Tucker’s Telegram

Tucker Henderson

Over the past few years, I have seen quite a few family homes lose their pulse and their liveliness.

Now, I’m not talking about broken homes or familial disagreements, I’m talking about the inevitable end of an era when the head of the family passes on or has to move into a rest home, the selling of a family property, or perhaps the saddest, when a home has to be torn down.

I’ve been staying at my grandparent’s home to keep the wood stove burning, while my grandpa convalesces after a stroke he suffered during the beginning of February. I’ve always enjoyed staying at my grandparent’s home, which was originally my great grandfather’s roller rink. I can remember lots of fun times playing with my cousins, working on Otto Otters 4-H projects, and helping my grandma put together her stuffed animal turtles for the Perham Turtle Races while staying there.

During the day, the house is alive with the sound of the furnace, blowing hot air into the living room. The gravel road near the house has enough traffic that the sound of pickup trucks going by provides some noise while I carry firewood inside.

The nighttime is another story. When I was a kid, we slept in the upstairs loft, which was once destined to become a bandstand for the roller rink. I remember times where we would drift off to sleep to the sounds of either the furnace kicking on or the air conditioner blowing cool air depending on the season. The various clocks on the wall downstairs would tick, tock, tick the hours away and the whoosh of the bathroom door could be heard before anyone fell asleep, just after the lights were out.

The house was always teeming with sounds of everyday life. The water heater warming the faucet, the dishwasher finishing its cycle, the faint sound of the washer and dryer in the laundry room and hardly a day passed where you couldn’t hear the constant humming of my grandma’s serger and sewing machine, while she toiled the hours away making turtles.

I always felt safe and at home at grandma and grandpa’s house, but it can be very eerie in the evenings when I don’t hear any voices visiting, laughter, or even the rocking of grandma’s recliner.

This is something I’ve really realized over the past few years as grandma passed away in the fall of 2021 and now grandpa having had a stroke, life is more precious than we often think. Houses are only homes when they are filled with those we love, remember to cherish that time before it’s gone.

Another example of this is my great grandmother’s home, which sits only a mile away from the roller rink. The entirety of the Menze family would converge at her house in Otto Township every Christmas Eve and Easter to enjoy the festivities of Christ’s birth and resurrection. Relatives would pack every seat, cushion, and corner of that house to visit brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course Grandma Dede.

Her home was also quiet and empty for a while after her death and the house just wasn’t what it used to be. My uncle, who’s always called the place home, can often be seen working around the farm. A cousin also lives immediately next to the old farm, so there’s always someone there watching over the place. Not only can he see into the house from his, but he’s literally a stone’s throw from our great grandma’s place. Having family members around again sure makes the place a little more like when grandma was around.

Over my years of driving through and around Otto Township, there have been many familial homesteads pointed out to me over the years. The old Oscar and Edla Piippo house still stands tall at the end of Rush Lake. It has almost always had someone living there, though I don’t think my great grandpa Piippo would enjoy visiting his homeplace as much nowadays, if he were still living.

That also goes for his uncle’s place a mile down the road. John Piippo’s cement block house is still standing, but it hasn’t had a family’s laughter fill its rooms for about 20 years. It’s interesting how much a house’s health is contributed by the family who lives in it.

Another Piippo house in the area was recently knocked down on the original Isak and Klaara Piippo homestead overlooking “Piippo Pond.” It was bittersweet to hear of the new plans for the property. I was sad to hear that the old Piippo place was finally going to be torn down, despite it’s really rough shape. It was neat to hear the story of what’s going to be put in its place, however.

Peter Mursu now owns the property and is building a replica of the old Mursu farmhouse that still stands not terribly far away. It’s a really wonderful tribute to his ancestral home and the Mursu family; I will be eager to see it when it’s finished.

That old Mursu house is another great example of the need for daily life to make a house a home. Martin Mursu was born in that old house over 90 years ago and I’m sure that when he visits the homeplace, a pang of homesickness probably takes hold in his heart. Sure, it’s still standing, but the memories of family events, growing up, and old daily routines have become happy memories of the past. 

My great grandmother, Lorraine Olsen, was going through some old pictures one day with my great aunt Linda. After a while, she had to put them aside for the day. 

“I’m getting homesick,” she said, despite the fact that she was not far from where she grew up.

It’s not the house that makes the home, it’s the people who live in it who give it meaning.