This Old House

by on July 25, 2009 · 22 comments

in From the Soul

Originally posted July 20, 2009.

By Ernie McCray

(An Old Man Just Sharing Good Memories Sparked by a Picture)

The house I live in was built in 1911 of some pretty sturdy wood; it had to be with twin girls traveling up and down its stairs in various teenage moods and posing like Tyra Banks in a photo shoot on its roof; it had to be with a boy, like a descendant of the Eveready Energizer Bunny, bouncing off its walls and floors and ceilings like a racquetball until we shipped him off to Long Beach State with a great big “Whew!”; it had to be with a mom and dad pacing back and forth on its carpets wondering aloud: “Whose Idea was it to have kids?”

All joking aside this old house, with so many faded peace flags and political messages of every stripe having adorned it, has flowed with love over the years. And, shhhh, don’t tell the kids, but although we’ve had the pad all to ourselves for a while now, it feels more like home when they’re all here hanging out, with their shoes off, slouching on the couch or looking through the family picture albums for the quadrillionth time or sitting with us toasting a little eggnog and brandy and opening presents at Christmas time or watching the Emmys or the Oscars or any show that has “Award” at the end or meeting us before we trek off to a Padres game or a movie or a play or a concert of some kind.

And now our son is back home again, economizing while he pursues a masters in social work at San Diego State, causing the house to wonder when he started unloading: “Dang, where’s he going to put all that stuff?

But this old house is up to it. For 26 years it has kept us safe when the earthquakes shook its foundation and our bodies and souls. It’s kept us cool on the hottest summer days and now it keeps us warm at wintertime after years of our sitting around dressed like Eskimos (very long story as far as stories go).

When we saw this old house and it saw us it was truly “love at first sight.” It needed us, as its owners were done with each other and weren’t treating it right. We needed it as we had just been kicked out (another very long story) of a wonderful old New York City like penthouse apartment where we occupied the third and fourth floors with a view of canyons and trees and walkways and downtown San Diego. That was some place – filled with fascinating people: a fashion designer with a son named Moses Ocean Gold; a photographer (mi esposa) with whom I’m growing old; actors, including myself, and Whoopi, before she was Whoopi, and her baby daughter, Alex, and Tavis, her actor beau; an incredible mime who visited all the time, in white face some of those times.

So when we left that magnificent place we were in need of something truly special and this old house has been just that, in spades, particularly when it comes to my personal history. I’ve lived in it 17 years longer than I lived in the house I grew up in and I’ve lived in it with Nancy, my wife, four years longer than I’ve lived with any other person. And bringing up kids with her within its walls represents the best years of my life.

Looking back in time to scenes in this old house I can see Nancy and me, bent over with laughter, watching the incredibly inventive and expressive stories the girls used to create on our video camera with Lina, their good friend. I can see us kicking back smiling proudly, listening to our children as they work out a tap routine or as they play the piano or the clarinet or the flute or the French Horn. Sounds of music can be heard in this old house at almost anytime.

Oh, this old house has been the backbone of my life, giving me a place to be when I was flying high, doing it “on the good foot” to the rhythm and beat of “By and by, when the morning comes,” when I was simply trying to be the best human being I could be.

I will forever love this old house for it is the birthplace of some of my most precious memories. There couldn’t have been a better place on earth for me.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Joe July 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Ernie, thanks for sharing your images of yesteryear in your fine house, reminding all of us of our humane moments, and helping us ensure we remain human.


Patty Jones July 20, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I smiled when I read this the first time. I’m smiling again. Thanks Ernie.


lane tobias July 20, 2009 at 9:04 pm

incredible imagery….very touching.


Ernie McCray July 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Thank you very much.


Pat July 21, 2009 at 7:08 am

Precious memories, precious house.
Ernie what neighborhood is your house in ?


Ernie McCray July 21, 2009 at 10:00 am

Golden Hill/”South Park,” four blocks south of the Big Kitchen.


PSD July 21, 2009 at 9:15 pm

You rock, Ernie.


