New Leaves

Clawson, MI

Coming Home

Jun 01, 2018 by Bonnie

Madalynne loved the big ten-foot-wide picture window that dominated the living room of the house where she had lived most of her life. Looking out now on the tidy row of post-war ranch homes that had changed little over the years since 1953 when they were built, it seemed hard to believe that she was really here.

She and George had left this house ten years earlier because it was getting harder for her to take care of George as his health deteriorated. She never really thought that she would be able to live there again. Oh, for the first few years, while most of her things were still in the house, she talked about coming back. Her mind regularly invented new scenarios, but none of them actually came to fruition. For, you see, George had only lived eight months after their move to Tennessee to live with their daughter Bonnie and her family. The house had been informally rented on and off for a few years to people who were willing to live with all the things she had left behind. But eventually it became obvious that she was not able to live alone anymore, especially since all of her children lived far away from this little house. So the house was emptied of her things and formal tenants moved in. After that happened, she didn’t talk as much about going back.

But now she had returned. The tenants were gone, and the house needed a lot of work. So Art and Bonnie, now retired, brought her back with them to the little house on Knollwood in Clawson, Michigan that had been the grounding point of the family for so many years.

On one of the first evenings, she had sat out on the porch in one of her old lawn chairs they had found in the garage and several of her old neighbors had stopped by to visit. Then at church on Sunday, she had been warmly welcomed publicly by the pastor, who had been serving there since before they moved to Tennessee, and after church by many of her old friends and some new members. Church friends had taken them out to eat that afternoon, and others had offered to help with the things they needed, such as a lawnmower.

She had also been remembered, at least by the director, at the local senior center, where she and George had often eaten their main meal in George’s later years. Art and Bonnie had decided to take advantage of the nutritious $3 meals as often as they could, saving hours of meal preparation that could be better used for working on the house.

Yet even though they had been warmly welcomed and there were memories in every square inch of this house, it didn’t seem like home anymore. All of her possessions were gone, and the three of them were camping out in the house with only what they had brought up with them from Tennessee in the two vehicles: the Camry and the Chevy cargo van Art and Bonnie had fitted up as a camper when they retired. Fortunately, the tenants had left a few other pieces of furniture, so they had the essentials of life. Art and Bonnie brought in their outdoor lounge chairs to use for themselves in the living room, and they bought her a soft upholstered wing chair at a resale store. With the modern rug in browns and blacks and the tables and lamps the tenants had left, the living room was quite comfortable, if not quite pulled-together. The plants from the Tennessee house lining the window seat of the picture window gave the room a homey feel, and as the cleaning and painting progressed, the house gradually had become more like a home again.

As she gazed out on the oh-so-familiar view, her mind went back 65 years, to when they had first moved in. In 1953, expecting their third child, she and George had decided they needed a bigger house. The little two-bedroom home in Berkley, Michigan, that had been their first home together, bought with George’s GI loan after World War Two, was getting crowded. They had watched the home being built, and loved their little red-bricked house with covered porch, tiny foyer, and corner windows in the living room. But after welcoming two, going on three children into their family in six years, they knew it was time to move. Garry and Bonnie had been sharing the second bedroom, but it was definitely not big enough for three children. In those days, couples couldn’t be sure how many children they would eventually bring into the world. So they began looking for a larger home.

In nearby Clawson, there was a building boom. They had formed the habit of taking the children to the park there to play. A wide street ending at the park was just being developed, so they had toured the model home (not yet finished), and bought it! The children wrote their names under one of the pieces of wood trim over the closet in what would be Garry’s bedroom. She wondered if the autographs were still there.

They had moved to Clawson in November of 1953, and celebrated their first Thanksgiving with their extended family. Her mom and dad and sister Elaine had been their guests, along with George’s sister Ruth and her family. She had been exhausted at the end of the day, but was also delighted to have been the hostess for the first celebration in their new home. Not many days later, her labor had begun. Her mom and dad had come up from Ferndale to be with the children, and George had taken her to Detroit Osteopathic Hospital, where Dottie was born.

Two more children, Jon and Steve, followed in 1957 and 1960 respectively. The new house had three bedrooms and a basement, so at first Garry and Bonnie had private bedrooms. She and George always kept the latest baby with them in their room, until the next one came along. But eventually the rooms were full of children: Bonnie and Dottie in one room (in bunk beds), and Garry, Jon, and Steve in the other (also with a set of bunks). It was crowded, but comfortable.

It was the time of the baby boom as the GIs returned from the war and started families. Most of the homes in the neighborhood were occupied by couples their age, and the children had lots of friends. But eventually all the children graduated from Clawson High School and left home to follow their own dreams. Bonnie, Garry, and Jon went out of state for college and never lived at home again. Dot’s dream was to move to Vermont, where her Grandpa Doten had been born and raised. They had visited the family there many times and Dot fell in love with the Green Mountain State. Steve, after a stint in the Navy, did return home to the area and lived near George and Madalynne for several years. But eventually he moved to the west coast. So now Madalynne’s family lived in Vermont, Tennessee, Iowa, Washington state, and Vancouver, BC.

She and George had continued to live here even after George retired. In retirement they spent a good bit of their time traveling to visit the five children and their families. When they weren’t traveling, they were very involved with their church family. It was the same church they had attended ever since the 50s, but it had moved from Clawson to Troy. George had taught adult Sunday school most of his life, and Madie taught the pre-schoolers. George was also on the church board, and used his skill as an electrician, along with other skills, to do a lot of volunteer labor in upkeep for the church, and also to help other church members as a skilled jack-of-all-trades. The phrase “Let George do it” was really true, at least at Glen Oaks Alliance Church, so much so that just a few years before they moved to Tennessee, the church had honored George with a reception where he was given a Faithful Servant Award and many gave testimony to his influence in their lives.

The house continued to be the place where the family gathered, often with a picnic in the park. But it was very seldom that everyone could be there at the same time. Yet all of the eleven grandchildren and some of the great grandchildren have memories of family reunions there, especially George and Madie’s fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries.

But eventually, as time took its toll on their bodies, they knew it was time to leave their little house near the park. George never returned, but now she was back, living in the same house, but no longer mistress of it. Even so, she was here, and it was good to be back. Resting in the care of a loving God and her devoted family, she was at peace.