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We Reflect the Home We Grew Up In

January 28, 2020

I started listening to a podcast last week called Dolly Parton’s America. My daughter was obsessed with it and knew I would love it. What she didn’t know was that I used to do a pretty mean imitation of Dolly before post nasal drip wreaked havoc on my vocal cords.

I always liked Dolly, she was pretty, funny, and self deprecating. She was feminine, but not fragile – my kind of woman. And even though I was never a big country music fan, I always liked her songs. Apparently Dolly is enjoying newfound fan adulation. I didn’t remember her on Hannah Montana as Aunt Dolly, but all those young fans have grown up and are helping propel her popularity.

She talks a lot about her youth, which is comforting, because I reflect so often on my childhood stories, I worry there’s something wrong with me. But that may be the one thing Dolly and I have in common. She also loves telling stories. She’s a great storyteller and writer and has written over 3,000 songs, including the beautiful, “I Will Always Love You.”

Plus, Dolly the Cloned Sheep was named after her! Yep, because Dolly’s DNA came from a mammary gland cell, she was named after the woman who put mammary glands front and center, but in a fun way.

The podcast is hosted by Jad Abumrad, who’s famous on NPR for his great show, Radiolab with Robert Krulwich. Jad talks about how he met Dolly through his dad, a Lebanese immigrant and Tennessee doctor, who treated Dolly after a car accident.

There’s a part of the podcast where they go to Dolly’s tiny, original home in the Great Smoky Mountains and it reminds Jad of where his dad grew up in Lebanon. He talks about how his dad and Dolly felt a connection because they both came from similar beginnings. Very poor, very small homes, but filled with love.

That a Lebanese immigrant and Dolly Parton would have such a connection, over where they came from, I think is proof we’re far more similar than different. And we each, very much reflect the home we grew up in.

Maybe I’m thinking about homes filled with love because my parent’s home is for sale again. When I visit my uncle and friends back there, I can’t drive past it, it’s too hard for me. It looks so sad, no flowers, no garden, and the fence is in bad shape. If my world was different right now and I had lots of money, I’d probably do something crazy and buy it.

I like to think of it the way it looked when my dad was still alive. My daughter shot this beautiful photo of it one winter, and that’s how I remember it. How do you ever let go of a place filled with so very many memories? If you have any tips, feel free to share.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dads-house-in-winter-copy.jpg
My father’s house in Winter.

Here’s a link to the podcast if you want to take a listen: Dolly Parton’s America

  • Reply
    February 11, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Oh, Fran. This is a dagger in my heart. It has certainly wrenched memories from my childhood home, but I am crying as I write this, the bookcases nearly empty, boxes being packed in every room and already stacked in the garage as I prepare to leave my home of 16 years—the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my nearly 67 years. We moved from my childhood home due to divorce and the incumbent furies surrounding that event, but I still have such fond memories of that neighborhood, those six important years of growing into the person I was to become. Oddly, JFK figures in my memory as well. We lived in the Monterey Hills, tiered above East Los Angeles College (ELAC). On November 1, 1960, a week before the election, the night sky was lit by the stadium floodlights from ELAC as the young candidate’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers. We sat on our patio and listened to his speech, his unmistakable cadence and passion envisioning a better world (here is that speech: Before Kate and I moved to Idaho, I drove to Monterey Park and drove her past my childhood home. Although it looked SO different from when my mother lovingly cared for the yard, there were still remnants of the concrete and rock border she had placed stone by stone at the edge of the front yard. In those days it was filled with a criss-crossed pattern of red and white Rosarita Beach pebbles—the L.A. Times even photographed our yard for the weekly “Home” magazine that was then an insert in the Sunday Times. I have a post I started years ago about some of these memories. You have reminded me that I need to finish the post. Love and miss you and the lovely childhood home of YOUR children in which our friendship was forged over a Scottish cardboard castle and the twinkling lights, laughter and a glass (or four) of vino on your back patio. <3

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      February 11, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      OH LInda, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to make you cry, but it’s so true that we take a bit of that home with us. It shapes who we become, so I try not to be too sad because I carry the red bricks that my Dad laid in neat rows in my veins, alongside all those beautiful memories I have of the place. You do too. Lucky you, you have John Kennedy in yours. I do too, he drove past our house and waved to us from his convertible in 1960 and we were thrilled. Looking forward to seeing you so we can create new memories wherever we land! xoxox

  • Reply
    Nicol Z
    January 31, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    My attachments are to the homes of my grandparents where I did a lot of my growing up. Both of my parents worked hard and I have memories of those apartments too, but the family times, and holidays, and conversations I miss all happened at the tables at grandma and grandpa(s)’s. Great post, as always, Fran, and good stuff to be thinking about xo

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      February 2, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      Isn’t it true that the best memories are always around that kitchen or dining room table. It’s been a plot by Italian women for centuries – cook and we can keep em coming back forever! So glad you have all those wonderful memories, they make you the fabulous woman you are!

