Ernie and I both had 'boyhood' homes

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

The report that the Ernest Hemingway Boyhood Home at 600 N. Kenilworth Ave. was for sale caused me to think about my boyhood home.

I lived at 1312 Indiana Ave. for the first 12 years of my life. My dad told me that it cost him $7,500 to build the two-bedroom home in New Albany, Ind. in 1948 — the year before I was born. The price was discounted because Dad helped the builder build the house when he wasn't driving a meat delivery truck.

Those builders must have done a good job because when I visit, the house looks pretty much the same as it did when my family lived there, except the front porch is now enclosed and the basketball goal on the garage is gone. The beautiful blue-tinted windows are still there.

If the child is father to the man, then your childhood home provides the architecture for your life. I have memories of that house that are as vivid as any I have.

There's the big sloping backyard where the neighborhood played baseball and football. Third base was wet and muddy most of the spring. One of the end zones was gravel. Very few diving catches for touchdowns there. It was on that field where I first learned the meaning of friendship — and the reality that I would not be a professional athlete.

There's the attic where my brother Bob and I slept with a fan blowing directly on our coverless bodies in the sweltering summer humidity of southern Indiana. That sleeplessness begat my asking God to perform the tiny miracle of moving a glass of water just a couple of inches across my nightstand, and my first twinge of skepticism when it never moved.

There's the dark basement where my Mom would herd us whenever a thunderstorm approached. We must have spent half the summer down there, waiting for the tornado that never came. I'd make tornado-like noises and announce that we were all going to die to scare my Mom. She was a sweet woman who loved me, and I shouldn't have done that.

And there's the little kitchen where I would creep downstairs to get a drink of cold water from the refrigerator. As soon as I turned on the kitchen light, giant cockroaches would momentarily freeze into motionlessness. When I was little, I was scared to death of these monsters, but as I grew older I came to welcome the nightly combat, armed with courage and a broom. Unlike Hemingway I never hunted lions in Africa, but I did hunt cockroaches at 1312 Indiana Avenue.

I have memories in every room of that house. Psychologists say the first years of life are the most important in shaping who we become.

Your childhood home is where you become you.

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