Asher on Aspen: The House That Built Me

Saying goodbye to my childhood home

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
Shannon Asher and her family as they say goodbye to their old home in Iowa.
Courtesy photo

After 32 years, my parents sold my childhood home in Norwalk, Iowa this month. The one constant that I had my entire life was this home. Taking that away naturally brought up a whirlwind of emotions for me and my sisters. We couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing the house one last time, so my family decided to get together to give it a proper sendoff. This farewell gathering was a chance to mourn the good days that the house had seen but also to remind us of the more painful ones that happened there as well. It was the house that I had called home for 28 years, and it was unfortunately time to bid farewell and close that lengthy chapter of my life.

Our quaint, three-bedroom home was nestled in a charming neighborhood called “Lakewood,” which was centered around a 160-acre lake. My adolescence in this house equated to a time in my life where I felt safe, carefree and wonderous. I roamed around the neighborhood all day, every day, without a care in the world. The beach was only two blocks away, and the island that we would often swim to was right across the street. Most days, I would end up riding my bike to the park or venturing down to the stables down the road where I would spend hours with the horses, daydreaming of riding them someday. I would mosey down to the docks at the marina and watch the boats take off while attempting to make friends with someone who owned a pontoon. The water was enchanting for me. It held a mystical energy that intrigued me and always had me coming back. The lake was undoubtedly the most magical part of my childhood.

My three older sisters used to joke that I frequently boasted a very particular “outside smell” that just lingered around me as a kid. You know the one — that just “rolled in the grass, ran around the block and swam in the lake” kind of aroma. I was teased about this because frankly, I was never inside. I spent every waking moment I could outside in nature. I would literally wake up and run outside, and I wouldn’t be seen again until it was supper time. After supper, I would sprint out the door again and not return home until the streetlights came on.

Another equally enticing part of the home was the yard. As a kid, I remember thinking that our land felt enormous. There was plenty of room to run around and play, and it almost felt like our backyard was one giant field. None of the neighbors had fences up, and it was all open space. Our back deck opened to a spacious yard that featured a massive hill and an ash tree that held one sturdy, blue swing that I retreated to daily. At the top of the hill, my father built a garden that he spent countless hours chipping away at. The garden was famous (in our family at least) for the tomatoes, but it also featured strawberries, green peppers, cucumbers and radishes that were all flanked by colorful marigolds. I remember just watching him garden for hours on end and sneaking strawberries whenever he turned a blind eye.

Adjacent to the garden lived the trampoline. This beautiful, bouncy piece of tarp was like my second bedroom. I laid on that trampoline each day, just looking up at the powerlines and daydreaming about what my life would be like as an adult. Whenever I would feud with one of my sisters or family members, I would escape to the trampoline, seeking solace from the chaos erupting inside. The trampoline also offered a space for my friends and I to stargaze and chat about our next summer bucket list activity while we caught lightning bugs and listened to that soothing sound of cicadas singing in the summertime.

This little family sendoff made me come to the realization that a home is much more than just the sum of its parts. It’s not the back deck that we so recklessly jumped off of, it’s not the banister that I would always get yelled at for sliding down, it’s not the room that I so innocently painted lime green even though it had pink carpet, it’s not the hall light that my mom would leave on for me if I got home late, it’s not the one bathroom that I had to share with my sisters, it’s not the dining room table where our family shared countless meals, it’s not the living room floor where we all sprawled out on Christmas morning, it’s not the slammed bedroom doors, it’s not the utility room that we’d huddle in to take shelter from tornadoes, and it’s not even the downstairs living area that served as the stage for our many dance routines. No, it’s the people and the memories that we created together as a family that contribute to what shaped me.

Revisiting the house and walking from room to room to reminisce was painfully beautiful. Memories spilled out at every corner I turned. All the major life events that influenced who I am today are stored within those walls. Numerous birthdays, holidays, graduations and family gatherings were celebrated right there in that space where I was standing. Though it was rather somber to have to do this nostalgic walkthrough, it also simultaneously felt like it was time. It was time for my parents to move to a new house and make new memories with the next generation of our family. I understand that it’s the memories and the people that make a home and not the things in it or the structure itself, but for me, it’s about the loss of the vessel that held those memories. It was bittersweet to leave behind a home with such a rich, lived-in history.

Now, whether I like it or not, it’s time to close that chapter and open a new one with my ever-expanding family. I can only hope that the future children of this Lakewood home have as magical of a childhood as I did — a simple, pure, carefree youth based on a love for the outdoors.

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo