The House on Bossler Street: The Last Time


The Last Time | The Champagne Supernova

How many times in our lives have we had a last time without appreciating it? Would you want to know you were having a last time while you were living it, or would you rather remain completely unaware?

On March 11, 2016, my grandparents said goodbye to their house in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where they lived in since 1969.

Johnstown is a city in Cambria County that lies 67 miles east of Pittsburgh. Both my parents grew up there, and met one summer after high school while working at the local steel mill. The city received a nod in Bruce Springsteen’s song The River– “I got a job working construction, for the Johnstown Company, but lately there ain’t been no work on account of the economy.” It was also the filming location of the 1983 high school football drama All The Right Moves starring a young Tom Cruise.

Plenty of landmark events happened while my grandparents lived in that house. Marriages. Deaths. Retirements. World travels. Divorces. Births. Eight Presidents. Six Super Bowl wins for their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

46 Years.

Like most of the other homes in the neighborhood, the house was no longer functional for my aging grandparents, who decided to buy a practical condominium in an adult community.

Isn’t downsizing a thing? 

They were ready to bid adieu to the house without looking back.

No more shoveling snow, worrying about how they would get to the bedrooms on the second floor, or stressing about maintaining the exterior.

233 Bossler St., Johnstown, PA, 15902.

233 Bossler St., Johnstown, PA, 15902.

233 Bossler St., Johnstown, PA, 15902. 

I’ve written that address literally hundreds of times in my life.

Starting in the late 1980s when I’d write my grandmother thank you notes for ordering me subscriptions to Highlights magazine or for her financial contributions to my elementary school student government campaigns.

Into the 1990s when I’d write the address on luggage tags because my sister and I would spend our summers with my grandparents in this house.

I wrote the address in the early 2000s when I started sending letters to my grandparents featuring important events from undergrad: football games, fraternity parties, and weekends away with girlfriends. I wrote the address when I was in law school in the mid-2000s when I expressed confusion about how I’d survive torts finals or make it through the bar exam. I wrote the address in the late 2000s on letters enclosing engagement pictures and invitations for wedding events. In the early 2010s, the address became a destination for birth announcements and birthday parties.

I’ll never write that address again. 

The last time I was in that house was 2005 when I visited my grandparents after law school finals. I never made it back because life got busy, but I always thought there would be another time.

There won’t be another time.

Now, it’s someone else’s home with someone else’s family and someone else’s life.

The Last Time | The Champagne Supernova

My sister and I arriving at the Pittsburgh airport in the early 1990s to spend a few weeks with my grandparents during summer vacation from school.

The Last Time | The Champagne Supernova

Me, my sister, and my grandmother in the living room of my grandparents’ home. The bubble caption is from the photo album my sister made documenting the trip (before digital cameras).

Sure, the sale of the house doesn’t change or erase the memories.

But if I would have known I was having a last time while I was in the middle of the last time, I would have spent a little more time staring at the color of the walls, touching the leaves of the pachysandra my grandfather painstakingly planted in the front yard, and listening to the wind slide off the side of the hill.

The Last Time | The Champagne Supernova

Picnicking on the deck in the early 1990s.

How many times in our lives have we not appreciated the moment we were living in because we thought we could do it again some other time?

Talking to a loved one for the last time?

Not realizing we’d never see someone or go somewhere ever again?

Sending someone to voicemail because we thought there’d be another opportunity to speak to them?

Seeing someone again, but having it be different from the last time.

Below is a photograph of me and my sister with my great-Uncle staring off the side of a nature trail in Johnstown back in 1993. If life would have given me a fast-forward button, I would have found out my Uncle would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease some years later. If I would have known this, I probably would have hugged him a little harder and appreciated the moment, while it was happening, a little more.

The Last Time | The Champagne Supernova

Walking along the Johnstown Inclined Plane trail.

Years have passed and I’m a grown up with a family and life of my own. But I’ll always remember that house on top of a hill and all the cherished memories I have there.

