City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

The House That Built Me

t was a crazy thing to do — especially considering what happened that morning — but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

The urge to go back was strong, and it came from out of the blue. Since I had two daughters with me saying, “Let’s do it, Mom!” I gained courage. I felt like it might be healing.

It was Feb. 6, 2020, and at 6:45 that morning, my mom passed away. It had been a highly emotional week as my dad, siblings, Mom’s caregiver and I kept vigil around her bed after hospice said we were down to a matter of days. Around lunchtime, as my daughters and I started our drive from Tuscaloosa back to Birmingham, we got off the interstate exit that led to my childhood home.

For years I’d toyed with the idea of revisiting this place. It’d been a happy home, filled with love, laughter, late-night antics, big family chaos and countless friends over the course of 30 years. My parents moved after I graduated, and because I loved their new home, I rarely thought about the old one.

But as time marched on, and my mom’s health issues intensified, a nostalgia grew inside me that I couldn’t shake. I felt my childhood tugging me back, making me miss and long for the past.

I missed my mom being vibrant and healthy. I missed my memories with her when I was a carefree, silly teenager. I missed the 10,000 formative moments that shaped me in this house. I missed the days when life was simple, and my heart didn’t know the sadness of what we mourn in our 40s as we face the reality that we are the adults, the ones shouldering tremendous responsibility, getting stretched too thin, raising kids, launching teenagers, adjusting to a changing or empty nest and saying goodbye to the generation that raised us. It’s a lot of upheaval and uncertainty, and on hard days, it can feel overwhelming.

Looking back, I think I longed to go home because I didn’t have closure. I couldn’t let goof this chapter in my past. And after years of listening to the Miranda Lambert song “The House that Built Me,” I’d grown attached to the idea of walking through my childhood home one more time.

I told my daughters that if somebody was outside, I’d ask if we could go in. I felt disappointed when we pulled up and saw no one, but about a minute later, the owner stuck her head out the front door and asked if she could help me.

“Hi!” I replied from my car. “I grew up in this house, and I was showing it to my daughters.”

“Are you a Kubiszyn?” she replied.

“I am.”

“Would you like to come in?”

My heart jumped at the invitation. “Yes, do you mind?”

“Not at all. I’m still in my house robe, but you’re welcome to walk through.”

The owner’s name is Emma, and she immediately made me feel comfortable. As we walked into the foyer, old memories rushed back, and I cried. I told Emma what happened that morning. She hugged me with the warmth of a mother’s love. I wasn’t surprised to learn that she was a pastor’s wife.

Emma walked through the house with us, listening as I told my daughters stories from the past.

That’s where we put the Christmas tree … I got ready for school in this bathroom … I wrote in this closet for hours one night after a close friend died in a car wreck … we threw our dirty clothes down these basement stairs like a laundry shoot, and Mom would cry when they piled up … there was a refrigerator here that we hid on top of during hide-and-seek.

Surprisingly, this trip down memory lane made me laugh. I remembered how there was never a dull moment growing up. I felt grateful and satisfied, as if a missing piece to my life puzzle had been put into place.

After the tour, Emma invited us to sit down. She shared the home’s history and a detail I had forgotten: My mom fell in love with this house after spending the night with the original owner, a friend of hers. When it came up for sale years later, she and my dad bought it.

Emma said that my Mom had tears in her eyes as she handed her the house keys. She told Emma, “I prayed for years for this house to sell, and now I know that it didn’t sell because it was waiting for you. This is your house.”

My mother then hugged Emma in the foyer — right where Emma hugged me when I walked in.

After closing, my mother told Emma how her children might want a final walk-through. Emma said that would be fine, but years passed, and they lost touch. I can’t help but think that opened the door for my Feb. 6 visit. When Emma invited me in, it felt natural, almost like she was expecting me.

After the hardest morning of my life, I felt peace. God orchestrated this, He knew what my heart needed, and I felt my mom’s spirit in this very familiar place. Her fingerprints had truly touched every aspect of my life.

Even my childhood home — the place that shaped me, my siblings and our friends — was chosen by my mom. She fell in love with it, and then she turned it into a place of warmth and magic. Our home was not fancy or big … but it had heart. It had a quality that money can’t buy, one that comes from the love, joy and laughter of family.

Emma and I exchanged numbers before I left. I told her my siblings and dad might be interested in returning; would that be okay? She was gracious and allowed us to all walk through the day before Mom’s funeral. Our crew included 15 grandkids, and what a gift for them to see the home that built their parents.

I’ll always feel nostalgic just thinking about my childhood home. It wasn’t perfect — but it was happy. My parents set the stage for that. They gave us roots and wings. While the roots make us ache for our childhood, the wings propel us forward. It’s now our turn to give to our children the same. Like my mom, I hope to leave fingerprints that endure, fingerprints that live in the hearts of my children and keep my spirit alive long after I am gone.

Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is a Mountain Brook mom of four girls, author, speaker and blogger. Her new book for moms, “Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy And Connection With Your Teenage Daughter,” is now available on Amazon, Audible and everywhere books are sold. Kari’s two books for teen & tween girls — “Liked” and “10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know” — have been used widely across the country for small group studies. Join Kari on Facebook and Instagram, visit her blog at or find her on the Girl Mom Podcast.