Coming home again … and again | NevadaAppeal.com

Coming home again … and again

by Karla Joost Harrison

The last time I wrote a guest column for the Appeal was my senior year at Carson High. I don’t remember much about that column, except that the title was “Glad to Graduate.” Indeed I was. Like many of my peers, I couldn’t wait to get out of town. I purposely chose an out-of-state college, with the intent to never return to the city of my birth. But life often has other plans for us. Through a series of circumstances, I find myself living, for the third time, on North Division Street.

My family moved to Division Street in 1967, when I was just a few months old. After college, I co-owned a house here with my sister, and now I own that same house outright after buying it from her. This happened after many years living in various other states, foreign countries and in South Carson and Sparks. Needless to say, I was weary of being a transient. When the opportunity arose to return to the place of my childhood, I took it.

I was always a believer in the adages “It isn’t a house that makes a home” and “You can’t go home again,” but now that I’m once more settled in my old haunting grounds, I’m not so sure about that. When I bought this house, I did a lot of renovating. Now it boasts a new roof, kitchen, bathroom, siding, paint, windows and walls; the hardwood floors are refinished, the electricity was updated – basically, I’ve made it into my dream home. Honestly, it’s almost as good as buying a brand-new house. Even better, it feels like home; it’s definitely a place I want to return to at the end of the day.

I’d have to say “place” is the key word here. The place, that is to say the location, helps to make the home. It’s the mature trees, the green yards, moms walking their kids to Fritsch School and the Lutheran church to the west, where one day I witnessed the Sunday school class setting free balloons with messages tied to the strings. It’s taking a walk and hearing the carillon from the tourism building play songs on the hour. It’s looking down during that walk and seeing the same initials and ornate patterns pressed into the concrete sidewalks that I memorized on my way to school every day.

Home is the people inside, next door and across the street. I’m glad to be back in a place where I can still witness some family stability. I was very lucky to grow up on a street full of retirees, and many of them are still here. I regard them as my extended family, my extra sets of grandparents, even my extra playmates. We kids all lived in fear of our next-door neighbor, Louie, though he was full of bluff. He claimed the maple tree in his back yard had a child-eating spider. And if we misbehaved, he threatened to hang us by our ears from his clothesline. Our worst fear was if he happened to be out washing his car. After school, we tried our hardest to sneak inside undetected, or else we were sure to be doused by the hose. As we grew older, we eventually learned about revenge and turned our hose on him. But all of this was in good fun. More than anything, I remember how much I loved the smell of his pipe, the Milky Way bars he kept in his garage refrigerator and the silver dollars we’d receive for a good report card.

I also look back fondly on the countless holiday parties and garage sales organized by my neighbors. Plus, it was our custom to exchange gifts at holidays. Some of my favorite toys were made by John and Alpha, who lived in the house where I now live. This street was where I acquired my first jobs mowing lawns and baby-sitting. And so it was that my neighbors were just as responsible for my upbringing as were my parents. Besides learning how to be a good neighbor, I learned core values needed to be successful in life: a work ethic, politeness and kindness.

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A busy work schedule unfortunately keeps me from spending much time with my current neighbors. Yet I still sense there’s a community here where we practice those values we all must have learned along the way. I see it as we help each other with yard projects, take in each other’s mail when we go on vacation, or check in on whoever is under the weather.

When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t imagine being trapped in this town the rest of my life. But now I want to be stuck here, hopefully for a very long time.

Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on timely and timeless issues. Karla Joost Harrison is a third-generation Carsonite. She teaches Spanish at Damonte Ranch High School in Reno.