Childhood homes are much more than our first stop on this earth. They are where we learn our names, take our first steps, come to love our family, and also who we are.

My first home was a sturdy ranch in a now aging post-war subdivision. Although it seemed huge and completely familiar to me then, when I drive by it now, it looks like all the other tidy tracts of its era, indistinguishable on its block.

Since my first house, I have lived in two other homes with my parents, a number of dorm rooms, the sorority house in my college town, six different apartments around the city, and two houses of my own. But nothing has had the pull of that first home.

In the memory box of that house lives the thudding of my brothers rough housing in the hallway, the smell of my mother’s fresh baked bread and the taste of the strawberries that escaped under the chain-length fence of the sweet elderly neighbors to the rear of us. I can still hear my dad whistling in the garage and the dog’s toenails scratching at the door to let me in from the backyard. Although I spent less than 10 years in that house, they were important ones, and the memories formed there still linger in my everyday life.

My husband and I moved into our current house three months before our daughter was born. Although the current plan is to plant the “For Sale” sign as soon as the U-Haul pulls away for college, by then she will have spent her entire childhood in this house.

Before I am ready, she will leave the room she made hers at three days old; its walls have made the paint progression from baby girl pink to tween green and young lady lavender. Here is the hallway where she took her first steps, the bedroom door she slammed with all her 13-year-old fury and the kitchen counters she no longer needs as a stool to reach the baking pans when we make Christmas cookies.

Outside is the rainy sidewalk where she broke her arm on a treacherous two-wheeler, the trees she climbed, the playhouse now overgrown with weeds, the block she took long thoughtful walks around. And the front porch light, under which she may eventually kiss a boy.

Wherever we are, she will always have a home, of course. I know my independent girl will make her own lovely world around her. But I am glad we will have given her what my parents gave me. Wherever she lives, she will take with her the memory of home, to be opened over and over again like a gift.