Breathing in Memories

I’ve desired to do this since early spring.

It took me until October to comply, to get in the car and go.

Something was pulling me toward home – the home of my birth and early existence. It is the home that I eventually wanted to escape out of small-town boredom. It is the home that I rarely visit, but is within a 35-minute drive. It is the home of special places, friends and family.

I had to go and breathe in memories.

My earliest memory of home and life itself was the two-story house we lived in on School Street. It was on an odd corner, shaped like a wide “V.” We moved from this house when I was very young, as it would be torn down in favor of a gas station. I have two distinct memories from this house:  1) Mom standing on a chair because a mouse was running across the floor, and 2) hiding upstairs because the family doctor made a house call for my sick brother. My recollection of the details of this house is vague or lacking. There are only photos as reminders, most of which were taken inside or near a white picket fence.

When I was four, we moved to a house on Eighth Street, where the family would stay until dad’s employer transferred him to another city. I was 16 when that occurred, having to leave lifelong friends and make new ones my senior year of high school.

I remember the Eighth Street home being so much bigger than this.


Forty-two years later, the house and yard seem small, while the trees in the front yard have grown very tall. The current owners have a lot of raking ahead.

While living in this home, I learned the truth about Santa; I earned an allowance by scrubbing the linoleum floors; I cracked a front tooth when I fell out of bed, onto my face; I snuck into the parents’ bedroom closet to shake wrapped Christmas presents and ponder why they kept (sanitary) “napkins” in the closet; my brother and I tunneled through the snow in the front yard and built a ramp for our sleds in the back yard; I was fearful of a dark basement, especially the food pantry that was in a far corner; I attempted to teach myself to play guitar; I had teenage crushes on Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy; I obtained a Social Security number and started working in summer and after school; I learned how to drive a red, stick-shift Volkswagen; mom taught me how to cook and dad taught me how to sew; I found out I liked beer, but not martinis; I was baptized, received first communion and learned about Catholicism; I was a pretty obedient kid, except for that time I went swimming at the quarry after school and didn’t tell mom.


Touring my hometown was an exercise in how things change and how things stay the same. Gone was the high school I knew, replaced by a much larger grade school, a learning center, tennis courts and a soccer field. I suppose when the population almost doubles in what is still considered a small town, the schools must grow and expand. The high school has tripled in size and relocated to the other side of town, at the top of a hill I used to navigate with a bicycle.

“How strange it is to view a town you grew up in, not in wonderment through the eyes of youth, but with the eyes of a historian on the way things were.”

~Marvin Allan Williams~

The building that used to house St. Mary Magdalene’s Catholic Church stands empty, while its more modern version stands proud on top of a hill, down the road from the high school.

The Rosa Theater remains in existence and continues to show movies to the city’s residents.

The Pennebecker (apple tree) farm stand doesn’t appear to be in use and its trees looked like they needed a little TLC.

The bandstand in the town square remains, as do the Friday night concerts in the summer. It’s been a tradition for over 100 years.

Unrecognizable is the former dime store downtown, with its wooden floors. It’s been replaced by a modern interior and facade.

Brainard’s Bridge Park is as pretty as I remember it. South Park and Shadow Lake continue to provide a spot for picnics, fishing and swimming…with a few improvements.

The A&P grocery store that my dad managed has been replaced by a Kwik Trip gas station. If you are a resident of Wisconsin, you will know that Kwik Trip’s are everywhere…much like Starbucks and Subway. So, this was no surprise to me.

The hospital in which I was born has been rebuilt and the parking lot expanded, to meet the needs of a growing community. The grade school building that I attended is now used by the hospital.

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This was a special time to remember a part of life that was pleasant and the experiences that began to shape an awkward girl with glasses as an individual.

As I was sitting on a bench at Brainard’s Bridge Park, listening to the sounds of a gushing October stream and breathing in the memories of this place, I felt contentment and peace – the warm fuzzies which comes from knowing and feeling home with flesh and bones and soul.

It felt awesome to breathe.

This post was already in the beginning stages when I realized it might fit into this week’s Discover Challenge of Mixed Media. Click on the link to check out other submissions.

31 responses to Breathing in Memories

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It really is a nice small town, one that I would return to now as a place to live. And it’s not far from the cities where I currently reside. I have to make it a point to return more often.

  1. joey says:

    We had similar outings recently, although due to our GPS fail, we didn’t go into my old small town when we passed by. On the way home, it was too dark to take in. BUT! I did notice the high school is now the middle school. Per your post, I wonder if the old theatre still stands. It was still up and running last year…
    That house does look smaller now, in the present photo as compared to the one you had. The tree eclipses it somewhat now, and the house isn’t as well cared for. It’s always nostalgic to see a tree grow. I shared that experience, too.
    I feel like I had a moment of pause in your slideshow, so I can only imagine how relaxing it was to walk through it all and hear the sounds of the stream, and the rustling of leaves. Truly lovely post. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome Joey. Perhaps you’ll get back to your hometown during the day and have time to explore the theater and other places you remember from your youth. My mom and dad always took good care of their home and the yard, so I was a little disappointed by the current condition, although what should I expect for a house that’s been around for many years. I had almost hoped that the current owner had been home and outside. I may have been courageous enough to ask for a tour of the inside too. I can only imagine how small that would have seemed to me.

      • joey says:

        No doubt it would have seemed tiny. This is always the way 🙂
        I’m almost always disappointed to see homes I’ve lived in. They’re never maintained. But, now living in someone else’s very old home, I long to improve it with a speed that does not match our funding, so to some extent, I understand.
        I’ll hit up the old small town next year, when we go the “right” way!

  2. Dan Antion says:

    It looks like a wonderful place to be born and first experience life, Mary. I have been back to my hometown, several times and each time, I realize how important that connection is to me. As that town has grown and changed, so has its little resident. I think you’ve both turned out pretty well. Thanks for bringing us back with you.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Dan. I clearly remember as a teenager thinking about how boring it felt living in such a small community (about 3,700 residents at the time). Now, some days I long for the boredom of a smaller community and not much to do or worry about on a Saturday afternoon.

  3. Nice one especially this time of year when we reflect back on the year or years past. Both houses I grew up in are gone, the church I lived near and was eventually married in still stands but is not open. My grandparents farm here in NH is still there, has lost a little of its luster, but I still smile when I visit the area. Good memories certainly keep us warm and smiling. 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It was weird to see the old Catholic church empty, even though a new one has taken its place. I wonder if they will leave the church sit or eventually sell it. Seems a waste to me.

      It’s nice that you can still drive past your grandparents’ farm and have that warmness and the memories to go with it. What did they farm? Was it corn? Tobacco? Something else?

  4. loisajay says:

    My dad was very good friends with the Produce Manager at our local A&P and he got me my very first job as a cashier. I learned how work a cash register and balance out my tray, to count out change, and to do whatever I could to never work the express lane on a Sunday when every comes after church! Good memories, Mary. This was great.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank Lois! A former A&P employee, huh? Don’t run into them too often because those grocery stores left Wisconsin many years ago and I believe the supermarket chain ceased to exist in 2015. I’m glad that gave you happy memories, Lois.

  5. Great post. I loved the way you put words and pictures together. We never had a camera so not many pictures are there with me, but someday I’ll share the picture of the house I was born in and was brought up. The good thing is that my apartment is still there and I can visit it, but I avoid it. It stirs up the emotions too much.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Awww, Sharukh, I’m sorry that a visit to the apartment is too emotional for you. Perhaps some day it will be the right time for that.

      Thanks for the compliments! I have many more photos from my youth, but there’s a limit as to how many readers want to scroll through in a post.

  6. Joanne Sisco says:

    Nostalgia is an odd thing … it manages to make us feel warm and fuzzy, while at the same time leaving a certain sadness behind.
    I’m glad your trip home was a warm one. It must have felt so strange to go back to your old home … mine is gone so there’s nothing left for me to reminisce about.
    I hope you will make a point of doing that trip more often 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Yes, it was strange to stand in front of my old home, especially because it seemed so small. An older home across the street had been replaced with a new one and the street seemed shorter. How did that happen?

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        What I noticed the most about the street I grew up on was that all the trees are gone.
        When I was young, the street was lined on both sides with trees … we climbed them on a regular basis.
        They are ALL gone 😦

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        I have no clue … but I suspect that they simply lived their lifespan, died, and were never replaced.
        My hometown is in the north which has primarily coniferous, poplars, and birch. Unless trees are planted in urban trees, it’s pretty stark.

      • rabirius says:

        I can imagine. My mother sold her house and lives in a different part of the city. When I visit I always feel disoriented and a bit displaced.

  7. I really enjoyed this post and reading all your varied childhood memories. It is interesting how going back to a place we grew up in sparks things we may have not thought of for years and maybe did not even remember until we go back. And also how things we thought were so large are actually not that big. Its just that we were small. I went back to the house I grew up in South Africa and I remembered there being about 100 steps to the street, but in actual fact there was just a regular normal staircase, nothing bigger than the norm.

    Great post!


    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you so much for your positive and lovely comments. I appreciate this very much, Peta. I intend to wander my hometown against next year, if not before, as there are places I wasn’t able to get to this trip.

  8. LB says:

    Hi Mary! I’m going to take a quick swing through your last few posts … I’m quite behind on WP due to job changes, travels, life …
    What really struck me about this post, for some reason, was your mention of the wood floor in the dimestore. It took me straight back to the dimestore in my Grandparent’s hometown. Such good memories!
    I love the list of memories from the house on 8th Street, and that it was so much smaller than you remembered. That is often the way it is.
    Lovely post!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks so much Laurie! I was reminded of the dime store by my mother. Even in her state of dementia, she remembered the wooden floors. I hope the job change has been a good and happy one, as much as the travels are for you. Thanks for stopping by, come again soon! 🙂

  9. artmusedog says:

    Thankful for the memories but going ‘home’ is never really possible ~ heart warming post and lots of delightful memories ~ that is life ‘memories’ and living today as best I can ~

    • bikerchick57 says:

      As long as you are living the best you can, that’s what counts…right? And the memories never go away, even when the places of your memories change.

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  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I published a post about visiting my hometown and breathing in memories. What I didn’t include in that post are the many photos of doors I took away from said […]