1,832 square feet. Four floors. Two bedrooms. One cellar. One attic. One bathroom. A large deck that overlooked the side of a hill. Red carpet. The “purple room” that was my bedroom for weeks in the summertime. The smell of cedar coming from the closet. The fancy couch downstairs where I read almost every book in Oprah’s book club collection.

I have never known a life without this house. 

Virgil said all of our sweetest hours fly by the fastest.

Don’t they?

    29 Comments on The House on Bossler Street: The Last Time

    1. Kristine
      April 29, 2016 at 10:19 am (2 years ago)

      Beautifully written. This made me teary eyed and also made me think about my grandmother’s house and all the candy inside her top kitchen drawer. That is something I will never forget. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:32 pm (2 years ago)

        Ahhhh, Candy! My dad’s mom always kept jars of candy on top of the dry sink in the living room. I have that dry sink now and it brings back so many memories. Cheers!

        Reply
    2. Sarena @ Teal Inspiration
      April 29, 2016 at 2:14 am (2 years ago)

      This post is so bittersweet. We all have so many of these moments that we don’t know are the last time until much later and it’s such a good reminder to try not to take any moment for granted. <3

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm (2 years ago)

        I was just thinking of that today as I was going down “memory lane” cleaning out the closet and finding all sorts of trinkets from yesteryear.

        Reply
    3. Tamara
      April 29, 2016 at 12:24 am (2 years ago)

      Had this feeling a couple years back when our childhood home was torn down.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm (2 years ago)

        I can’t imagine. Hope you took plenty of pictures!

        Reply
    4. Rhiannon
      April 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm (2 years ago)

      I love everything about this. After losing both my grandparents and their house to a fire earlier this month, I found myself nodding in agreement to everything you said. It’s crazy to go back and think of all the time spent there and how I had never given it much thought that there would come a day when their house wasn’t theirs or I’d no longer be mailing silly just because packages to them. Thank you for this!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm (2 years ago)

        Oh my gosh, Rhiannon, I am so so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you are going through and how much your family’s had to suffer. Praying for your peace, and thanks for stopping by my blog. I love all of your wine posts, per usual!

        Reply
    5. michelle
      April 28, 2016 at 12:18 pm (2 years ago)

      i haven’t had an experience like this so much with a place but with people. when my first love and i ended our relationship i kept thinking had i know that it was the last time we were going to hang out i would have appreciated that whole day more and have said goodbye then instead of how we ended up saying goodbye. this is also similar to not getting to say goodbye to a loved one because you didn’t know that would die when they did

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm (2 years ago)

        So true, and those are good comparisons. We never know when the “last time” will be a last time.

        Reply
    6. Amber @ Amber Lately
      April 28, 2016 at 9:58 am (2 years ago)

      Okay, well thanks for playing with my already all over the place hormones. This really is such a good post, and I love how you recall your memories and the details that most people probably wouldn’t even mention. It made me feel like I spent my summers there as well!

      Reply
    7. Jasmin Saunders
      April 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm (2 years ago)

      Very well written and full of personal emotions. You made me tear up and it’s true … sometimes it would be nice to know when a time is the last time but since this is not possible we just have to try to enjoy every moment, every person, and every aspect of our life now. Even those moment that are painful and hurt. They never will come back. All the best to you and your family and I hope your grandparents love their new house.

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:36 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks, Jasmin. They do love it. Agreed with everything you said about cherishing each moment.

        Reply
    8. Angie
      April 27, 2016 at 7:19 pm (2 years ago)

      Isn’t it strange how we can become so attached to a place? I know those feelings. My grandmother is in the process of loosing her house to the bank and I’m just heartbroken that we’ll have to say goodbye to it when she moves out-it is filled with so many memories!

      I also remember my great grandmother’s house. The one my great grandfather built with his own hands… The one with the vineyard in the back where we spent summers picking grapes and bottling them into jams, syrups, and juices. The one where we’d go up the stairs to see great grandma and her candy drawer or her stash of homemade rice kristpies treats. The one with the family pool that the entire neighborhood stopped by to use. The pool where my father taught me how to swim, where I had countless birthday parties, and where so much of my family memories lie.

      When I was about 13 my great grandparent’s got into an accident, and it became apparent that they could no longer live in that house we’d all loved so much. My great aunt and great uncle sold the house and had them move into their mother-in-law apartment. I have this deep dream of one day being able to buy that house back… But it’s unrealistic. The family who live there now are pretty well set on staying and have moved their friends and family into the all the surrounding houses as well. Not to mention it’s worth well over a million dollars now in that neighborhood and with that pool. It’s so sad to think about sometimes.

      Reply
    9. Donna Sadler Doty
      April 27, 2016 at 4:13 pm (2 years ago)

      Such a fantastic job, Jen, and I’m teary and thankful at the same time! So glad your Mom sent me the link for your blog!!! Hope you’re doing well, Sweetheart.
      Go Gators!

      Reply
      • jenniferdaku
        May 1, 2016 at 1:37 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks, Donna, and Go Gators!

        Reply
    10. kristen
      April 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm (2 years ago)

      this made me cryyyy 🙁 I wish we could know when it was the last time for things.

      Reply
    11. Cara
      April 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Aw, such sweet memories! It’s always sad to say goodbye to a home that was so pivotal in your childhood. I definitely spent countless hours at my grandparents growing up and I can’t imagine it ever not being in the family.

      Reply
    12. Candace
      April 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm (2 years ago)

      Ugh. So sad. My mom is thinking of selling our childhood home and I think she needs to, to downsize, but it will be crushing to walk out the doors of that house and know it’s the last time. Makes me teary eyed just typing that. 🙁

      Reply
    13. Corina
      April 27, 2016 at 11:01 am (2 years ago)

      One of my most favorite and least favorite children’s books (because I literally have had to hold back tears EVERY time I have read it) is “Let me hold you longer” by Karen Kingsbury. This book speaks to this very emotion you write of. As young mothers we are often so diligent in recording all our children’s “firsts” yet we never know when we will experience their lasts… for example, the last time we will rock them to sleep, or Cary them on our hip, or kiss their boo boo, or read them a bed time story… must I go on? I don’t think I can… I truly enjoyed your lovely post and thank you for the reminder of savoring EVERY moment as precious. It is simply that; a MOMENT which will pass, never to return in the same way again…

      Reply
    14. Nick and Martha Banda
      April 27, 2016 at 10:47 am (2 years ago)

      Dear, Dear Granddaughter: We are so proud by the love from you for the Bossler Street house, for us and all the memories. Please remember though, that our love goes on forever. You are wonderful. Gram & Pap

      Reply
    15. linda spiker
      April 27, 2016 at 10:24 am (2 years ago)

      Aw so many sweet memories associated with that house. And it happens to be a really cute house!

      Reply
    16. Kira-Marie
      April 27, 2016 at 10:14 am (2 years ago)

      Beautifully written! I completely understand that feeling! I have such attachments to the house I grew up in! I will be so sad when they sell it. Thank you for sharing! The memories you had there will be with you forever!

      Reply
    17. Julie
      April 27, 2016 at 9:38 am (2 years ago)

      Agreed! One of your best, if not THE best, posts yet. Raw emotions. Brought back my memories…all of your readers’ memories! I grew up in Pittsburgh. Great pics. Your Gma will be so touched at what an impact this house, her life, had on you and your sister! Written from the heart and soul.

      Reply
    18. Judy
      April 27, 2016 at 6:34 am (2 years ago)

      I am reading this with tears running down my face. So well said. It is lovely what you have shared and so true. While I was glad when Gram told me the house was being put up for sale I was surprised how sad that made me. This is your best post yet.

      Reply
    19. Emily
      April 26, 2016 at 9:12 pm (2 years ago)

      I love that you wrote your grandparents letters. What a great post.

      Reply
    20. Sara Glomski
      April 26, 2016 at 9:11 pm (2 years ago)

      Such a sweet post. I love all those old photos of you and your sister. What fun memories!

      Reply
    21. Laura
      April 26, 2016 at 8:37 pm (2 years ago)

      The most poignant and beautiful post yet! This one made me tear up.

      Reply

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