The House That Built Me

It is 73 years old. It was built brick by brick and board by board by my grandfather, Jake Ross. It was in our family for all of those 73 years. And then, as if it were just a mere moment, that chapter closed for our family on May 10, 2019.

I must admit. That chapter was so hard to close. So hard. There were tears and there still are, even as I write this.

That house was our family. Our heart. It was the house that built me. Built our family. The number of memories in that house would stretch from here to the moon and back. So much love there. So much trial there. So much of God watching and working. Love hammered into the walls and floorboards.

Many feet have passed through the doors of that house. Some to stay for a lifetime and others, only a season. But, rest assured. The feet that passed through that house were blessed to have done so. Blessed. That is the house that built me.

From a baby to my 50s, it was a constant. A constant. A constant reminder that life endures. That life changes. That life is on loan from the Lord and that we will all return as a gift back to him in the future. Life is long. Life is short. Life is blessed. Life is hard. Life is built in a home full of grace and love. Like the house that built me.

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Grandma – Mom and Candy

This house is the one that my mom and her sister grew up in.  This house is the one that watched two, sweet girls grow and an Army veteran and lovely, Texas girl make a life together. The memories here are endless. The memories here are priceless. Weren’t we blessed to have this constant for so long?

So, in honor of the house that built me, I would love to share the blessings that God brought here. That God carefully planted in the gardens here. That God placed in each brick that was laid in the patio here. The house that built me will forever be etched in time and memory.

So – to our family home … 

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1.       This house was CHRISTMAS  

For as long as I can remember, this home is where Christmas dinner was celebrated. Each Christmas dinner was hosted here in the living room of the house.

Pap and Grandma seriously had the coolest dining room set. Like for real. The set was a TV stand by day, dining room by night. LOL It was the best set-up I have ever seen. The table would pull out of the TV stand and then, you would unfold the chairs and put them around the table. It was crazy awesome and crazy efficient.  I remember thinking as a kid, “How cool is this? My grandparents are the coolest!”

And you know what?  Christmas dinner here was for everyone. Outlaws, in-laws, family, friends. Everyone. Every Christmas here saw not only my mom’s parents here, but my dad’s parents as well. All were welcome. It’s such a funny memory now to think about the fact that Greg and his parents celebrated over 7 Christmases here with us. Long before the days of being married into our family, they were welcome here. It was such a joy. Such a blessing.

And I can’t forget Grandma’s famous Roast Beef for dinner. It was simply the best. I can still remember the smell when you entered the kitchen. I can still remember the taste. Funny how smells and tastes have true memories. I don’t recall having Roast Beef at other times of the year. It was reserved for this special day. And Special it was.


2.       This house was for ADVENTURE

Oh my! This house was built for adventure. One of the best features of the house was this lovely, red brick terrace that my grandparents built. They literally hauled discarded bricks from over in Cumberland, Maryland to their house. And brick by brick, they built that terrace.

Oh, how I loved that terrace. It was breathtaking and like so cool. I remember as a child how awesome I thought that terrace was. And my Pap had even built an outdoor cooking stove on it. Like he was so forward thinking, you know?

Well, that brick terrace offered tons of adventure. It was part of our hotel. You know that one that my sister, cousin and I created most days we were there visiting them. The guests would check into the hotel by visiting the little wooden, side table in the living room.  And because my grandparents were so cool, the front desk came complete with a bell. I know. Cool, right?  Well, after checking in, the guests could visit the terrace and enjoy a cool drink from a Dixie cup.  LOL. Such sweet memories.

This terrace was also the first bike adventure for my brother, Ed. For it was on this terrace that he first learned how to ride a bike. I can just picture that in my head. Priceless.

But it wasn’t just the terrace that held adventure. This house had the coolest driveway and front yard. The driveway was long and came through basically like a tunnel. It was much longer than my cousin’s driveway and much smoother than my driveway. Truth be told. I remember learning how to ride a bike in our gravel driveway. Ugh! I can still feel the scrapes and burns from falling in that gravel driveway. It was brutal.

But the driveway at this house was fun. Just long enough to take a spin. And wide enough to make endless turns around and just keep going and going. It was great for sprint races too. Just long enough. Plenty of time to beat your opponent.

And the front yard. Oh, how we loved that front yard. Back then, the entire property was fenced in. It was perfect for little kids. We could go outside and play and play and everyone felt that we were safe inside the fence. That front yard was the hot spot for children’s games.

There was always a mean game of Red Light – Green Light going on out there. Or what about Red Rover – Red Rover. We played them all.  And to take a rest, my grandfather had built a bench around the big tree in the middle. There we would sit, rest, and relax. Just the perfect spot for a kid to ponder her next adventure. I loved that tree. I loved that bench and that yard. So many great memories of exploration and fun there.

And next. Ever heard of the card game Rummy? Well it was in that house that all the grandkids learned the art of playing Rummy. My grandmother was a pro, so if you could come close to beating her, then you had arrived. I can still remember all the days sitting around that table getting perms in our hair, playing Rummy, and eating Saltine crackers with butter and apple butter. Such fun. Such blessed memories. Such was the house that built me.

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Mom – Pappy and Candy

3.       This house was LOVE

The youngest of the Grapes bunch arrived here in September 1968. This house had witnessed every child being born and brought here.

And our Grandma was the go-to nurse. She was the one called when we were sick at school and she would graciously arrive and take us home. I loved being there. I loved lying on the couch in that living room with Grandma doting on me, nursing me back to health. She was the best nurse ever and she birthed the next, best nurse ever – her daughter, Candy. They were the best. Still are.

Did you know I used to be a cheerleader? Yep. It kind of matches my personality. I love cheering people on and sharing positivity. Why do I tell you this though? Here’s why.

Back in the days before uniform companies, every cheerleader had to make her own uniform. And back then those cheer skirts were completely pleated and multi-colored. The feat of sewing that cheer skirt was not for the faint of heart. But in the house that built me lived the best seamstress around – my Grandma.

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Pappy and Grandma

She was self- taught, and boy was she good. She sewed every single cheer skirt for my sister and me. Every one. And in every pleat and in every stitch was sewn love. I always was so proud of those skirts. She was amazing.

And get this! She sewed every dance dress for my mom and her sister. Every one of them. Oh my – they were works of art. Seriously breathtaking. She even sewed both of her daughter’s wedding dresses and boy were they beautiful. None will ever compare.

She was ahead of her time in ability and design. I sure wish that in the house that built me I too would have learned to sew. It just wasn’t on my radar. I wish it had been.


4.       This house was HOME

Wait. Whose home? Well, my grandparents’ home and then also my own parents’ home for a bit.  And then, my parents would later return to this home as theirs.

It was 1964 and my Dad was getting out of the Air Force. Their greatest desire was to return home and start a life. The thing was this – they had nowhere to live. And you know what? My grandfather went to work immediately and built a property just for them. 

He built an apartment above their garage for my mom and dad. This is the place that they brought their first, little baby home to. Eddie was a baby in that little place and grew to be a toddler.

Crazy story alert. When Eddie was about seven months old, now, don’t forget, the apartment is above a garage, so it was about 2 stories up, something scary and absolutely miraculous happened.

Eddie was climbing on the couch. Well, he reached the window, which was opened, and pushed on the window screen. Whoosh – the window screen fell out and Eddie did too.

But, here’s the miracle. Eddie landed right onto that window screen and floated down to the blacktop driveway below like a little bird landing softly into a nest. He had a scratch on his forehead, but, after an ER visit, no real injuries. Crazy.

That story is famous in our family. Just a testimony to God’s safety and a parent’s love.  Whatever my parents needed to start out in life, they had it. The house that built me was there to build them, shelter them, bless them at a time that was crucial. My grandfather saw to that. Forever grateful here. Grateful.


5.       This house was CARE and KINDNESS and EVERYTHING in between

Remember perms for your hair. Ha! Yes! They were in style, my friends, they were. Well, everyone in my family got perms back then. Oh lord, yes. Yes, they did. And every one of them was lovingly done by my grandma.

She was quite the expert at so many things. Hair. Sewing. She was simply talented. Well, every perm given was such a fun, special time with her. I remember it like it was yesterday. The love, care, and tenderness in which she did those perms. I felt so special. So loved.

Another great memory in that house is how my cousin, sister and I became the cleaning crew for the house. We would all go into the house and clean for our grandma. She never criticized us. I am sure we never did the cleaning perfectly, but she didn’t mind. She just let us clean and then paid us our weekly allowance for doing so. I remember thinking that cleaning was so fun. Wow. Wish I could go back to that time.  LOL

Remember that terrace? Yep. The brick one. Well, in between each brick was sand and guess what was in that sand? Yep! Weeds. Not only was it our job to clean the house, but it was also our job to weed the terrace for pappy.

Now, that job, we DID NOT like. Ha ha. It was a never-ending job. We’d pull all the weeds and then, like overnight, they were back. Ugh! Weeds are like that. They just keep coming. Ha ha, but we kept pulling and kept making that terrace pretty and neat. It was, as you know, the hotel’s outdoor spot and it was the gathering place for family.

I can still picture all the fun BBQs out on that terrace. It was so pretty. So fun. And my grandparents kindly shared that place with all of us. It was home. It was family. And it was full of kindness. It’s fun to think that a house can be that, but it was.

The house that built me. Such a beautiful, beautiful chapter in my life and the lives of many. I know that our family will forever treasure that little spot on Ross Street. Just a military man and his beautiful girl from Texas. They designed it and built it brick by brick. I think it turned out pretty amazing. And our family will be forever grateful for the love they poured into each and every piece.


Candy – Pappy – Grandma – Kay

So, to that lovely, little house on Ross Street, THANK YOU! 

Thank you for the memories.

Thank you for the love.

Thank you for giving this little girl an adventure land filled with kindness, goodness, discipline and grace.

There are no words to describe how it felt when the house sold, but I do know this:

To the New Owners: 

You have purchased not a home but LOVE itself.

LOVE nailed into every board.

LOVE laid into every brick.

LOVE poured into that long, fun, winding driveway.

And LOVE blooming in every flower, plant, tree and shrub.

We wish you all the best in that little, precious gem of a house.

And if you ever wonder what that feeling is that you can’t quite put your finger on … it’s LOVE.

You are surrounded by it.

XO – Nikki


Pappy – Arlene – Mom and Dad


Comment and share stories of The House that Built You. 

I’d love to hear them!


Photos from Pixabay
Fir Tree Photo – Pixel2013










4 thoughts on “The House That Built Me

  1. Kim Gray

    This made my heart smile! You awakened all those memories and brought me right back to live in those moments once again. This type of love was shown to us not only in word, but in deed. Pap Ross showed us how to serve other people unconditionally. He taught us how to work, not always for money, but more so for kindness toward our fellow man. There’s a reason it’s called “Ross Street”. Grandma displayed a quiet constant love. Never outspoken. She was peaceful, kind and generous. She gave so many things to us that only now we realize how truly precious they were. The intangibles that we want to give to our family’s too. Thank you sis for bringing these memories back to life. My heart is full of the goodness that only God knows how to give. The love He gives and shows us through His children ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debbie Hughes Carter

    It’s amazing how inanimate objects can become so dear to us. My Aunt Beulah’s house was that kind of house for us, and she was a seamstress, too. It’s still standing but has different owners. Thanks for sharing your memories.


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