  • Reply
    Monica Muehsam
    January 31, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Great post as always, Fran. I have been looking for podcasts to listen to on my long commute home and listened to my first episode of Dolly Parton’s America today- thanks for the suggestion!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      February 2, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      You’re gonna love it Monica. It definitely keeps your attention. Dolly is sweet and a very astute businesswoman.

  • Reply
    January 31, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Fran, it is amazing we are drawn to a home for our childhood. I had three different homes. The first home was the home I spent the most time in as a child. How I wish I could go into that home. I know it has been remodeled, but I still would like to walk up the driveway and look out the window from my old bedroom. The second home deserves a visit, but we did not like that home at all. The third and last home is the home that holds the most memories even though I only lived in that home 6 years before I was married. But that is the home my parents lived in for 40 years, thus the home I always visited when I came home almost every year from California. I still love that home, have been in it to see all the remodeling, and drive by it to look at it every time I am home. Someone else is in each home, but I hold those memories from each home in my heart. And yes, all of the neighbors around each home that I knew are no longer there. I really would love to see homes 1, 2, and 3 when I am home again. That is a wish I hope I can make come true.💕💕Marianne Gazzilli

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      February 2, 2020 at 10:37 pm

      Awww Marianne, I really hope you can. That would be wonderful. So glad this post brought back good childhood memories for you. Thanks for always reading and responding!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Yeah, I know Fran. I look at it and think, . . . .”that was home.” Abundant memories for sure. I may visit Martha Smelter this year. I’ll keep you posted. Such a sweet lady & they were great neighbors. And I was surprised & happy to hear from Mickey in your post!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 30, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      I know, I am so sad that they left. Not sure where they are now, but please tell them I say hi when you see them. If I win the lottery, I’m totally buying back our house.

  • Reply
    Mickey Wilcox
    January 29, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Fran! Looking at your picture brought back memories of the view i saw every time I looked out the kitchen window. I think our house recently sold. I hope they are as happy there as I was growing up. We sure did have a great neighborhood.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 29, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      I am so sad to hear that the Smeltzers, who bought that home from your parents are gone from the neighborhood. They were lovely people. I wonder where they moved to. Now there is no one from the old neighborhood. But the people in what was Mr. Schaffer’s house are really nice, and I think the man who bought the house from the Pfeiffer’s is still there, but I’m not sure.I guess it happens everywhere. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Mickey! And Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    January 29, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Your house looks like the Taj Mahal compared to what I grew up in. My folks owned a neighborhood grocery store and we lived in the house that was connected to the store. It was pretty rough, but I have great memories and many treasured stories of my 18 years there. It’s now a three unit rental, and a few years ago the owner, who I know, took me thru it. I was amazed at how small the rooms were, much smaller than I remember. It was hard for me to believe 9 of us lived there – my 5 brothers and sisters, my parents and my grandmother who lived with us. My most vivid memory was our last day there – November 22, 1963. We were all packed up and ready to move when the news broke that JFK had been assassinated. A week after we moved, my grandmother fell down the basement steps at our new house and died a few days later. It seemed that our moving caused the whole world to turn upside down. But like you, I still have a permanent attachment to the old homestead.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 29, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Oh Chas, how sad. I’ll bet your folks thought of her every time they used those stairs. I know, with how big our homes are now, I ‘m amazed at how all six of us managed with mostly using the one bathroom upstairs, and occasionally the one in the basement. We are so spoiled now. Each kid with his/her own room. We always had to share. But I’m sure we’re better for it, right? It must have been amazing to walk through the old place again. So nice of them to let you do that.

  • Reply
    Petrea Burchard
    January 29, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Such a sweet story, Fran. Dolly is a national treasure. So is Jad.
    I know that feeling of not being able to drive by and look at the house. I feel the same about my childhood home. The memories are a mixed bag, good and bad. But when my mother sold the house, I grieved that loss like I had grieved for my father when he died. I still remember the feeling of standing alone in the empty living room, the sun on the oak floor making it glow, and knowing it was the last time. Yes, there was a future, but all the past was gone.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 29, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks Petrea for reading and taking the time to comment. So good to know I’m not alone in my sentimental feelings. It’s so weird to see it empty and lifeless. I think it’s why I treasure my memories, I can visit the old house and my parents any time I want when I go there. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

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