I grew up at my folks' house in Stratham, the log house my father Albert Pace built himself when I was two years old, the house they still live in now, almost forty years later. I was born in Portsmouth, where Dad was a police officer, but my parents moved to that work-in-progress house while my brother and I were not even school age yet. It's where I grew up, and every time I set foot inside I still feel like I'm home. Heck, I still sit in the same spot at the kitchen counter when I'm there. It's changed over the years - when we moved there I can remember all four of us sleeping on the floor in front of the fireplace that first winter, much of the interior of the house still unfinished. The outside remains as indelibly familiar as the inside - with the acute memory of youth I can still conjure the stands of sumac, the Indian paintbrush fields, where the pigsty stood and the rabbit hutch and the chicken coop, where we buried my brother's parakeet and the hill we used to roll down inside fifty-gallon oil drums before my father built the barn to house his trucks there. The shop he built is still there but the plywood fort isn't, and the menagerie of animals is no more - the ducks, the geese, the sheep, the dog and cats and flying squirrels, the finches and hermit crab. Growing up there meant Sunday mornings in the fall working up cordwood for the winter before watching lousy Patriots teams, it meant the vegetable garden and fruit trees (some of which later became unwilling endzone markers for epic touch football games), and it meant iced tea and popcorn for TV specials and fried chicken or chocolate chip cookies or whatever other magic my mother crafted in the kitchen.
Lots of Christmas mornings, birthdays, joys and tears and love at that address, the same sort of family fabric that I suspect many of you wove in your own childhood homes. The picture is of my brother and me at the dinner table. My boys sit in those same spots in the same room (though the table and chairs are long gone) when we visit. There's a gravity to that emotional sense of place that can never be lost, but the luxury of being able to tangibly connect with that heritage well into my adult years, and to share it with my own children, has been a treasure.