Dave Sparling July 22, 2009 at 12:44 am

Ernie I envy anyone who can live in one house raise a family and have the same house for them to come back and enjoy the memories. Like so many kids I was one of those “are we moving again” kids. Many schools many neighborhoods. I will never forget going to a high school friends house where 3 generations of his family had lived. A big old house in my home town of Phoenix, Arizona. Up in the attic looking at toys he played with when he was like 3 years old. I remember in the many moves, my dad saying leave that we don’t have room, buy you a new one when we get settled in the new house. Of course I did the same thing with my kids just, just the way it goes with some people. Anyway thanks for a interesting story.


Ernie McCray July 22, 2009 at 9:44 am

Phoenix. I grew up in Tucson in two different houses, basically. One from soon after birth to about age 12 and the next one from 12 to when I graduated from the U of A at age 22.


Keri Tardif July 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Thank you Earnie :0) very much… Truly beautiful!


Pat Knoop July 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Ernie, What a wonderful article & wonderful memories. I absolutely love the picture of your fantastic house. How fun it must have been raising your family there. The front porch would be such a great place to hang out and watch the world around you.


Sherry Engberg July 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Another great essay on your old house . Remember mentioning the on/off push button light switches in a previous article? And I, Sherry, remember drawing a picture of the place with Carlos out front in diapers running through the sprinklers.


Linda Newsum July 24, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Ernie, We also love your old house and all the love, laughter, warmth and welcome that fills it…that will always be the spirit of that old house and its wonderful occupants…


Judy Cochran July 25, 2009 at 5:46 am

Truly a beautiful story of your family and the true joys of life. How much love and true enjoyment your family shared and what wonderful memories fill those rooms. It began me thinking of all the memories of family gatherings and brought back some loving memories. Thank you for opening the doors to those memories!


mary cluff July 25, 2009 at 6:19 am

That old house was one of the most comfortable, and welcoming places my family and I ever set foot into. We were neighbors with small children and that was always our port in the storm. What great memories! I live in the land of urban sprawl….I love my old house too. Especially ’cause it’s not like any other.


Lynda Sterns July 25, 2009 at 8:22 am

Ernie reading about your house and family brings back all the good memories I have of these special times. My family holds dear to the center of their being the good times together as neighbors and friends ah the unique neighborhood of Golden Hill. We will forever cherish what you and Nancy created in “this old house”.


Ernie McCray July 25, 2009 at 10:35 am

Oh, my goodness gracious. How little did I know when I replied to Dave Sparling at 9:44 am on July 22, that my beloved Nancy was lying on the bed in the next room, having passed on to the next life – when I thought she was enjoying a nice sleep, something that she hadn’t been able to do for months. TO NANCY: Oh, my love, I know you’re resting peacefully now but I miss you so much, so terribly much. My heart aches in ways I didn’t know it could. But rest assured, that although I’m an absolute wreck now, our precious children are in good hands. We will carry on in your incredibly loving and generous spirit.


Patty Jones July 25, 2009 at 11:48 am

Dear Ernie, my heart aches for you. I know that there is probably nothing, but if there is anything we can do, please let us know. Our thoughts are with you and your family.


Ernie McCray July 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Thank you so much, Patty. Your kind words, alone, take some of the sting out of the pain.


Shirley Robinson Sprinkles July 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

What does one say when words are so pitifully inadequate to express the depth of sorrow and compassion felt at this time? As friends and comrades since nurseey school, noone else can possibly know how desperately I want to hold you tightly and try to make everything all right. Yours and Nancy’s love was legendary– such a special beacon for the rest of us. I loved seeing you two at our school reunion in Tucson last November. Everything seemed so good. I’ll cherish that memory as I, from this distance, send a comforting kiss to the both of you and to your lovely family. May God grant you PEACE!



Helen Warren Ross July 31, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Ernie I can’t tell you how sorry I am to learn of your devistating lose. Nancy was a beautiful charming and gracious person. Much love Helen

I did enjoy the old house story.


Ernie McCray August 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Great to hear from you, Helen. Thanks for your kind words.


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