeous and tan when we got to America; the next day I was so sick when we left for Bombay but didn't tell anyone since I didn't want to get into trouble

Surrounding our house were the other buildings on our compound: the school, the church, the boarding houses, the homes for pastors, teachers, staff. Come to think of it, there wasn't a hospital with two single missionary ladies living there. I wonder why. I guess that's why Mom would go out on the veranda in the mornings and dispense medicine & treat the folks who had assembled there.

It was a wonderful place to live. Of course, by the end of vacation time we older ones were always anxious to get back to Kodai with our friends...and I'm sure Mom and Dad were ready for us to go!


This is a winter photo of Paul and Fran's home in Highland Park, Illinois. It's a beautiful place to live, with woods and pesky deer in the back yard.


My favorite home was probably the tiny, rented house where we lived for two years in Champaign while my dad was working on his doctorate. He probably does not look back on it so fondly, but for us kids it was a great spot.

It was the end house on Patricia Court, so we had a yard much bigger than the other homes. This meant that our yard was actually the public playground for the neighborhood kids. The place seemed to be always full of folks playing baseball, racing Hot Wheel cars down the sidewalk, riding bikes, playing with Legos and climbing in the (rather rickety) treehouse behind the storage barn.

My favorite part was the bunkbed my dad built himself for Chris and me. I got the top bunk, and it was a neat place to hide away and read or draw, since it was a very small house, with few spaces for privacy. My mom was always afraid the bed might collapse on poor Chris, but when we moved I think it took about four grown men to tear it apart so we could get it out the door (my dad likes to use lots of nails, screws and glue!).

Our family certainly had much nicer HOUSES after that, but from a little kid's point of view, I think that one was one of the better HOMES.