The house I grew up in was a colonial built in the 1920s in suburban Rochester. It had a large foyer separating the living room from the dining room. A curving wooden banister in the stairway provided us with a fun and speedy ride downstairs when we knew our parents weren’t looking. The kitchen was located next to a large screened-in back porch. We all loved that porch, rocking on the glider, reading a favorite book or just enjoying a glass of lemonade.
In the back yard was an enormous maple tree with its large branches hovering over the house, enticing us to frolic in its falling leaves in autumn, cooling us in the summer but, most importantly, seeming to shelter our whole family during uncertain times.
I moved there with my parents and my 4-year-old brother when I was just 2 and left it as a bride. They say you can’t go home again. But I did. We all did. My parents lived in that beautiful house their whole lives, warmly welcoming our family and my brother’s and sister’s families for birthdays, holidays and for no reason at all.
Every now and then I would drive into Rochester by myself to spend the day with my mother, going out to lunch, shopping, picking cherries or raspberries at a farm a few miles away or just sitting on the back porch talking. One of my favorite memories is pulling into the long driveway that went to the back of the house and watching my dad open up the large kitchen window as I drove in, calling to my mother, “Isobel, Penny’s here!” What a heartwarming welcome.
My husband and I moved into our first house when I was eight months pregnant. It was a small raised ranch in Williamsville. After our baby was born two of my new neighbors, whom I hadn’t met yet, came over with a gift for our son. It was a neighborhood where we kept an eye on each other’s children, traded gardening tips, had coffee in each other’s kitchens and helped anyone who needed it.
One evening, during a 100-year rainfall, my husband and I arrived home from a party only to find a scared young baby sitter, our family room filled with 3 feet of water and our furniture and rug floating in it. Even at that late hour, our neighbors rushed over to help, drying out our furnace, moving wet furniture to the garage, salvaging our babies’ precious photograph albums and helping to clean up the watery mess. Their quick actions spared us a lot of further damage. While we had many fun-filled times in that house, the one thing we will always remember is our neighbors’ help and kindness during that terrible night.
The house we live in now has spacious rooms, a Japanese maple tree in the front yard and a koi pond in the back. Most important, however, are the people who live around us. Whether it’s our next-door neighbors who welcome us on a hot summer day to the “Pool Club” in their back yard or the neighbor who uses his snowblower to clear everyone’s sidewalks in the winter, we know our home is surrounded by friendly, caring people.
What I think “home” really means, though, is family. The pleasure we get from having our son and daughter visit us now reminds me of the many times we enjoyed visiting my parents. Every now and then I visualize driving up that long driveway to my parents’ house. I watch my dad open the kitchen window and call out to my mother with such delight in his voice, “Isobel, Penny’s here!”
Penny F. Zeplowitz of Williamsville is a management consultant, writer and travel photographer.